Mini-Pupillage

The structure of our mini-pupillage


A mini-pupillage is an opportunity for those who want to pursue a career at the Commercial Bar to spend some time at Fountain Court Chambers to meet some of our members and gain an introduction to the type of work we do. It also forms a key part of the application for pupillage.

Please note that for 2022 applications (for pupillage commencing in 2023), Fountain Court will normally require all applicants for pupillage to have completed an assessed mini-pupillage.

A mini-pupillage lasts for two days, during which time you will sit with members, learn about life at Fountain Court and complete a short piece of assessed written work.

We require our mini-pupils to have commenced legal study before undertaking a mini-pupillage. We know that fitting in mini-pupillages can be particularly difficult for those studying for a GDL and we endeavour to prioritise the Christmas slots for those candidates.

Why Fountain Court Chambers?


Exposure to the most stimulating work

Fountain Court gives pupils the opportunity to be a part of precedent-setting commercial cases. Pupils gain experience and work with members across all levels of seniority. All work undertaken during pupillage is relevant to the practice of a member of chambers and is live work.

Working with the brightest advocates

Pupillage at Fountain Court is an opportunity to work with some of the brightest and most successful advocates in London. We mentor and support pupils by offering tailored training during pupillage. This approach has a formative effect and one that is demonstrated in our successes in court.

Pupils are not in competition with one another

We evaluate each pupil individually based on their own merit and all pupils who meet the relevant standard will be offered tenancy.

An inclusive and supportive culture

We have a friendly, progressive and modern outlook. We compete for the top talent to secure a successful future for our chambers and clients. We want the best people to join us, regardless of background, race, gender or sexual orientation.

First rate staffing support

Fountain Court’s Clerks’ Room is recognised as one of the finest and most responsive at the Bar. Our administration and clerking teams are always on hand to assist members. As a leading set, we believe in providing the best possible quality of service all round.

Life at Fountain Court Chambers


We are proud of the supportive, stimulating, ambitious and inclusive culture at Fountain Court.

This culture extends right across chambers, from our members through to our staff and is also demonstrated in how we work with clients.

Pupils are warmly welcomed by members and staff alike and are encouraged to take an active role in cases from the start of their time with us, enabling them to work with some of the brightest minds at the Commercial Bar and on some of the most interesting cases.

Beyond exposure to the talented people and stimulating work, our pupils learn to work together and gain essential communication skills. Pupils are encouraged to co-operate with each other, with a view to this supportive ethos being carried on through tenancy. Each pupil has a supervisor who offers opportunities to collaborate on case work and our approachable pupillage committee members can provide additional mentoring. This established training system helps pupils become successful barristers by identifying and nurturing potential for success.

Our goal is to provide pupils with broad and thorough training in the types of work done by Fountain Court members during the year-long pupillage.

Much of this work is commercial in nature and we have a training programme which is designed to prepare our pupils for starting in practice as a junior commercial barrister. Pupils are called upon to complete pieces of work for members which arise in their practices (not artificial assessments). In this way, pupils will get to know and be known by members and experience the full spectrum of work done in chambers. A lot of time is spent reading papers, and preparing pleadings, skeleton arguments, and advices and notes on specific questions of law are often required. The work is reviewed and discussed with the pupil supervisor and a pupil can expect to accompany members of chambers to trials, appeals and, more frequently, interlocutory hearings. If pupils wish to experience particular areas of work, that can usually be arranged.

It is unusual for our pupils to get work of their own during pupillage and we encourage paid advocacy work to only be accepted after the tenancy decision, because we think it is more important for pupils to learn in chambers during the pupillage year. After pupillage, we place a heavy emphasis on opportunities for advocacy work for junior tenants. It is vital that junior tenants appear in court on a regular basis on appropriate cases at this stage in their careers. Fountain Court has an excellent track record in this area as we have a dedicated clerking team whose principal role is to obtain and clerk advocacy work for the most junior tenants.

Click here to listen to our ‘Pupillage at Fountain Court’ podcast.

Junior tenants undertake a mixture of led work (working together on a case with a more senior barrister, often also from Fountain Court) and unled work (where the junior barrister is the only barrister on the case). This means that a junior tenant’s caseload is very diverse as they are likely to be working on very significant commercial litigation at the same time as handling much smaller, discrete matters on their own.

