During my First Six months of pupillage, I shadowed several members of Chambers in a wide variety of criminal cases, from rape to drug importation, from murder to controlling and coercive behaviour. 5KBW have members who are specialists in a variety of areas of criminal law; it was through them that I soon grasped the level of dedication, meticulous attention to detail and flexibility necessary to succeed at the Criminal Bar. Amongst others, I shadowed my supervisor, Catherine Farrelly, who is a RASSO (Rape and Serious Sexual Offences) prosecutor, but also Defence Counsel Paul Jackson in a 3-week manslaughter trial. Through these opposing experiences and others, I learnt the skills required not only inside but outside a courtroom which are essential to become an effective barrister.
Outside court, I completed work for other members of Chambers. This enhanced my ability to draft a wide array of documents, from skeleton arguments, to advising upon evidence, to producing schedules and taking notes in conferences. As well as receiving detailed and encouraging feedback, I was able to introduce myself to many of the members of Chambers and put faces to names who I had yet to meet. Chambers also held regular advocacy sessions, culminating in my participation in a mock list of cases at Blackfriars Crown Court at the end of my First Six, both prosecuting and defending as if in reality. The experience was invaluable in preparing me for making the overall process of ‘getting on my feet’ in Second Six less daunting and in again providing useful feedback.
What stood out from even prior to my commencing pupillage was the friendliness and welcoming nature of members of 5KBW. This continued throughout my 18-month pupillage: no one was too busy to answer any question, however small, and everyone was willing to offer their guidance, help or support at any opportunity. Such assistance bolstered my own confidence when conducting my own cases in the Magistrates’ Court, Youth court and Crown Court in a variety of first appearances, sentences, trials, mentions and PTPHs.
I am in no doubt that through pupillage at 5KBW I received the best possible preparation for my own career at the Criminal Bar.
Throughout my pupillage I shadowed various members of Chambers across the full range of criminal work, from domestic violence cases in the Magistrates’ Court, to legal arguments in the Court of Appeal. I assisted members with written work and always received constructive feedback. 5KBW runs regular in-house advocacy training for pupils, which allowed me to build upon my strengths and tackle my weaknesses. It contributed immensely to my confidence and poise. All pupils took part in a mock Court session at Blackfriars Crown Court, where we were required to deal with several cases at short notice in front of various members of Chambers acting as witnesses, Court staff and the Judge.
A particular highlight of my first six took place during a joint-enterprise murder trial at the Old Bailey. My supervisor was being led by Jonathan Higgs QC, who asked that I robe; not common practice within Chambers for those pupils not yet on their feet. I will never forget looking in the mirror for the first time, wearing my wig, gown and bright white collar and bands in the Old Bailey robing room. A few minutes later, I learned one of the great rules of the Bar, to expect the unexpected. The defendant had difficulty understanding proceedings and the judge had refused an application for an intermediary. After some discussion and with agreement of the judge, I removed my robes and sat with the defendant and his six co-defendants in the dock of Court 12 at Old Bailey for the duration of the trial. Following a submission of no case, our client was the first person to be acquitted as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in R v Jogee; only a few hours after the judgement.
In the weeks approaching our second-six, the junior members of Chambers held workshops for the pupils to familiarise us with the most common issues we would face as we began our practice in the Magistrates’ Courts. I was encouraged to call on members for assistance, and was fully supported through every new challenge encountered and decision I made. It was comforting to know that everybody senior to you had run a similar gauntlet. All members of Chambers were unfailingly approachable and it felt as though everybody was willing me to succeed.
I was afforded many early opportunities in the Crown Court. I handled various mentions, PTPHs and appeals against conviction/sentence, before the momentous day when I addressed the jury in a closing speech.
