Queen Elizabeth Building QEB - True Picture

Stuck in the Middle with you: Meet the Middle Temple set where family is the most important thing (in every sense of the word).

Queen Elizabeth Building QEB pupillage review 2024

The Chambers

If you’re new to our Chambers Reports, you can take it as a given that there will be a word or two on what percentage of the set’s practice is dedicated to which practice areas. At Queen Elizaeth Building, the message is clear: “We will be 100% family or family-related,” senior clerk Howard Rayner clarifies, “within that, there’s a strong emphasis on matrimonial finance covering trusts, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, jurisdiction disputes, and that sort of thing.” In fact, this makes up around three quarters of QEB’s work (with the odd venture into areas like child abduction cases, private law and forced marriage making up the rest). If it’s not immediately clear from the above, matrimonial finance revolves around the financial consequences of a relationship breakdown, usually (in QEB’s case) between high-net-worth individuals. It’s something that the barristers at the set have got pretty good at over the years too, with QEB gaining the ultimate stamp of approval - a top-tier Chambers Bar ranking for its matrimonial finance practice in London.

“One of our internal core values that we hold dear is the family-feel to chambers…”

As Rayner is quick to point out, increasing globalisation has had a big impact on the world of matrimonial finance in the last ten years: “You’ll quite often find that foreign nationals that live here will meet, marry, have children who settle and go to school, and then they’ll get divorced and one party will want to go back to their country of origin.” At QEB, this means plenty of cross-border cases involving jurisdictions like Hong Kong, the Channel Islands, and the Caribbean. But despite having work that takes them all over the world, there aren’t any immediate plans to grow: “We are comfortable with who we are, and the size that we are,” Rayner adds, “people here are doing exceptionally well, so we don’t need to grow to pay our bills in the same way that others might.” In fact, “one of our internal core values that we hold dear is the family-feel to chambers, and the bigger chambers gets, the harder it is to retain that collegiality.”

There’s no doubt about it, with family cases comes plenty of confidentiality. But to get a feel for quite how international the scope of some of these matters is, in one recent example, Tim Amos KC represented the deceased husband of a widow in Dubai in a claim by his ex-wife (who also happened to be deceased) in English financial proceedings following a divorce that happened in, you guessed it… Pakistan.

The Application Process

Applicants to QEB submit their applications via the Pupillage Gateway, which is followed by an initial paper sift with three members of chambers acting as moderators. “It was quite similar to lots of other gateway applications initially, insofar as you do the sort of pro forma application form,” one pupil was quick to reassure prospective applicants. As pupillage committee member Fiona Stewart explains, that initial paper sift involves whittling the number of candidates down to around 20 for the first round of interviews (although it varies year on year), then to around 10 for the second round. “The first round of interviews is usually made up of more competency-based, application-related questions,” Stewart tells us, “with a few other general questions thrown into the mix.” As a part of the first round of interviews, candidates will also face a problem question, where they are given a set of facts about something closely related to “the sort of work that QEB specialises in, i.e. financial remedies work,” around half an hour before some advocacy-based questioning.

“You won’t need any knowledge of family law to approach the problem question. It’s a matter of approaching things from first principles…”

The second round of interviews also revolves around a problem-style question, although more in-depth than the first round: “The second round was a similar setup, only a bit longer,” one pupil told us, “a problem question on an area that chambers specialises in, followed by some questions on my application.” This process includes the head of chambers and another silk (as opposed to more junior members who conduct the first round of interviews). As Stewart puts it: “We are aware that we are getting candidates who have done the GDL, and if they are applying during the law conversion they will be in their second term, and won’t have any experience of studying family law.” Consequently, “you won’t need any knowledge of family law to approach the problem question. It’s a matter of approaching things from first principles,” Stewart insists.

A word of warning for prospective applicants, however, is that it’s worth getting clear on exactly what kind of family law you’re interested in practicing. “What we do – financial remedies – is quite a distinct area of family law,” Stewart explains, “we don’t do public law, and that is extremely different to a big ultra-high-net-worth divorce.” In this instance, ‘public’ family law encompasses things like children being taken into care – an immensely valuable, but quite distinct area of the profession: “They are two very distinct areas, even though their bundled together under family law. So, get some exposure to financial remedies in particular, and see if that’s something you want to do.”

The Pupillage Experience

The first six at QEB is split into three rotations with three different supervisors, the first switch takes place just after Christmas, and the second just after Easter. “At the beginning, it was a case of starting out with the basic documents that you need to wrap your head around,” one former pupil told us, “QEB are specialists in matrimonial finance, so the documents that are really required there are things like ES2s, which give you the foundations of what you’re doing.” As time goes on, chambers makes room for tasks such as “drafting position statements for your supervisor’s cases, and doing some cross examination for some of the junior tenants on a fact-finding hearing.” But as Stewart is quick to point out: “Especially ahead of the second six, we’ll make sure that our pupils will go and see some private law children work and some Family Law Act injunctions.” Getting pupils into court to observe is a top priority, from supreme court cases right through to the junior end: “Your supervisor will usually be a bit more senior, but we make sure you get a chance to attend with some of the more junior members too, to get experience of the kinds of cases you’ll be doing in your second six.”

