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Pupillage

We recognise the vital role of pupillage in keeping our Chambers at the forefront of the modern legal profession. We want people with fresh minds and new approaches to progress through Chambers. A significant proportion of members became tenants after successful periods of pupillage here.

Pupillage is a challenging and intense time, but our barristers will give you support to ensure you find it incredibly rewarding too.

There is a strong collegial feel in Chambers. There are plenty of spontaneous and organised informal get together, so pupils have plenty of opportunities to meet everyone.

Selection procedure and criteria

Cornerstone is strongly committed to equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion. We welcome pupillage applications through the Pupillage Gateway from everyone and would particularly encourage candidates to apply from backgrounds that have not traditionally been represented at the Bar. We believe that Chambers is an exciting and friendly place for people from all backgrounds. If you would like to see for yourself, please consider applying for a mini-pupillage or come along to our annual pupillage open evening.

Every year Chambers receives hundreds of applications for two pupillages. We carry out the following selection process:

Stage 1: Consideration of applications and shortlisting. Each application form is marked 'blind' (with references to the candidate's name, sex and age removed).
Stage 2: First round interviews. 20 candidates are invited for an interview that lasts typically 15 minutes. This interview tends to be general.
Stage 3: Second round interviews. 10 candidates are invited back for an interview that lasts around 30 minutes. The interview will typically include an advocacy exercise and a case analysis exercise.

At each stage in the process we mark against the following criteria:

Intellectual abilities

We are looking for someone who:

  • Has the ability to understand complex information
  • Can analyse complex information
  • Can critically evaluate complex information
  • Shows an ability to judge complex arguments
  • Is perceptive

Many of our candidates demonstrate outstanding academic abilities, but we recognise that this is not the only way of showing intellectual abilities. If your academic ability is less strong, please explain to us on your application form how you can demonstrate your intellectual abilities.

Personal qualities

This criterion is NOT an opportunity to put through candidates who fit an expected social background or type. Under this criteria we are looking for:

  • Self-reliance
  • Resilience
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Reliability
  • Capacity to work well with others

Understanding of the legal profession

Under this criterion, we are looking for someone who:

  • Understands the nature of practice at the independent bar in our key practice areas
  • Has a clear understanding of the workings of the legal profession
  • Has insight into the role of barristers within the legal profession
  • Has a vision as to how to build a practice within the legal profession

Interest in Chambers' work

We are looking for someone who:

  • Has gained an accurate understanding of what are Chamber's key specialisms
  • Has gained a fair understanding of what those specialisms entail
  • Can demonstrate reasoned enthusiasm for one or more of those specialisms, supported by evidence

Oral advocacy aptitude

  • We are looking for candidates who can speak clearly, engagingly and persuasively; who can address directly oral questions and respond, defending their views where appropriate
  • At written application stage, this is judged from the candidate's extra-curricular activities or any experience gained from work or a previous career
  • At the interview stage, this is judged by interview performance in particular the advocacy exercise undertaken at the second round interviews

Please make sure you highlight clearly on your application form why you consider you have a strong oral advocacy aptitude.

Written advocacy aptitude

We are looking for a candidate who can:

  • Express themselves clearly in writing
  • Be concise where appropriate
  • Write accurately (free from typos)
  • Write persuasively

Pupillage at Cornerstone

Each pupillage lasts 12 months and there is an award of £60,000 for the year (which includes guaranteed minimum earnings of £20,000 in your second six months).

Pupils are allocated to supervisors and usually have the opportunity to meet their supervisor before the start of pupillage. Each pupil shares a room with their supervisor and works closely with them. We use the Bar Council's checklists to make sure your training is comprehensive.

You will sit with at least three pupil supervisors during your first nine months of pupillage and together they will cover the core practice areas within chambers.

During pupillage, you will have the opportunity to work with leading barristers in their fields who are routinely instructed on important and complex litigation. During your first six months, you will accompany members on trips to Planning Inquiries, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and, often, the Supreme Court, as well as lower courts and tribunals. In return, you are expected to work hard, take on board the constructive feedback you will be given so that you produce excellent written work. The standard of your written work will, in part, inform our tenancy selection process.

