Quadrant has kept its chambers in ship-shape condition, with rising revenues and an increasing focus on banking and energy matters driving it forward.
Quadrant Chambers pupillage review 2024
“One of our core areas of practice has always been shipping law – it's a fantastic sector to get into as a junior, as it's an industry that generates big cases and high levels of responsibility,” Chris Smith KC, Quadrant's head of pupillage, tells us. The barristerial squad at Quad have certainly built up a highly esteemed reputation in global sectors such as shipping, energy, commodities, aviation and travel. Chambers Globalbestows praise on several of Quadrant’s members’ international arbitration expertise, while Chambers UK Bar gives the set top marks for its shipping & commodities and travel work. Other areas that are highly regarded include commercial dispute resolution and energy and natural resources.
“...our current phase of development will see us building on our other areas, including our banking and energy practices.”
A recent high-profile matter saw Simon Rainey KC represent Evergreen – one of the world’s largest container ship operators – in the Supreme Court after its vessel, Ever Smart, collided with a tanker off the coast of the UAE. This was the first collision liability case to make it to the Supreme Court. On the travel side, Matthew Reeve has been advising the family of late footballer Emilliano Sala on the legal matters that have emerged as a result of his tragic death in 2019. Guy Blackwood KC, meanwhile, has been working on an international arbitration matter that stemmed from legal questions over whether an insurance claim was the only remedy to recover the costs of a ransom payment made to pirates.
Over the past decade, Quadrant has been expanding its practice. “We’ve recently started the second of our ten-year plans, the first involved diversifying our sector focus and developing as a wider commercial set,” says business development director Sarah Longden. “Shipping used to account for around 80% of our work, but today it’s somewhere in between 45% and 55%. We absolutely want to retain our position at the top for shipping, but our current phase of development will see us building on our other areas, including our banking and energy practices.” Longden adds: “Much of our work is based on commercial contracts. Our work involves jurisdictions across the Asia Pacific region and areas in the Middle East, like Dubai. It all goes hand-in-hand with our focus on global markets.” A junior member of the set recalled that they applied because “the international elements of the work here seemed more interesting and complicated to me than matters elsewhere – Quadrant handles some really good cases!”
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils will sit with four supervisors for three months each over their pupillage. On occasion, a pupil may be allocated two supervisors within one seat if business need requires it. “I ended up having two supervisors in a seat and I liked it,” a pupil told us. “I didn’t have to take up too much of one person's time and I got insight into double the amount of work!” Pupils work almost exclusively for their supervisors and hone their skills on a mixture of past and present cases – the latter become more prominent towards the end of the pupillage. Overall, interviewees were pleased with the pupillage set-up: “The supervisors give you a lot of their time,” one reflected. “I personally struggled with construction contracts and my supervisor was really good at guiding me through what I found difficult.”
“I got familiar with commercial contractual issues.”
A junior tenant reflected on their time as a pupil: “During my first three months at the set I sat with a supervisor who took on a mix of international arbitration, shipping and commodities work; we generally acted on behalf of large companies, including pharmaceutical businesses, and I got familiar with commercial contractual issues.” Although pupils will get a taste of various areas at Quadrant (like financial regulation, fraud, and construction), shipping matters are commonplace: “At least half of what we do is shipping and we work with key shipping clients.” Newbies attend court more frequently as they make their way through their pupillage, but the second six is not a practising one that gets pupils on their feet at this stage: “If your supervisor is in court a lot, then you’ll be in court a lot. I was able to go to the County Court for a road traffic accident case and it was great to see the cross-examination. I also went to the Commercial Court for an arbitration, which was a very different experience.” Rookies can expect to go to court on their own once they’ve secured tenancy at the set.
Pupils complete six official assessments over the nine-month period leading up to the tenancy decision in July. These consist of three written tests and three oral advocacy exercises. The results of the assessments and the feedback contained within supervisor reports are taken into consideration as the tenancy decision is being made. “When it comes down to D-day, the decision is primarily based on the views of the pupils’ supervisors,” says Smith. A recent tenant assured us that “there’s a consistent line of communication between pupils and their supervisors throughout the pupillage, so it’s not like you’ll ever be in the dark about where you stand – the tenancy decision shouldn’t come as a surprise.” Once the pupillage committee has put their votes in, they’ll then let pupils know of the decision in person. “We invest a lot of money and time into our pupils and it is simply not in Chambers’ interests not to keep them on,” Smith tells us. A source added: “We focus on constructive feedback and progress – it's not so much about the initial mistakes, but how pupils have progressed from them and taken on feedback.”
“You can go to someone’s room to ask a question about any case and people are more than happy to talk.”
