Monckton members sit atop the European, procurement, and competition pile, but pupils can get access to a broader commercial offering to boot.
Monckton Chambers pupillage review 2024
Completing your Bar Training Course and entering the Bar is notoriously tricky. Made all the more so if you’re unsure of what you’re looking to practise. “It is a real challenge for prospective pupils to know what area’s they want to specialise in” says Monckton head of marketing and graduate recruitment Hannah Sparkes. “At Monckton there are a broad range of options, backed by an outstanding and highly respected level of expertise, which makes our Chambers an attractive proposition for applicants..” We can't help but agree. Where once the set was known solely for its prestigious competition and EU work, there’s now a broad array of work available for incoming pupils.
“Our junior tenants are blessed with having lots of opportunities in both the public and commercial sphere.”
Its diversification has by no means diminished the quality of work on offer. Chambers UK Barconsiders Monckton top of the field in competition, European law, public procurement, tax, and telecommunications. Members also scoop up rankings in administrative and public law, civil liberties and human rights, data protection, and sport. One pupil felt that the spread made for a fulfilling pupillage experience. “I wanted to do work that both feeds the soul and is financially lucrative.” Senior practice manager Steven Duffett attests to this. "There's a healthy and varied diet of work for pupils here,”he says. “Our junior tenants are blessed with having lots of opportunities in both the public and commercial sphere.”
For a set previously so steeped in EU work, “future-proofing chambers” meant bringing in a commercial team a few years back, as well as a group of “pure public members” from Doughty Street Chambers a few years prior. The result is that there’s now plenty more strings on the Monckton bow. “When speaking to pupils more junior than me, they now have many more options of work than I did,” one junior tenant explained.
It’s been a bumpy few years in the UK: a tumultuous Brexit process followed by an unprecedented global pandemic. And Monckton members have been at the forefront of these choppy waters, with many going on to qualify in Ireland or other EU states – like Brussels and Luxembourg – “in order to maintain legal privilege to conduct advocacy in European courts” post-Brexit, according to Duffett. He further highlights that “lots of work focuses on the relationship between the UK and EU.”
One matter concerning the European law saw joint head of chambers Tim Ward KC appear in the Court of Appeal and CJEU in a case related to EU law whereby tax is paid to the state without a legal basis. Gerry Facenna KC also acted on a case regarding how EU data protection laws are applied in the national security sphere.
“I wanted to do work that both feeds the soul and is financially lucrative.”
A more domestic slant shapes members’ public procurement work. Michael Bowsher KC is representing the UK government in a judicial review brought by the Good Law Project (GLP) relating to its £15 billion procurement scheme for personal protective equipment. He’s also representing the Crown in relation to another judicial review brought by the GLP regarding a contract being awarded to an organisation with links to Dominic Cummings.
In one of the headline competition cases last year, Jon Turner KC appeared as lead counsel for a group of UK retailers in multibillion-pound claims against Mastercard and Visa in the Supreme Court. Daniel Beard KC also led Apple’s appeal against the ruling that it had to repay €13 billion to Ireland in connection with unlawful state aid. On the telecommunications front, Jon Turner also acted as lead counsel for Whistl in proceedings against Royal Mail for abusing its dominant position in bulk mail delivery in the UK.
The Application Process
Monckton hopefuls apply through the Pupillage Gateway. “Getting off the starting blocks requires both outstanding academic and intellectual credentials," Sparkes explains, "but just as important are the more holistic elements. At interview we look for someone interesting and engaging, someone who will care and contribute to Chambers future. We want the applicant to genuinely feel that Monckton is where they want to be.”
The first interview “is only about 15–20 minutes and is slightly more informal,” one pupil told us, adding that “it’s more about getting to know you and your CV. It also serves as a chance to debate a current affairs matter and see your style of engagement.” One such topic saw pupils discuss the Ashers ‘gay cake’ row. “Despite seven people facing you down, it’s not as scary as you might think," according to one pupil. "The focus is on seeing how you perform when you’re as comfortable as possible.”
