Cornerstone Barristers offers the work-based learning component (pupillage) of the Authorisation Framework. Pupillage provides real-life training of a barrister’s work under the supervision of qualified and experienced barristers. This enables pupils to build on their prior learning and experience in order to demonstrate the relevant competences in the professional statement as set out in the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) curriculum and assessment strategy.
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. A significant proportion of members became tenants after successful periods of pupillage here. In the last three years, Chambers has offered tenancy to all six candidates who completed their pupillage.
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-togethers, so pupils have plenty of opportunities to meet everyone.
- How to make your application stand out - top tips
- Take a look at our Chambers
- Useful links
- Legal Cheek Cornerstone page with the interview with Olivia Davies.
- Top barristers reveal what students need to know as they make pupillage applications featuring Tom Cosgrove QC.
- 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:
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.
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:
- 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 Chambers’ key specialism are
- 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 the 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 and 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 £70,000 for the year for pupillages starting in 2023 (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 train pupil barristers so as to ensure each has the knowledge, skills and attributes expected of barristers as set out in the Bar Standards Board’s Professional Statement for Barristers.
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, and 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. You can expect your first year’s earnings as a junior tenant to be in the region of £80,000 to £100,000.
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.
- Probationary training
We do not accept applications for probationary training for barristers who have already completed a 12 month pupillage. If, in an exceptional year, we were to decide to accept such applications, we would advertise on the Bar Council’s website.