Introducing OT: the real OG of healthcare and commercial work in London with a growing international reach.
Outer Temple Chambers pupillage review
In the blockbuster film Taken, Liam Neeson thought he was all-that with his ‘very particular set of skills'. But he might have met his match with Outer Temple Chambers and its “unusual range of expertise,” in the words of pupillage secretary Saul Margo. To be clear, that doesn’t include car chases or hunting down kidnappers: “We have commercial chancery on one end and health and safety work on the other.” A senior source triangulates OT’s specialisms as “pensions, clinical negligence and personal injury,” but the set has also made its name in employment law.
A full picture of Outer Temple’s wingspan comes from Chambers UK Bar, which ranks the set highly for clinical negligence, employment, pensions, health and safety, travel and personal injury (OT also scores nods for its Court of Protection, financial services and professional discipline practices). With an impressive domestic presence, the set’s looking overseas for future growth opportunities: it’s already got office space in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.Tech development is a priority for the set: it now offers a range of online client communications and training, such as video conferencing and paperless working. OT is also working with Oxford University Deep Tech Lab, focusing on the impact, knowledge-transfer, incubation, and "a critical reimagining of the potential of legal services in dispute resolution..." With the legal market turned on its head, OT member Victoria Brown assured us "a physical chambers will remain – nothing can replace human interaction and tangible work experience.”
"Nothing can replace human interaction and tangible work experience.”
Cases at this set often have a tangible human element, sometimes with tragic connotations: Christopher Wilson-Smith QC recently acted on a clinical negligence case of an infant who ran into the path of a stolen car and suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury, with a suit brought against the hospital for mistreatment. Outer Temple members lead by Andrew Short QC advocated on equal pay claims by thousands of shop workers brought against Asda; Short and another team were instructed by 204 judges in a challenge to public sector pension scheme changes. Also in pensions law, junior member Lydia Seymour acted on High Court claims seeking clarity on the scope of liability for enhanced redundancy terms under a TUPE transfer.
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils complete four three-month seats – the first two will be employment, and clinical negligence and personal injury. The second six could consist of seats in any of Outer Temple’s other practice areas. We heard the logic behind this order is to provide pupils with a good foundation of work in preparation for their second six: “Both PI and clinical negligence have an emphasis on advocacy and court proceedings.” Interviewees were delighted to learn “you are guaranteed to be working in court during your second six.” A common example is tribunal hearings: “You are working on your own cases and in court on your own account,” albeit with members on hand to help prep you when needed.
Roles played by pupils vary depending on practice. Employment cases including constructive dismissal, equal pay and breach of contract claims call for pupils to carry out research, attend client meetings and draft skeleton arguments and advice. The workload will be similar in a commercial seat, where supervisors mainly advise both claimants and defendants with pensions issues: “I worked on a big pensions case regarding railway funds, with defendants having to make big franchise and procurement decisions,” one pupil recalled. There’s a medical slant to personal injury and clin neg, with sources witnessing “historical sexual abuse claims brought against institutions in court.” Last but not least, pupils in public law helped on commercial fraud cases. Interviewees were thrilled with the work and professional development opportunities throughout pupillage: “Everyone in chambers has a real interest in watching you grow and making sure you get the type of work you are interested in.”
“It can be daunting, but everyone is very encouraging.”
Every piece of work a pupil completes circles back to them with detailed feedback from their supervisor, which they then discuss in end of seat ‘roundups’ with the head of pupillage. Comments should come as no surprise as Outer Temple “aims to foster close working relationships” between pupils and members. The set also runs six advocacy training exercises throughout the year and a separate legal opinion: “It can be daunting, but everyone is very encouraging.” They also encourage pupils to separate work and home: “If you’re in the office after 6pm, your supervisor will tell you to leave.” Exceptions can arise when pupils get their own cases in the second six.
Summing up the Outer Temple culture as “laid-back, open and warm,” insiders told us “you can always find somebody around to chat to after a long day in court.” They also confirmed that even the most acclaimed QCs are far from scary and that “as a junior, you can always feel free to knock on a silk’s door and go grab a bite to eat,” provided they’re not slammed with a mega case of course. The whole OT gang gets together for cocktail classes, networking sessions, comedy club nights, meals at fancy restaurants and pub quizzes; there’s also a staple Chambers tea every Wednesday afternoon (come for the biscuits, stay for the banter).
“You can always feel free to knock on a silk’s door and go grab a bite to eat.”
Pupillage secretary Saul Margo explains the secret to chambers’ historically high retention rates: “We sustain open dialogue when pupils are struggling, and we still take on pupils who go on to prove themselves even if they had a difficult start.” The tenancy decision is made in June or July based on feedback from supervisors. A pupil recounted their personal experience: “Whilst I was at the pub with my colleagues, members of chambers started congratulating me and buying me drinks. It was a really lovely way to find out I made tenancy.” Not everyone gets the good news over a pint: it’s more common to receive a phone call. Outer Temple granted tenancy to both its twopupils in 2020.