The second interview was described as "more extensive, with a much bigger panel of interviewers.” One source noted that “while they’re still getting to know you in the interview, it’s more focused on analysing your written work. Typically, it's an extended role-play scenario where you’re given papers to look at forty minutes in advance. You then debate your answers and observations with the panel to see how you would get on in a high-stakes formal environment.”
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils complete four three-month seats, each with a different supervisor, although they are also given the option of staying with their third supervisor for the fourth seat. “It’s a huge learning curve,” Sparkes tells us, “but our pupils have the support of staff and members across Chambers, in addition to their supervisors who are committed and highly experienced, providing excellent training which in turn ensures that the pupils become highly respected barristers in their own right.” Across Monckton’s spread of practices, pupils are “expected to do” one competition seat, “one public-heavy seat” and one “random seat,” which can be anything from telecoms and sports to patent work.
The first seat see pupils working solely for one supervisor, an “introductory period” as one source dubbed it. The remaining months of pupillage are then about working on live cases for various members of chambers. "Once their competency and confidence has grown, pupils will then work on a breadth of public, competition, tax, EU and commercial work for members," Sparkes explains. One pupil had worked on pleadings in response to a claim against the European Parliament, as well as “drafted skeleton arguments for various people in tribunals.” They also told us that “I've had the chance to explore some super niche areas of law, such as how crude oil is stabilised for regulatory proceedings in oil extraction." Another pupil emphasised: “Work is really hands-on. There’s no dead work at all – it's great to always be inputting to a process and know I am being useful.” Duffett adds that “the regular, lower-scale commercial disputes have benefited the junior end of chambers in allowing them to gain advocacy experience much earlier than in previous years.”
Each piece of work is then assessed, with pupils receiving “constructive feedback verbally and in writing.” One source said: “You speak to other pupils who have only one or two assessed pieces; that would be way more stressful. You might have peaks and troughs here, but they have a more balanced view of your overall trajectory.” Alongside the written work, there are two assessed advocacy exercises throughout pupillage. The first “is not a super harsh or critical environment, and more so about how to get better.” The second comprises more members, with two or three KCs also present.
“…there’s a level of informality here that completely belies the standard of work done.”
Reports from each assessment, plus all feedback across various pieces of work, is then compiled and presented to the tenancy committee. “It’s a trusted transparent process,” Sparkes notes. “There shouldn’t be any surprises approaching tenancy decision.” Tenancy is voted on a majority basis by everyone in chambers, “so it’s quite important to make sure you’ve had exposure to a wide variety of people in chambers," one pupil explained, adding that "I like that it’s a collegiate decision-making process.” One source noted the set has an “excellent retention rate for pupils into tenant.” In 2022, one pupil was offered tenancy.
“The culture here is very healthy and always has been,” Duffett explains. “Barristers and staff work together seamlessly on whatever they need to work on.” Sparkes adds that Monckton is welcoming and friendly with an air of informality that sits alongside the high standard of work done.” And while our interviewees made clear that Monckton was not the kind of set “that goes to the pub every Friday night,” they were quick to add that “it's so surprisingly friendly” and looked forward to returning to the office. “Members are not only my colleagues, but friends at all levels,” one junior tenant finished.
1 & 2 Raymond Buildings,
Monckton does not, however, expect candidates to have any experience or expertise in the specialised areas in which chambers practices, merely an interest and enthusiasm for the work that is done. Chambers welcomes applications from candidates who have degrees in subjects other than law and are taking (or have taken) the GDL.
It is not only intellectual skills that Monckton is looking for: the chambers is seeking candidates with the personal skills to win the trust of clients and judges alike. Monckton Chambers is a dynamic place to work. Members actively engage in speaking at conferences and seminars, in London and internationally, and in contributing to a variety of publications, ranging from Monckton’s own marketing materials, to specialist journals and practitioner texts. Monckton is looking for junior tenants who will bring real energy to chambers.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Group Litigation (Band 2)
- Administrative & Public Law (Band 3)
- Civil Liberties & Human Rights (Band 3)
- Community Care (Band 2)
- Competition Law (Band 1)
- Data Protection (Band 2)
- European Law (Band 1)
- Public Procurement (Band 1)
- Sport (Band 3)
- Tax: Indirect Tax (Band 1)
- Telecommunications (Band 1)