My first supervisor always said that to succeed at the Bar, it is essential that you are ‘raised well’. I did not fully understand what he meant at first. Reflecting on the conversations I had, the many skills taught to me and demonstrations of excellence I observed throughout pupillage, I feel very fortunate to have secured pupillage and eventually tenancy at 5KBW, a set which combines tradition, excellence and forward-thinking. The philosophy that runs through 5KBW is ‘to do right and fear no-one’.
During my first six months I had the opportunity to observe both prosecution and defence work in a range of cases in the Crown Court, including rape and other serious sexual offences, drugs and violence. I analysed evidence and discussed strengths and weaknesses in the case with my supervisor. I gained experience in the presentation of cases and how to prepare effective examination in chief and cross-examination of both Crown witnesses and defendants. I conducted legal research and drafted advices, defence statements, case summaries and skeleton arguments for members of Chambers. I was always encouraged, assisted and given helpful feedback.
My second six involved being in Court every day in the Magistrates’ Court; first appearances and sentences at the very beginning and trials within the first week of being on my feet. The cases consisted of general crime matters including bladed articles, assaults, drugs and public order offences. I represented clients in the Crown Court at preliminary hearings to begin with. I was soon instructed in Crown Court trials for offences including Robbery, Bladed Articles, Drug Supply and Affray.
I acted as a noting brief for two weeks at Southwark Crown Court for Orla Daly and Sarah Forshaw QC in a high-profile historic sex case. It was extremely helpful to have the opportunity to once again observe experienced and skilled advocacy in the Crown Court, having been on my feet for a few months at this stage.
At this time I was preparing my own cases as well as undertaking written work for my supervisors and other members of Chambers. It was the most challenging stage of the process, but also essential in developing my skills of organisation and time management and working under pressure. The advice and feedback received helped me to consistently improve.
The advocacy training sessions took place regularly throughout our first and second six. We took part in a mock Court session at Blackfriars Crown Court on two occasions; once before second six, where my co-pupils and I collected our respective briefs shortly before facing each other in Court before Jonathan Higgs QC, who played the role of Judge. The second exercise was a mock trial towards the end of second six where various members of Chambers played the roles of judge, the defendant and the jury. The feedback was incredibly useful at such an early stage of my practice.
Pupillage at 5KBW was hard work, but I have no doubt that I was given the best possible start to my career at the criminal Bar.
I came to 5 King’s Bench Walk having worked for nearly twenty years in business, in what I thought were sometimes highly pressured situations. My pupillage started at a rapid pace and that did not relent throughout my first six months or thereafter. I began at the Central Criminal Court with my pupil supervisor who was being led by a Silk from Chambers in the prosecution of multi-handed murder.
I regularly shadowed other Members of Chambers at all levels of seniority including spending a week with Sarah Forshaw QC, who was defending in a murder trial at Central Criminal Court. This was superb experience. Towards the end of my first six, I spent time with junior members of Chambers to ensure I had experience of the Magistrates’ Court. As well as undertaking work for my pupil supervisor including drafting case summaries, chronologies, advices on evidence, sentencing notes and skeleton arguments; I undertook similar types of work for many other members of Chambers, always receiving constructive feedback.
In my second six I was in Court every day, regularly in different Courts on the same day. I represented clients in the Magistrates’ Court, Youth Court and the Crown Court. I continued to draft written work for Members of Chambers, which brought its own challenges of balancing my workload with Members’ deadlines.
All pupils participated in advocacy training delivered by members of Chambers. The course culminated in a set of advocacy exercises at Blackfriars Crown Court including an application to break fixture, a bail application and sentencing hearing. Members of Chambers who did not play the role of witnesses or Court staff, were sat in the public gallery. It was very well attended and a great example of the support for pupils within Chambers. Everyone wants you to succeed.
Pupillage at 5KBW was hard work but a lot of fun. Everyone in Chambers is incredibly supportive and there is always someone available at the end of the ‘phone to advise. 5KBW are instructed in a wide variety of defence and prosecution work, which is very often high profile and reported by the media. I am in no doubt that I received the best possible preparation to begin my career as a barrister.