XXIV Old Buildings’ introduces pupils to its top-tier commercial Chancery practice and international expertise with plenty of bespoke training opportunities.
XXIV Old Buildings pupillage review 2024
“Quite colourful!” is how Paul Horsfield, head of clerking, describes XXIV’s Old Buildings’ blend of commercial and traditional Chancery practices. To be more specific, XXIV has a strong reputation in both traditional and offshore Chancery work, both of which are highly regarded by Chambers UK Bar. The set picks up additional rankings in commercial Chancery, civil fraud, partnership and aviation.
“Aviation is one of the biggest areas in which we’ve seen disputes arising.”
Aviation, in fact, has been growing since the pandemic. Although it faced a downturn during lockdown, Horsfield explains how “aviation is one of the biggest areas in which we’ve seen disputes arising, partly because the last few years have been particularly volatile for the sector.”Shareholder disputes have also been on the rise post-pandemic, “as the world has changed so much, and, again, that volatility breeds disputes.” XXIV has also been driving into newer, rapidly evolving practices such as cryptocurrency – which bring their fair share of fraud issues – and the growing wave of litigation related to ESG issues.
The set has been flexing its muscles across these sectors and practices, recently taking on an aviation matter on behalf of Qatar Airways. Philip Shepherd KC and Bajul Shah were instructed on this matter, leading a billion-dollar claim against Airbus on the alleged defective design and manufacture of its A350 aircraft. On the commercial Chancery side, Steven Thompson KC, Sarah Bayliss and Ben Waistell defended CS Life (Credit Suisse) in a $1 billion fraud claim brought about by the former prime minister of Georgia. Meanwhile, in restructuring, Erin Hitchens recently led a claim on behalf of Mobile Telecommunications Co against Prince Hussam of the Saudi Royal Family in relation to an $885 million debt arising from an arbitration award.
Matters involving political and royal figures across the globe is certainly one example of the firm’s international expertise. However, not only does the set have an additional base in Geneva, itsbarristers also work on matters in Bermuda, Dubai, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Channel Islands. It’s such a large focus that, as Horsfield tells us, half of the set’s 2021 revenue came from outside of the UK. What’s more, pupils also have the opportunity to get involved in such cross-border and international matters.
According to Horsfield, XXIV’s strategy going forward will be “to reconnect with people in person while educating and cross-selling with existing clients.” Ultimately, the set’s priority will continue to be growing its core expertise, especially through the addition and training of new pupils. Horsfield refers to the junior ranks as XXIV’s “centre of gravity,” noting how the chambers’ strength relies on the strength of its bottom-up growth.
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils sit with four different supervisors for three months each. A junior tenant explained that, as is often the case at commercial Chancery sets, “it’s almost unheard of to do live work before your third seat.” Dead work from previous matters is standard for those in their first six, especially since “commercial Chancery is more of a written practice,” according to a pupil.That said, this interviewee’s supervisor set up mock hearings so that they still had the chance to practice oral advocacy: “My supervisor acted as a judge and I prepared the bundles as though it was my case.” Sources were also eager to add that, thanks to each supervisor’s broad practice, “the areas of law have been quite varied,” so pupils aren’t restricted to clearly defined seats.
“My supervisor acted as a judge and I prepared the bundles as though it was my case.”
Interviewees were grateful that the set had chosen to veer away from an assessment-driven pupillage. “We put a lot of emphasis on it being a training year rather than an assessment year,” pupillage coordinator Edward Cumming KC tells us. This was clear to our more junior interviewees, too, who noted how this training approach ensures “you put a consistent amount of effort into everything you do.” Cumming and the chairman of the pupillage committee, Steven Thompson KC, schedule frequent review sessions throughout the pupillage. The two discuss progress with supervisors before meeting with pupils to talk about what’s been going well, what hasn’t and how they can improve. “There are no formal assessments – we don’t put on some kind of Hunger Games process!” Cumming quips, explaining, “the more people can relax into producing their best work over the year, the more likely they are to develop and succeed to the greatest extent.”
The official tenancy decision is made around the nine-month mark, but regular catch ups mean that “it won’t be a huge shock when it comes around!” Ultimately, the decision is based on the pupillage committee’s assessment of pupils’ collated reports, which is then brought to the other members of chambers for a vote. “We really are not looking for a particular type of person,” Cumming stresses. However, he notes, “we’re a set that generally likes to do litigation, and especially hard-fought litigation. I’d hope that pupils and junior tenants have the attributes to step into the shoes of people who like to do that.” In 2023, one of two pupils gained tenancy.