Come a pupil’s second six: “I think I had two or three cases a week,” one former pupil told us, “you’re still doing work for your supervisor alongside that, but they absolutely make sure that if you’ve got too much of your own work on, your supervisor won’t be giving you work at the same time.” The general consensus was that things like Family Law Act applications, some children’s law work, and the bread-and-butter finance work all cropped up at some stage, “so you get a variety of family law.” Across both sixes, “I usually start at about 8:30am and then leave at 6:30pm,” one pupil added, “Chambers is really strict on us not staying late. If I was still here at 7:00pm and someone saw me, they’d ask me why I was still here.”

When it comes to assessments, the first reassurance for any prospective candidates is that there aren’t any in the first six months (at least not formally), instead, there’s an informal advocacy exercise. “It’s completely informal, there's no grades, there's no report written, and it's just a chance for us to get on our feet, get some feedback, and see where we're at before the Christmas break,” one pupil commented. As Stewart puts it: “We're aware that pupils haven’t done any advocacy of their own during this period, so it’s just a refresher exercise where your pupil supervisor acts as a judge, and you usually do a Children Act case.” After Christmas, assessments ramp up a little, with two advocacy assessments, a conference assessment and two written assessments. These five post-Christmas assessments are all considered in the tenancy decision, along with a pupil’s supervisor reports. “It’s ultimately a chambers-wide decision,” Stewart adds, “the head of chambers has the ultimate say, but it’s a chambers-wide meeting.” 

“I suppose modern, but traditional, if you can claim both badges. We have a very traditional background, but that’s melting away quite nicely!”

“I suppose modern, but traditional, if you can claim both badges,” Rayner says of the culture at QEB, “we have a traditional background, but that’s melting away quite nicely!” On one end, “there’s chambers tea at 4:00pm every day, which is a chance for members to come together, have a cup of tea, and catch up on whatever they’ve been working on,” one former pupil tells us. But there have been changes to the old ways too: “You’re now assigned a very recent junior tenant as a contact as a pupil,” one explained, “in our first couple of weeks, we went out for lunch with them, had a couple of drinks, and got to ask all of the burning questions we had developed by that stage!”

Did you do the reading?

“Before you start, you’re given a pupillage pack,” one pupil told us, “if you’re new to family law, it’s essentially a really helpful reading list that you can go through over the summer.”

Queen Elizabeth Building QEB

Queen Elizabeth Building,
Website www.qeb.co.uk

Chambers profile

QEB is one of the premier family law sets in the country. We are particularly renowned for our experience and talent in matrimonial finance law, but with immense experience in all aspects of family law including: jurisdictional disputes, foreign divorces, pre-marital agreements, civil partnerships, injunctions both financial and domestic, private law child work, child abduction, Inheritance Act claims and disputes between former cohabitees.

QEB has been established for well over 100 years and is consistently rated as one of the top-ranking sets for family law. Members of QEB have been involved in many of the most important cases of legal principle, including: White, Sorrell, Miller, Spencer, Charman, Marano, Robson, Schofield, Jones, Z v Z (No 2), Petrodel v Prest, Mittal, Cooper-Hohn, SS v NS, Zimina v Zimin, Versteegh, Martin, XH v WH, Unger v Ul-Hasan.

QEB is well known for having supplied many High Court Judges of the Family Division including Lord Wilson who sat in the Supreme Court and Lord Justice Moylan who sits in the Court of Appeal. 

Pupil profile

The practice of family law is hugely varied and clients come from all walks of life. International and conflict of laws issues arise increasingly often. An ability to deal not only with complex financial disputes, often involving commercial issues, but also with child-related or other emotionally fraught and sensitive situations, is essential. We are looking for applicants with a strong academic record (minimum 2:1 law or non-law degree save in exceptional circumstances), good legal and analytical skills, and an ability to communicate sensitively with a wide range of people at a critical time in their lives.


QEB offers two pupillages each year. A 12-month pupillage at QEB offers top-quality training and very good financial support in a busy, friendly environment. Pupils have three pupil supervisors, but are also encouraged to work with other tenants at all levels to gain a broad experience of our work. Pupils are automatically considered for tenancy, and our new tenants are only recruited from our pupils. QEB’s reputation is such that where a pupil is not taken on, he/she is usually well placed elsewhere.

Chambers is a part of the Pupillage Gateway system. Applicants should apply in early 2024 for a pupillage beginning in September 2025. Please consult the Pupillage Gateway website for details of the timetable. 


Applications for mini-pupillages are made by application form. Please consult our website at www.qeb.co.uk for full details 

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Family: Matrimonial Finance (Band 1)