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 2022
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’s unrealistic for students to know what they want to do forever,” says Monckton administration manager Wendy Pickering. “How on earth can they know? But here, the different aspects and areas of practice produce a very 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 Bar considers 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.” First junior clerk 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 QC 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 QC 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 QC 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 QC appeared as lead counsel for a group of UK retailers in multibillion-pound claims against Mastercard and Visa in the Supreme Court.Daniel Beard QC 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. “We had a marked increase in applications this year,” says Pickering. “We offered first-round interviews to a great number of applicants.” According to Pickering, getting off the starting blocks requires both “outstanding academic and intellectual credentials,” as well as more holistic elements. “We’re not just looking for brains on legs,” she tells us. “We want someone who is interesting, someone engaging, and someone who will contribute to the running of the set.”
“We’re not just looking for brains on legs.”
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.”
Following this, those that have not done so already are encouraged to complete a mini-pupillage with the set “to scope out chambers and see whether you’d like to work there.” One source added: “Unlike other competitors, the mini isn’t assessed, so you do have a chance to figure out whether you could flourish here.” We were told that while encouraged, it is not a requirement of the application process.
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,” says Pickering, “but our pupils have support and help across chambers plus supervisors who are world-class at bringing them up to speed.” 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 competence and confidence have increased, pupils then work on a breadth of public, competition, tax, EU and commercial work for members," Pickering 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 QCs 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 fairly rigid and trusted transparent process,” Pickering 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 the last three years, the firm has offered four pupils 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.” Pickering adds that “there’s a level of informality here that completely belies the standard of work done. They are really lovely people and the work is extraordinary.” 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.
No running (Monckt)on the grass!
Changes lie ahead: a new junior school is set to open in close proximity to the set in Gray’s Inn.
1 & 2 Raymond Buildings,
- No of silks 21
- No of juniors 43
- No of pupils 2
- Contact Wendy Pickering, 020 7405 7211
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) Two 12 month pupillages
- Seats 4x3-months
- Mini-pupillages (pa) Up to 25
- Mini-pupillage deadline(s) Please check www.monckton.com
- Tenancies Four offered in the last three years.
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, 2021
- Administrative & Public Law (Band 3)
- Civil Liberties & Human Rights (Band 3)
- Community Care (Band 2)
- Competition Law (Band 1)
- Data Protection (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 3)
- European Law (Band 1)
- Public Procurement (Band 1)
- Sport (Band 3)
- Tax: Indirect Tax (Band 1)
- Telecommunications (Band 1)