The lowdown - Pupils (in their own words) on Blackstone Chambers
We sent The Lex 100 Pupil Barrister survey to pupils and juniors up to two years in tenancy at Blackstone Chambers. Here is what they had to say:
Why did you choose this chambers/set over any other? ‘There is no end of high-calibre advocates to learn from, and the cases that come into chambers are second to none. I particularly like the cross-disciplinary and varied nature of work in chambers: very few cases are ever “straightforward” public or commercial law work, for example, but they often operate instead on the productive borders of a few different practice areas.’; ‘Reputation; areas of practice; the people’; ‘Mix of excellent public and commercial work’
How would you rate the ease and transparency of your application process? ‘It was transparent and clear throughout what the standards were and, as far as possible, how to meet them. I often described the process to friends as “aggressively humane”. No pupillage is easy, but it was a better process than I was expecting and I never felt overwhelmingly “in the dark”.
What is the best thing about the set? ‘Being around so many top-level practitioners in so many practice areas; the supportive clerks; the social side of life (everyone seems to get along); the range and quality of work’; ‘The quality of the work – it is invariably interesting and important’; ‘Unpretentious atmosphere’
What is the worst thing about the set? ‘The pandemic made things really difficult for everyone. It’s hard to be at a distance from your supervisor: you just can’t learn the same amount or in the same way, by listening in and being around the papers and issues all the time’; ‘Working from home’; ‘Remote working’
What has been the best moment of your pupillage or tenancy to date? ‘My supervisor using my cross-examination notes to cross-examine a Monty Python at trial’; ‘Writing the first draft of the written case for a Supreme Court hearing’
What has been the most challenging moment of your pupillage or tenancy to date? ‘Changing seats. Every time, it’s like jumping into a moving car: sometimes a Ferrari speeding along a motorway, other times a saloon coasting along country roads, other times a Jeep on a bumpy off-road track. It’s always the biggest challenge to get up to speed with a new supervisor’; ‘Trying to draft a defence in a complicated fraud case’
Blackstone Chambers’ formidable strengths lie in its principal areas of practice: commercial, employment and EU, public law, human rights and public international law.
The commercial law work includes financial/business law, international trade, conflicts, sport, media and entertainment, intellectual property and professional negligence. Public law incorporates judicial review, acting both for and against central and local government agencies and other regulatory authorities. It also covers all areas affected by the impact of human rights and other aspects of administrative law. All aspects of employment law, including discrimination, are covered by Chambers’ extensive employment law practice, and Chambers’ EU work permeates practices across the board. Chambers recognises the increasingly important role which mediation has to play in dispute resolution. Seven members are CEDR accredited mediators.
Blackstone Chambers’ reputation is founded upon the quality of our specialist advocacy and advice. We focus on developing our home grown talent and we have seen the benefits of a rigorous selection procedure for junior tenants, which has ensured the recruitment of talented, multi-disciplined individuals well able to provide the strength and depth of legal expertise required in today’s legal market.
Life as a junior tenant... Gayatri Sarathy, tenant, Blackstone Chambers
University: University of Oxford
I joined Chambers as a tenant in September 2018. Before coming to the Bar, I studied law at the University of Oxford. I also worked as a research assistant in the public law team at the Law Commission and volunteered with an NGO.
For me, being a barrister offers a unique combination of engaging intellectually with complex legal issues and thinking practically about how they are resolved and presented before a court. There is rarely a dull moment and my days are full of variety: whether that is researching for an advice; advising clients in conference; drafting written submissions; or appearing in court. Being self-employed means that you are in control of when and how long you work.
Pupillage is very useful preparation for the beginning of your career at the Bar. Each pupil shadows the same four members of Chambers in different areas of practice, alongside written and advocacy assessments. During that time, you attend court with your pupil supervisor and draft notes on the law, pleadings and skeleton arguments. It is rigorous but also incredibly fair. You are given regular feedback from pupil supervisors and advocacy trainers, who are two senior members of Chambers. You are not required to work for any other members of Chambers. While it is a year-long assessment, it is also invaluable training as a lawyer and an advocate.
Why Blackstone? First, as a junior tenant, there is a huge diversity of work on offer and you are encouraged to maintain a broad practice in your early years (though there is opportunity to specialise if you would like). That is important because there are areas of law you may enjoy academically and not in practice or vice versa, or areas of law that you may never have studied, like sports law. My first year has involved a real mix of commercial, employment and public law — both on my own and in teams with other members of Chambers. A particular highlight was being involved in the Privacy International case with Dinah Rose QC, Ben Jaffey QC, Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC and Tom Cleaver before the Supreme Court.
Beyond this, the environment in Chambers is supportive and collegiate. Every door is open to ask a question and there are weekly drinks which, in the summer months, are held on the roof terrace. It is a privilege to be part of Chambers and I would wholeheartedly encourage everyone to apply.
Diversity and inclusion
Blackstone Chambers is fully committed to the principle of equality of opportunity without discrimination. Since December 2019, Blackstone Chambers has commissioned the use of the Rare Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) for our mini-pupillage and pupillage recruitment processes.