Life at the bar - David Lowe
David Lowe, who completed his pupillage with us in 2009, has written a short note on some of his impressions of his pupillage with Blackstone Chambers:
I applied to Blackstone Chambers for two principal reasons. First was the wide variety of work, all of very high quality, in which the barristers at Blackstone are instructed. Secondly, I had encountered several members of Chambers whilst at university, and all had given the impression that Blackstone was a friendly and supportive place to work and undertake pupillage.
I was not disappointed when I visited for the week long mini-pupillage that forms part of the pupillage application process. The work I saw even in such a short space of time included fascinating constitutional and administrative law questions and intricate points of statutory and contractual construction. The people were as open and welcoming as I’d been led to believe. I was sold, and had no hesitation accepting when Blackstone offered me pupillage.
My pupillage began in September 2008. Since junior tenants will practice in all of Blackstone’s main areas of work – commercial, public and employment law – pupils at Blackstone normally sit with four different pupil supervisors to make sure they are able to get substantial exposure to work in each of these fields. My first seat involved mainly employment law; the second, commercial, the third public and European law; and the fourth commercial. That said, all of my pupil supervisors did work in, or which shaded into, the other main spheres of chambers practice. This diversity, and crossover, of practice areas, was and remains a key part of the attraction of Blackstone Chambers for me.
From day one and throughout pupillage, I was engaged in ‘live’ work with all of my supervisors, often writing the first draft of a skeleton argument, pleading or opinion for them. This gave me an active role in cases my supervisors had ongoing, and enabling me to learn from the changes they made to work I’d been involved in. There is nothing more encouraging than seeing your ideas or phrases make their way through a case, and feeling that you’ve actually been able to assist your supervisor and their client.
Full time exposure to the world of litigation means you will learn a lot quickly. What is expected of you, and the responsibility you are given for work will increase over the year, so that by the end of it you feel ready to hit the ground running. And though you’ll work hard, all the while the working hours were more than civilised – I would usually start between 8.30 and 9am and would rarely leave much after 6.30pm.
Inevitably, the pupillage experience will always be a challenging one. Pupillage is effectively an interview lasting many months during which the bar keeps on being raised. However, Blackstone has endeavoured to ensure it is as painless it can be. I always had the impression that other people in Chambers were understanding of your position and were on your side, wanting you to succeed rather than catch you out. Frequent drinks and social events make for a lively and collegiate atmosphere within Chambers, with people always willing to listen and offer support.