Despite having heard rumours of a “cold” environment, our interviewees were adamant that this perception of XXIV is “absolutely not true.” We heard that there isn’t a strong sense of hierarchy here, partly due to the set’s relatively small 45-member headcount. “There’s a level of interaction and intimacy here that allows us to be strong,” Horsfield explains. “There’s a better sense of openness so people have conversations about both their personal and professional lives, such as career aspirations and mental wellness. This environment can be intense and stressful, so you need to learn to look after yourself.”
“Sometimes you’ll have to work across time zones as there are so many big cases, but that’s not the normal expectation.”
Our greener interviewees also praised the set’s open and sociable culture, highlighting the open-door collaboration and support. “Everyone can bounce ideas off each other,” Cumming adds. “Loads of us are friends and enjoy grabbing a drink in the sunshine at the end of the week.” While we can’t promise the sun will always be out on a Friday evening, we did hear that there are a variety of more formal events throughout the year, such as Christmas parties and an International Women’s Day lunch.
When it comes to the hours, sources explained that “there’s an unwritten rule that you leave at six” during pupillage – so you’re certainly not expected to work XXIV-VII! While tenants have more autonomy over their working hours, one admitted, “sometimes you’ll have to work across time zones as there are so many big cases, but that’s not the normal expectation. It’s still ‘work to live’ rather than ‘live to work’!”
The Application Process
Although XXIV does advertise its vacancies on the Pupillage Gateway, the set recruits candidates through its bespoke application form and aptitude test. The first screening of applications is blind, meaning assessors do not know candidates’ names or educational institutions, which Cumming says is “to strip away factors that can lead to unconscious bias.”
40 to 50 candidates are invited to a first-stage interview. They’re also probed on their CVs and asked fairly standard questions such as “what drew you to the Bar?” Twelve of these applicants attend a final assessment day, which includes oral and written advocacy tests as well as a group exercise. Here, the set likes to see candidates who have strong self-advocacy and persuasion skills balanced with the ability to collaborate with teams of barristers and solicitors.
“We’re looking for some perspective outside of law as that can help you become a more rounded person with stronger thinking skills.”
Horsfield tells us that, given the “truly unique” world of the Bar, “we welcome applicants’ showing that they have a perspective that comes from outside just law, as it really can help to be a more rounded person.”
Wining and dining: Lunches are a regular fixture of life at XXIV, with a junior tenant recalling how “the silks brought wine and were dressed down” at a recent get-together. “We had an absolute riot of a time and it spilled over into the afternoon as the best of these lunches do…”
XXIV Old Buildings
24 Old Buildings,
Type of work undertaken
The barristers at XXIV Old Buildings specialise in a variety of commercial Chancery areas with a particular emphasis on trusts and estates and commercial litigation. Areas in which members regularly take instructions include arbitration; aviation; charities; civil fraud, asset tracing and recovery; company; construction and projects; financial services; insolvency; international and offshore; partnership; pensions; professional negligence; real estate litigation and trusts, probate and estates. XXIV Old Buildings is known for its pre-eminence in international work, both contentious and advisory. With offices in both London and Geneva, the barristers at XXIV Old Buildings regularly appear in courts and tribunals across the world including the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Jersey, the Isle of Man, the DIFC, the Bahamas, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
The set likes to recruit its junior members from those who have undertaken pupillage with the set. Chambers is therefore careful that its pupils acquire all the skills necessary to make them successful commercial Chancery barristers. During a 12 month pupillage, a pupil will have, on average, four pupil supervisors with whom they will spend the majority of their time. Each year the set is looking for pupils with a first or 2:1 degree, though not necessarily in law, who have an enthusiasm for the type of work the set does, sound judgment and the application required to succeed in a very competitive and intellectually demanding environment. Application is by short online application form. Chambers will be recruiting for pupillage commencing in October 2025 in January 2024. The deadline for applications is Thursday 8 February 2024.
The set will be advertising at least one pupillage from October 2024 and at least three pupillages from October 2025 in the coming round.
Chambers accepts applications for mini-pupillages throughout the year. Application is by short online application form. Please see our website www.xxiv.co.uk for details of how to apply.
c. £85,000 per pupil.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Aviation (Band 2)
- Chancery: Commercial (Band 2)
- Chancery: Traditional (Band 1)
- Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 4)
- Company (Band 4)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
- Offshore (Band 1)
- Partnership (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)