It is a distinguishing feature of life as a junior tenant (as opposed to, say, a newly qualified solicitor) that the individual barrister has both a great deal of responsibility from a very early stage and the ability to manage their workload and practice in line with their own commitments and preferences. There are no set working hours, no fixed holiday limits and it is often possible to work from home – all of which gives a junior tenant a flexibility in their working life which is seldom found in the early stages of other professional roles.

Whilst our junior tenants work hard, and their clients will expect them to produce work of the highest standard, this work is carried out within an environment which is friendly and supportive.

Fountain Court Chambers operates a mentoring scheme for junior tenants in the early years of practice whereby they are designated a more senior member of chambers who meets with them regularly to discuss how their practice is developing and to discuss in confidence any concerns that they may have.

Click here to listen to our ‘The Life of a New Tenant’ podcast.

Fountain Court is proud of its excellent clerking and administration teams. In keeping with our welcoming, supportive and progressive culture, our staff are always on hand to assist members.

The clerking team is recognised as one of the finest at the Bar. Led by the distinguished Senior Clerk Alex Taylor, assisted by Deputy Senior Clerks Katie Szewczyk and Sian Huckett, the team is comprised of five Team Leaders who is each supported by a Team Leader Assistant. Each member has a dedicated Team Leader and Team Leader Assistant who works with them in developing their practice.

Our administration team is managed by Julie Parker, with its remit including fee management, insurance, IT, HR, diversity and inclusion, recruitment and facilities management.

We also have a dedicated marketing and business development team that supports all members, including new tenants, in securing opportunities to meet clients and raise their profile.

Your application


Your application for mini-pupillage should be made using this form and be sent to our Pupillage Co-ordinator, Alice Martin. Candidates who are successful in reaching the next round of the process will be invited for a short interview.

There are two deadlines for applications for mini-pupillages during the year. Please apply by:

  • 30th March 2022 – For mini-pupillages in the Summer period (normally June or July). Applications for this period have now closed.
  • 28th October 2022 – For mini-pupillages in the Christmas period.

It is important to note that Fountain Court generally recruits pupils around 18 months in advance, via the Pupillage Gateway.

Each year we have a large number of applicants and a limited number of mini-pupillages. We suggest that prospective applicants apply in good time to complete a mini-pupillage in the year before they intend to apply for pupillage. For example, if you intend to apply for a pupillage starting in 2023, you would ideally have completed a mini-pupillage before the end of 2021, before applying in the Pupillage Gateway in the February 2022 round.

If you have not completed a mini-pupillage your application for pupillage will be treated as an application for a mini-pupillage in the first instance, although there will inevitably be a very limited number of mini-pupillages available in such circumstances.

Selection criteria


The criteria by which we select our mini-pupils are:

  • Academic and intellectual ability.
  • Advocacy and communication skills, clarity of expression, ability to think and respond under pressure, and potential capacity as an advocate.
  • Potential to be a successful self-employed practitioner at the Commercial Bar, a keen interest in the type of work done by Chambers, determination, resilience, and integrity.

 

Our selection procedures are fair and do not discriminate against any applicant on grounds of race, sex, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, age, political persuasion or any other protected characteristic. We positively encourage mini-pupillage applications from groups who are currently under-represented in Chambers.

We would be grateful if applicants would also complete and return the diversity questions at the end of the application form. This information is used for monitoring purposes only and is not considered as part of a candidate’s application.

Social Mobility


We are conscious of long-held perceptions of the commercial Bar as being only for those from affluent or privileged backgrounds. We are striving to change those perceptions and to address any structural issues which may be discouraging individuals from less privileged backgrounds from considering the Bar as a career. We therefore support and participate in a number of initiatives which aim to address such issues, details of which can be found here.

The backgrounds of our members shows that there is no single route to the Bar, and a significant proportion of them were educated at state schools. You can read about some of their experiences by clicking on the names below:

Rosalind Phelps QC

Download PDF

Henry King QC

Download PDF

James Duffy

Download PDF

Natasha Bennett

Download PDF

Daniel Edmonds

Download PDF

Christopher Langley

Download PDF

Niamh Cleary

Download PDF

Samuel Ritchie

Download PDF

Frequently Asked Questions


If you are a law student, you should look to apply for a mini pupillage in your second or third year of university. For non-law students, as our mini pupillages are assessed and require you to undertake a piece of legal written work, you should aim to make an application once you have begun your legal studies.

Useful information can be found on the Bar Standards Board website, which is available here.

