No5 Barristers' Chambers - True Picture

No5 by name and number one by scale, this bumper set allows pupils to choose their practice.

No5 Barristers' Chambers pupillage review 2024

The Chambers

Unlike Goldilocks, “I wanted to join a big chambers, because I wanted to have a lot of barristers around me who I could bounce ideas off of, and have different personalities to learn from.” This gargantuan set, housing over 270 barristers including 40 silks across three offices, was just right. No5 Barristers’ Chambers now takes up to eight pupils a year, but “we’re not growing for growing’s sake,” says CEO and director of clerking Tony McDaid. “We're growing because we have to keep up with the demands of the client base.”

“Regulatory is one of our biggest growth areas,” he details, highlighting health and safety and police misconduct matters in particular. Planning, and business and property are also key areas of expertise for No5, as is clinical negligence – in a case, Jonathan Jones KC acted for a client in a claim concerning the delayed diagnosis of a spinal injury, which settled for £6.5 million. Pupils undertake their pupillage in a specific practice area, with options including business and property; personal injury and clinical negligence; public law; employment; and family. “Even though I'm on the business and property team doing commercial and Chancery matters, I still speak to and take advice from members on other teams, whether they do personal injury or employment,” a pupil pointed out.

And with offices in Birmingham, London and Bristol, “where you want to practice can be tailored to your individual needs,” adds McDaid. “It's very fluid as far as we're concerned. You're part of a national set of chambers.” Across all circuits, it’s noted for its Court of Protection work– in a recent case, member Abid Mahmood represented a high-net-worth elderly woman who wasn’t able to care for herself at home, ultimately resulting in her moving to a luxury care home. In the Midlands,Chambers UK Bar ranks the multifaceted set top in clinical negligence, personal injury, professional negligence, health and safety, crime, family, employment, immigration, planning, company, and Chancery. 

“In reality we've got seven or eight sets of chambers under one big umbrella.”

With these kinds of credentials, McDaid acknowledges the set’s close ties to the city of Birmingham. “People look at London and Manchester and hop, skip and jump over Birmingham, but we built a really successful business from here,” he says. “This is where our roots are and have been for over 100 years, but more and more people are recognising well, actually, they’ve been in London for over 20 years and have got 70 barristers in London alone.” Robert Levy KC was one of the most recent lateral hires to join the London office, bringing with him an international real estate practice.

Considering its scale, No5 operates more “akin to a larger law firm” than a traditional chambers in many ways, says McDaid. “In reality we've got seven or eight sets of chambers under one big umbrella, if you like. Every group has got its own head of group, bespoke clerking team, and marketing strategy.” And this approach is paying off, literally, as No5 brought in its highest turnover ever in 2023 at over £50 million.

Finally, McDaid notes the set’s track record on diversity, pointing out that No5 appointed the first female silk in Birmingham in 1992, and one of the first Asian silks on the Midland circuits in 1984. “Today, what we’ve ended up with is a multicultural sort of melting pot of people that are genuinely pulled together, not for quotas or anything else, but because of their ability.” The set recently partnered with a social mobility group for recruitment  – “we've taken on three first-class candidates through that.”

The Pupillage Experience

During your pupillage at No5, you’ll be gifted one supervisor, and only one, for the duration of your pupillage. “The benefit of having just one supervisor is that you build good rapport and relationship with them, while not being continually confused by having different people telling you different styles and different ways to operate!” exclaimed one pupil.

In the first six, pupils will largely shadow their supervisor and take other bits of work from other members of chambers. “All the work I did were live cases and it was work that my supervisor himself had to do,” recalled a junior tenant. “It was nice that it was all real work, because often I would meet the client or the solicitor. It was very varied in terms of the actual tasks I would do.” Those included drafting skeleton arguments, grounds for judicial review, chronologies, and opinions. “I would have a crack at it first and then I would get to see his final version,” said one source. “And you perhaps sometimes do some legal research in advance of your supervisor speaking at a conference.” As for hours, “you’re in the office 9am to 5.30pm.”

“I had probably five minutes before the court was going to start chasing me for a response…”

Then comes your second six, and a practising one at that. “You’re in court four times a week doing eight hours a day consistently, and weekends if required.” One pupil celebrated this: “You build your confidence much more quickly. I think it shakes off the naivety and makes you much more alert as to what's going on.” Case in point, “there was one instance early in my second six where an ethical issue arose. I had probably five minutes before the court was going to start chasing me for a response, and within those five minutes I was on the phone to my supervisor and she guided me through it, which was good.” The variety of cases and duties assigned in your second six is largely based on your practice area. As an example, one of our interviewees who was on the public law side said they attended “parole board hearings, judicial reviews, immigration hearings, and inquests.”

In terms of assessments, there are four pupil reviews over the course of the year designed to help steer them in the right direction and showcase their progression throughout the pupillage. The second review, just before the second six, is an advocacy exercise. “Chambers create their own bundle of papers that ask you to make oral submissions on some type of application – an injunction, for example,” an insider explained. “You talk for about 15 or 20 minutes in front of two or three members of the pupillage committee. The papers are written deliberately so that there are noticeable and tricky gaps in them, and the panel will ask you about those tricky gaps and see how you respond.” The committee’s feedback all then accumulates towards the end of the year when tenancy is considered. In 2023, all five qualifiers gained tenancy.