Your pupil supervisors will ensure, prior to the start of your second six, that you spend time with the junior members of Chambers, and accompany them to court in order to understand the work that they do and that you may be instructed to do in your second six when you are on your feet and representing clients in court yourself. In addition to your supervisors, the junior members of Chambers will always be ready to discuss any concerns.

During your time with us your supervisors will prepare oral and written reports on your work. Members you have worked with will be asked for feedback, as will any instructing solicitors. The pupillage committee normally meets every two months to review each pupil's progress and ensure they are on track. At their final meeting, the pupillage committee will make a recommendation on a tenancy offer.

A decision on that recommendation is determined by a 2/3 majority of members voting at a full Chambers meeting. That decision will be based not simply on the qualities of the individual applicant but also on whether there is a vacancy for a junior tenant at that time.

Tenancy following pupillage

If you are selected for tenancy, you will become a member of one of the most progressive and respected sets at the bar and will soon develop a busy practice within Chambers' core areas.

Many junior and some senior tenants maintain a deliberately broad practice as they develop into seasoned lawyers who are able to turn their hand to all aspects of work within Chambers.

You will be in Court on a regular basis and will regularly advise clients on a range of local government, planning, housing and civil matters. As your practice becomes more developed, and given the expertise of Chambers in planning law, you will be instructed on planning inquiries, some of which may last for weeks. Many junior members are led by more senior members in large and complex public inquiries or within the higher courts exposing them to a level of work wholly beyond their call. Junior members are also used to taking on work at short notice, such as seeking and responding to applications for urgent injunctive relief.

There is an informal 'open door' policy at Cornerstone which means that junior members feel comfortable asking for help on their cases from more experienced members. There will be many occasions in your life as a junior tenant where you will encounter a seemingly insurmountable point which suddenly becomes far more manageable once you have had a chance to discuss it with someone else.

We also encourage you to develop your skills and broaden your horizons by seizing opportunities such as Pegasus Scholarships.

There is also a strong commitment to pro bono work and you are encouraged to speak to members and our Chief Executive if you are interested in becoming involved.


Third-six pupillage

We do not accept applications for third-six pupillages. If, in an exceptional year, we were to decide to accept applications for a third-six, we would advertise on the Bar Council's website. 

Mini-pupillages

What is mini-pupillage?
Mini-pupillage is work experience with one or more of the barristers at Cornerstone. Mini-pupillages last for three days. Our clerks aim to ensure that mini-pupils observe several aspects of a barrister's work including attending court, reviewing and drafting papers and possibly attending meetings with clients. All mini-pupils will have the opportunity to complete a written assessment.

Mini-pupillage gives the opportunity to view the life of a barrister first hand and provide a special insight into life at our Chambers. Most chambers, when considering applications for full pupillage, will expect to see that an applicant has undertaken at least two mini-pupillages.

Eligibility
To be eligible to apply, you must be in the final year of a law degree or have a confirmed place on a GDL conversion course.

Please note that school pupils are not eligible for mini-pupillages and we do not currently offer other types of work experience programme. Mini-pupillages are currently only available in our London office and are unpaid.

What to expect
Mini-pupillages will involve court time, an opportunity to consider and then discuss papers with a barrister, a tour of Chambers and time completing an assessment. One of our junior barristers will provide you with informal feedback on your written assessment as an indication of the standard of written work expected from our pupils and junior barristers.

During your mini-pupillage, the clerks will assign you to one of our barristers who works in one of our main areas of specialisation.

During the time allocated to considering a set of papers, you will sit either in a barrister's room or in our own library. You may be asked to provide a research note or simply discuss the issues with your assigned barrister. If there is a particularly interesting case in court, the clerks might suggest that you attend court for a second day rather than work on papers.

