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The employed bar - a pupil barrister's perspective

20 March 2015

As I left Bar School, I’ll be honest; I wasn’t really expecting to become an employed barrister. It hadn’t really crossed my mind! Most pupillages are undertaken at chambers but an increasing number are now undertaken in house.

Browne Jacobson takes on around 10 trainee solicitors each year but people are less aware that the firm also offers pupillage. I am Browne Jacobson’s fourth pupil since it became an accredited Pupillage Training Organisation in 2010, and the first criminal regulatory pupil.

I started in December and within 2 weeks I had been in the Court of Appeal, a sentencing hearing for a fatal accident at work, a three day sentencing hearing for a fatality in a mine and a road traffic accident trial in Mold – otherwise known as the middle of nowhere!

There is no seat system for pupil barristers so I will spend the entirety of my pupillage in the criminal regulatory team. The work that this team carries out is varied – defending and prosecuting environmental crimes, health and safety, food safety and fire safety related prosecutions, inquests, professional regulatory matters (such as CQC prosecutions) and non-contentious advice. I have also been lucky enough to attend the Hillsborough inquests too!

So, what are the differences at the employed bar?

Well, the most obvious answer is that I am employed and receive a salary rather than being paid according to the work I do. I work in a team; the regulatory team has 3 partners, an associate, 2 solicitors and 3 legal assistants. Everyone in the team is approachable and I could happily ask anyone in my team (or the wider firm) any questions.

I have the opportunity to travel across the country a lot! Most pupils at chambers don’t go too far outside of the circuit, but because of the specialist nature of the work I have been in courts all across the country – one week I found myself in Liverpool, Wales, Sheffield and London.

It’s true that I probably don’t see as much advocacy as I would at chambers but that comes with the nature of the work as most matters do not reach trial. However, for me that is traded off with the benefits of seeing a case develop and being involved from the very start. I often attend site visits following an accident, am involved in the interview stage of the process and the initial advice to the client; something that a barrister at the independent bar would rarely experience.

So, although fresh out of Bar School I didn’t necessarily expect to be working as an employed barrister, I know that, for me, I definitely made the right choice!