The Application Process
Initial applications go through OT’s online portal: commitment, drive and motivation are key criteria here. Competition is fierce, and among hundreds of applications, only three will secure pupillage. Interview processes are kept continually under review and change each year, but prospective candidates can anticipate a written test of judgement and both legal and non-legal questions during their interviews. Outer Temple has recently been reforming its recruitment process to be as inclusive as possible. “We have a policy that applicants for pupillage who have a disability progress automatically through the initial sift and as a result they often make it to the interview stage.” Saul Margo reveals.
“A lot of this work is not faceless – it involves real people who may have had tragic experiences.”
First-round interviews take place on a Friday or Saturday, with the final round on the following Sunday – no being held in suspense here! The panel looks for potential pupils who are “business-savvy and have the ability to build relationships with clients.” In the most recent round, applicants had a legal scenario to summarise in 45 minutes before sitting down with three members of chambers and answering questions. On the Sunday, the best candidates got a summary of the same case and had to debate the relative merits of their original verdict with a panel of two silks, two senior juniors and one junior. A successful past interviewee noted that “although it is a robust interview process, the interviewers were very friendly. It’s not like you’re grilled for the sake of it.”
OT offers mini pupillages for up to eight potential pupils twice a year (December and June). Candidates can expect a week of court visits, seminars and case research for an insight into life at the Bar. “The program provides students with great development opportunities,”a source noted. Saul Margo says Outer Temple focuses more on diversity than a cookie-cutter model: “We are conscious of not saying there’s a certain type of person we hire.”There are some key essential traits as “a lot of this work is not faceless – it involves real people who may have had tragic experiences, and what we do has an impact on their lives. Members here must possess empathy and be interested in the human condition.”
I’ve started so I’ll finish
Quiz nights are a popular Outer Temple pastime – we heard that chambers’ chief executive “somehow always manages to be on the winning team.” Highly suspicious…
Outer Temple Chambers
The Outer Temple,
- No of silks 25
- No of juniors 66
- No of pupils 2
- Contact Pupillage Administrator +44 (0)20 7353 6381 [email protected]
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway (for 12-month pupillages)
- Pupillages offered 2 x 12-month pupillages
- 1 x 18-month (OTC/FRU Extended Pupillage)
- No of tenancies offered Up to 3
- Annexes Abu Dhabi, Dubai
We have been ranked in 9 practice areas by Chambers & Partners and in 20 practice areas by The Legal 500. We are platinum accredited Investors in People and offer a structured, well-supported, challenging and broad pupillage experience.
Main areas of work
Banking and financial services, business crime, clinical negligence, commercial, court of protection, disciplinary and regulatory, employment and discrimination, insolvency and restructuring, pensions and trusts, personal injury, private client, professional negligence, public law, sports law, travel law.
University law careers fairs 2020
This year we plan to attend: University of Law, University of Bristol, City University London, BPP Law Fair, University of Oxford, Durham University, Bar Council Pupillage Fair, Cambridge Barristers event, and the Target Jobs Pupillage Fair.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
We are proud to be a Disability Confident, London Living Wage and Mindful employer. We positively encourage applications from groups who are currently under-represented in Chambers such as women, those from ethnic minorities and those with a disability. We have no preference for an undergraduate law degree over the conversion course. We look for the best and the brightest candidates whatever their background.
We welcome applications from transferring solicitors, qualified legal practitioners (including from other relevant jurisdictions) and legal academics wishing to transfer to the Bar. We recognise the skills and experience a previous career can afford a candidate.
Chambers manages its selection process primarily through the Pupillage Gateway (for 12-month pupillages only) and in accordance with the Gateway timetable. Applications undergo an anonymised paper sift where identifying details are removed and candidates are scored on intellectual ability, potential as an advocate, motivation, commitment and compatibility with Chambers. The highest scoring applicants will then be invited to take a written test in their own time. Again, the highest scoring applicants will progress to first round interview and assessment.
Chambers also operates an X-Factor style assessment at the paper sift stage, where candidates may be identified by the markers as having a unique star quality. If awarded an X-Factor, a candidate will be interviewed even if they do not otherwise achieve the necessary score.
We also run an 18 month pupillage scheme in conjunction with the Free Representation Unit (FRU). That comprises of 6 months’ work at FRU followed by a formal first six in Chambers and a practising second six doing OTC and FRU casework. Assessors have no regard to, or knowledge of, employment history, universities attended, secondary schooling details, pastimes and interests.
Chambers is a Disability Confident employer. We are recognised as positive about people with disabilities. We offer pupillage applicants with disabilities the option of requesting that their application for pupillage is considered in the spirit of the commitments we make as an employer under this scheme.
We give special consideration to such applicants by moving them automatically to the stage where they are asked to complete the short, preliminary written test. The manner in which that test is conducted will be subject to reasonable adjustments. You do not have to be registered as a disabled person to apply and are automatically eligible if you are affected by cancer, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, or severe facial disfigurement.