Fountain Court welcomes applications from appropriately qualified solicitors who meet our pupillage criteria. Many of our members are former solicitors. Click here to read about Marcus Field and Francesca Ruddy‘s transition to the Bar and why they chose to join Fountain Court. We encourage transferring solicitors to make their applications through the Pupillage Gateway.

A candidate will only be offered pupillage if we consider that they have real potential to be a tenant. We do not operate a quota system and make offers of tenancy to all pupils who meet the relevant standard. Tenancy offers are usually made in June or July of each year. In recent times, we have taken on all of our pupils in a given year.

From October 2021, each pupil will receive a total of £75,000, in the form of a first six-month award of £50,000, and a second six-month award of £25,000. The awards are payable monthly in advance during pupillage. The pupillage year runs from October to September.

Pupils are called upon to complete specific pieces of work for members. The work is varied and challenging and most of it is commercial in nature.

A lot of time is spent reading papers, preparing pleadings, advices and notes on specific questions of law are often required. A pupil can expect to accompany members of chambers to trials, appeals and, more frequently, interlocutory hearings. If pupils wish to experience particular areas of work, that can usually be arranged.

We are committed to promoting equality and diversity and recognise the under-representation of various minority groups both in chambers and at the wider commercial bar.

We wish to recruit the best people from the widest possible group of talent and we are involved in a number of programmes that seek to widen the pool of applicants at the commercial bar, including the Mentoring Scheme for Underrepresented Groups, Combar Scholarship Scheme, Pathways to Law, the Sutton Trust and the recently established Women at the Commercial Bar initiative (see article in The Times about this here). You can find out more about our approach to Equality and Diversity here.

We have robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that there is no discrimination against clients, members, pupils, prospective pupils, or staff on grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, or any other protected characteristic. Further information on our policies can be found here.

Applications for pupillage at Fountain Court are to be made through the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway. A timetable can be found here.

The criteria by which we select our pupils, and ultimately our tenants are:

  • Academic and intellectual ability.
  • Advocacy and communication skills, including:
    • Clarity of expression;
    • Ability to think and respond under pressure; and
    • Potential capacity as advocate.
  • Potential to be a successful self-employed practitioner at the Commercial Bar, including:
    • Interest and understanding in the type of work done by chambers;
    • Potential ability to work well with members of chambers, solicitors, clients, staff and other pupils; and
    • Determination, resilience and integrity.

Chambers is prepared to advance up to £20,000 prior to pupils starting their pupillage.

At Fountain Court, we offer loans to new tenants to ensure that they receive an income at least equal to the amount of their pupillage award during their first year of tenancy. However, in recent years, it has never been necessary to do so, and pupils have comfortably earned more than their pupillage award in their first year.

New tenants are not required to share the expenses of chambers administration. Contributions are proportionate to income, so the senior members of chambers pay the greater part of the costs. During their first year of practice, tenants may be asked to undertake a modest amount of pro bono legal work instead, for voluntary or charitable organisations.

Junior tenants at Fountain Court Chambers undertake a mixture of led work (working together on a case with a more senior barrister, often also from Fountain Court) and unled work (where the junior barrister is the only barrister on the case). Therefore, a junior tenant’s caseload is very diverse as they are likely to be working on very significant commercial litigation at the same time as handling much smaller, discrete matters on their own.

We strongly encourage junior tenants to undertake as much of their own advocacy work as possible in the first few years of practice, to hone their advocacy skills and gain experience ‘on their feet’.

It is a distinguishing feature of life as a junior tenant that the individual barrister has both a great deal of responsibility from a very early stage and the ability to manage their workload and practice in line with their own commitments and preferences. There are no set working hours, no fixed holiday limits and it is often possible to work from home – all of which gives a junior tenant at Fountain Court a flexibility in their working life, which is seldom found in the early stages of other professional roles.

Click here to listen to our ‘The Life of a New Tenant’ podcast.

Whilst our junior tenants work hard, and their clients will expect them to produce work of the highest standard, this work is carried out within an environment which is friendly and supportive.

Fountain Court operates a mentoring scheme for junior tenants in the early years of practice, whereby they are designated a more senior member of chambers who meets with them regularly to discuss how their practice is developing. The junior tenant is able to discuss in confidence any concerns that they may have and gain support from their mentor.

For pupillage and mini-pupillage enquiries, please contact:

Alice Martin
Pupillage Co-ordinator
+44 (0)207 583 3335
alice@fountaincourt.co.uk

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