“Right from the start of your pupillage you’re invited to all sorts of events,” a tenant told us. We heard about a lively mix of coffee catch-ups, lunches, quizzes, seminars, and drinks events: “You'd be hard-pressed to find a week where juniors are not going out after work!” This source was happy to report that “all levels of seniority will go out for drinks – we just all chat like colleagues and there’s a good open-door policy in chambers. You can go to someone’s room to ask a question about any case and people are more than happy to talk.” Overall, “it’s better here than it is at more traditional sets where there’s a more hierarchical structure in place. After a trial, members will all go out for lunch and there are lots of different ways to get exposure to various people.” Hours-wise, pupils will tend to work quite consistently between 9am and 6pm: “The supervisors don’t want to see you working harder than you need to!”
The Application Process
The set uses the Pupillage Gateway system to process its initial haul of applications. “Each year we tweak the question on the application a little,” says Chris Smith KC. “We try our best to get interesting information out of candidates to get to know them better. The form also gives them the opportunity to sell themselves; part of the purpose of the questions on the form is to give the candidates an opportunity to highlight key areas of their application.” To improve socioeconomic diversity, the set uses Rare’s Contextual Recruitment System, which highlights candidates who have achieved higher academic grades compared to their school's average.
“We’re really keen on the soft skills.”
Around 30 to 40 successful candidates are then invited to a first-round interview. This will involve consideration of a short legal problem with a view to gauging the applicants’ thought processes and ability to think on their feet. The twelve most promising applicants are then selected to attend an interview. “We ask applicants to come in an hour beforehand and give them a legal problem to solve during this time,” says Smith. He reassures us that the problem is a commonsense scenario that levels the playing field for those who haven’t studied law yet. An interviewee remembered the process fondly: “You complete the interview with a panel of five barristers. They have a set of questions that they ask around the case you’ve read and analysed, and then they ask you some more general interview questions. I found it enjoyable!”
Of course, strong academics are a must to get a foot in the door at Quadrant, but beyond that Smith tells us that the set is “looking for evidence of qualities that make a good barrister – someone who is hard-working, resilient, communicates well, thrives in teams, and is persuasive.” Business development director Sarah Longden adds: “We’re looking for candidates who are going to be able to connect with people and build relationships. We’re really keen on the soft skills, like making it easy for a solicitor to work with you, integrating into the wider legal team to deliver the best results.”
Mind the GAP: Quadrant takes part in the Griffin Access Programme (GAP) to bolster its diversity outreach. GAP provides mentorship resources and tools for students who are looking to go into law.
10 Fleet Street,
We are a leading set of barristers specialising in commercial law. We act as advocates in court, arbitrations and inquiries, and provide specialist legal advice to clients from around the world in a wide range of industry areas. A number of us also act as arbitrators and mediators. Many of us are qualified to practise in other jurisdictions, including Australia, the BVI, California, Germany, Hong Kong, New York and South Africa. Distinguished former members of Quadrant Chambers have gone on to chair high-profile public enquiries, and to sit as judges in the High Court (QBD, Commercial, Administrative and Admiralty Courts), DIFC Courts, European General Court, Court of Appeal, House of Lords, Privy Council and UK Supreme Court.
Type of work undertaken
We hold a pre-eminent position as a leading international commercial disputes set with a strong sector driven approach. We are market leaders with a reputation for excellence in our areas of focus: aviation and travel, banking and financial services, commercial disputes, commodities and international trade, energy and natural resources, insurance and reinsurance, international commercial arbitration, and shipping.
We look for candidates with a very strong academic background. Successful applicants will generally have (or be predicted) a first class degree, and they must have/be predicted at least a high 2.1 to apply. Candidates must have excellent analytical abilities, outstanding written and oral communication skills and the ability to perform under pressure. They must also be able to demonstrate that they have the commitment, energy and robustness to succeed in the competitive world of the Commercial Bar. Successful candidates often read law for their first degree, and an increasing number also have postgraduate law degrees. However, these are not pre-requisites. We welcome applications from candidates who have studied any serious academic subject at university.
We offer up to three pupillages of 12 months’ duration each year. We aim to develop in our pupils the skills, knowledge and sound judgment they will need to become successful commercial barristers. During their first and second six months, pupils sit with up to three pupil supervisors and are exposed to a wide range of high quality commercial work. Tenancy decisions are made at the end of June. Pupils also undertake advocacy and written assessments throughout their pupillage.
Quadrant Chambers uses the Pupillage Gateway to manage its applications. Thereafter our process involves a series of interviews and a test set. Please see our website for further details.
Mini-pupillages are available in March/April, July, September and December of each year. Places are limited. See our website for details.
Funding and sponsorship
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Aviation (Band 2)
- Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 3)
- International Arbitration: General Commercial & Insurance (Band 3)
- Shipping & Commodities (Band 1)
- Travel: Regulatory & Commercial (Band 1)