The type of work that mini-pupils do during their time with us depends on the cases being handled by our barristers on that particular week. Mini-pupils need to be flexible: sometimes cases settle at the last minute or clients' plans change. Last minute change is all part of life at the Bar, but our clerks will do their best to reallocate mini-pupils to other cases or barristers

How do I apply?
We offer up to 30 mini-pupillages in each year throughout the following seasons:

1 January – 31 May (apply by 30 November)

1 June – 1 August (apply by 30 April)

1 September – 1 December (apply by 31 July)

We do not offer mini-pupillages outside these times as the courts tend to be quieter and we want all mini-pupils to have a busy week.

You may only select one of the above seasons when applying. You will be notified in writing after each of the application deadlines as to whether or not you have been successful.

To apply, please complete the Mini Pupillage Application Form and email the completed form together with a completed Equal Opportunities Monitoring Questionnaire (which is discretionary) to jakek@cornerstonebarristers.com. There is no need for you to submit a CV or covering letter.

Cornerstone Barristers considers all applications equally and does not discriminate on grounds of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief or age. Information provided in the equal opportunities monitoring questionnaire will be kept separately from your application and will not be considered during the selection process.

Feedback from previous mini-pupils includes:

"I completed a week long mini-pupillage with Cornerstone Barristers.

The staff in chambers were nothing short of brilliant. They were very friendly, efficient and well organised. I was fortunate enough to be in court for the majority of the week, watching areas of law that were of a real interest to me (aside from one afternoon when working on the written exercise). The practice staff were most helpful in providing case information and even handed me directions to the courts in London.

The members of chambers were also very accommodating and inclusive. With many mini-pupillages, you may find yourself sat there and just observing a case before going to another member. My experience of Cornerstone was the completely opposite. Members were more than happy to give the background of the case and how they were going to go about it, how different courts require different types of advocacy and even the next steps in terms of my career.

I have been fortunate enough to retain my links with members and staff at Cornerstone, who have been supportive of every step forward in my career. They have helped prepare me for scholarship interviews and my studies on the BPTC.

Having done four mini pupillages at various chambers, it is clear to me that without a shadow of a doubt, the experience at Cornerstone was the best. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Cornerstone Barristers, and would highly recommend their mini pupillage scheme to students looking to enter the profession." Jake Newell, mini-pupil.

Data collection
We will retain personal data you send us only for the purpose of assessing your application for mini-pupillage and, if offered a mini-pupillage, administering your mini-pupillage, receiving feedback from you and statistical analysis of equality and diversity data. We will delete the data we hold about you at the end of the mini-pupillage season you apply for. We summarise diversity data in a redacted form that cannot be attributed to individuals. We automatically add our mini-pupils to our e-Flash distribution lists, but you can ask us to remove your name from our distribution lists at any time. Click here to unsubscribe.


Tenancy from established practitioners

We are a popular, collegial, Chambers with a policy of organic growth. Many of our barristers have been with us since pupillage. However, we are interested in applications from other barristers with successful practices. Evidence of excellence of thought, written work, advocacy and client service are the basic requirements for new members, but we also look for barristers with strong interpersonal skills and ambition. We are particularly interested in individuals who would like to work from our Birmingham and Cardiff offices.

Applications should be made by letter and CV. These should be sent to the CEO, Elizabeth Woodman ewoodman@cornerstonebarristers.com. Please also complete and attach our Equal Opportunities Monitoring Questionnaire.

The letter should set out:

  • The nature of your current practice
  • Why you wish to join Cornerstone Barristers
  • Why Cornerstone Barristers would benefit from your membership.

You may be invited to an informal initial meeting and then to a more formal interview at which you will be required to submit details of your earnings and future diary commitments and at least two examples of recent, anonymous, written work. Applicants who are successful at that stage will be asked to meet further members of Chambers informally.

You will also be requested to complete an Equal Opportunities Monitoring Questionnaire to help us monitor the effectiveness of our equal opportunity and diversity policy. This information is used for monitoring purposes only and will not be used as part of our selection process.


Publications

Corporate Liability: Work related deaths and criminal prosecutions
Cornerstone on anti-social behaviour: The new law
Cornerstone on Councillors' conduct
Cornerstone on Planning Court
Cornerstone's Electoral Legislation 2016
Licensed Premises: Law, Practice and Policy
Cornerstone on Social Housing Fraud