Assessments aside, there’s a “full and varied social calendarfeaturing rugby matches, baking competitions, dinners, and other activities. “All the juniors are very friendly to each other and supportive.”

The Application Process

For starters, No5 holds two open days in November, one in London and another in Birmingham, where you can go and get a feel for chambers, and ask any questions you might have about pupillage. Even though No5 isn’t on Gateway, its application window falls in line with the same timings – you just need to apply directly via the website. Of the core groups within chambers, four or so will look to recruit pupils. Prospective pupils can apply to multiple groups, but you’ll be prompted to specify a preference. Next, a quarter of all applicants (so about 50) will be invited to a first-round interview before a panel of three, comprised of barristers from the primary group you applied for.

Samir Amin, secretary of the pupillage committee, tells us that the purpose of the first round of questions is to learn more about applicants as individuals, in addition to their legal expertise. “There’s a brief advocacy test,” he outlines. “We ask somebody to talk about something they're generally passionate about, not necessarily legally related. And we then have a question which is a bit more specific to the area of law they're interested in, which gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.” Next, there’s a political ethical question to which Amin says, “there's not necessarily a right answer – it's more about how you argue your particular point.” That final question is often rooted in current affairs, with this year’s question based around the BBC’s suspension of Gary Lineker and the ramifications around free speech. One of the set’s current pupils “found No5 the fairest because it was grounded in general advocacy skills and critical thinking.”

“They asked about the facts that I thought were important and what I thought was the right decision.”

If successful, you’ll be invited to an assessed one-day mini-pupillage. You'll be set a written piece of work, but Amin tells us “the idea is to allow us to see the people, but also to allow the people to see chambers and get to know us better.” Afterwards, the final candidates will be invited to a second-round interview where they are given a judgment to look over, before meeting with a panel to answer questions on what they’ve found. “They didn't set any particular questions in advance, so you didn't feel the added pressure of having to read this case and also think about questions,” recounted one pupil. “They asked about the facts that I thought were important and what I thought was the right decision.”

Mambo No5: The set recently raised money for Midlands Air Ambulance with ‘9 to 5’, a Strictly Come Dancing competition in which barristers were paired with professional dancers.

No5 Barristers' Chambers

Fountain Court,
Steelhouse Lane,
B4 6DR

Chambers profile
Consistently ranked as a leading set in both Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500, No5 has established a reputation for breaking new ground and continues to be regarded as a progressive and forward-thinking set. As one of the largest sets in the country, with over 260 members including 37 silks, No5 maintains success in traditional sectors of law whilst offering specialist advice and representation at the cutting edge of newly evolving areas both in the UK and internationally.

Main areas of work
With offices in Birmingham, London and Bristol, No5 is divided into core practice groups: Business and Property, Clinical Negligence, Crime, Employment, Family, Immigration, International Human Rights, Personal Injury, Planning and Environment, Public Law and Regulatory and Licensing. Each group has a number of sub-specialisms. Barristers are supported by dedicated clerking teams, an outstanding library, effective administration, IT support and marketing resources.

Chambers' scheme on mini-pupillages seeks to give students an insight into the working life, benefits and burdens of a practising barrister. Mini-pupillages are offered in both Birmingham and London and last for three days.

During their time at Chambers, mini-pupils will have the opportunity to attend Court, Tribunal hearings and conferences and may be asked to undertake research so as to assist in the preparation of pleadings and advices. They may attend with one or more members of chambers. At the start of the mini-pupillage, Chambers’ clerks will be in touch with the mini pupil to discuss their likely experience.

The mini-pupillage scheme offers a shop window into which students can gaze and compare the different atmospheres, camaraderie and general machinery of Chambers. We are sure that the care and time invested in mini-pupils will leave only a positive and informed impression and we encourage all students interested in a career at the Bar to apply for a chance to sample this experience.

Information on the pupillage scheme which chambers offers, along with a copy of our pupillage prospectus, can be found at:

No5 offers a pupillage award of £55,000. This is made up of £27,500 during the first six months of pupillage and then guaranteed billings of £27,500 during the second six. In chambers’ experience, pupils can expect to earn considerably in excess of their guaranteed billings. Chambers funds all compulsory training courses during pupillage and travel and other expenses during first six.

Social media:
Recruitment website: Twitter: https://www.twitter/No5chambers
LinkedIn: https://www.twitter/No5chambers

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Court of Protection: Health & Welfare (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 4)
    • Chancery (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence (Band 1)
    • Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 2)
    • Company (Band 1)
    • Crime (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Family: Children (Band 1)
    • Family: Matrimonial Finance (Band 1)
    • Health & Safety (Band 1)
    • Immigration (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
    • Inquests & Public Inquiries (Band 2)
    • Professional Discipline (Band 2)