Pupillage at 15NBS – written by Oliver Kavanagh

Pupillage at 15NBS

15NBS is a welcoming place to be a pupil. By the end of my first six, I had met every member of Chambers because my supervisor encouraged me to see a range of trials and different styles of advocacy. I shadowed more than half the members of Chambers and met others either at Court or at socials. There is a collective sense of calmness and friendly professionalism that enabled me to feel comfortable and focus on performing to my best.

Pupillage might change your preconceptions about the type of barrister you want to be. I went into chambers from a defence solicitors and thought I might only defend. In fact, my first six supervisor was someone who only prosecutes. As a result, I learnt the value of prosecuting fairly and found that I enjoyed the analytical skills of advising and presenting a case. I now try to maintain a rounded practice.

It might come as a surprise that there is plenty of written work as a criminal barrister. Again, working for a wide range of members of Chambers on advices, case summaries and written arguments helped me learn different styles of case preparation and build my own skills in advance of my second six.

There is regular advocacy training throughout pupillage. This cover applications, conference, witness handling and speeches. More than a refresher from the Bar course, this gives you the chance to try things out under pressure (albeit staged) and to reflect on your preparation and the practical reality of life in Court. I think at least one minor meltdown is certain in the training as it mitigates the chance of a real-life disaster!

As you come up to the end of your first six, Chambers encourages you to go to the Magistrates’ Courts and experience different types of work with colleagues at the junior end. At 15NBS we take one pupil every six months and recruit with a view to tenancy – so there is always a good spectrum of people to look up to and learn from.

In second six, written work and advocacy training continues but you are otherwise very much treated as a member of chambers. I didn’t find that there was much of a difference at all when I became a tenant. You are not expected to come to chambers every day – and we certainly aren’t the sort of Chambers where you are encouraged to stay too late. Personally, I find Chambers a good place to work and to pick up tips and the odd extra case! Although, like most sets, not many barristers come in every day, there are always people around who are happy to work through problems or questions as colleagues and as specialists in their respective fields of expertise.

I was in Court every day during my second six and the clerks were mindful about managing my workload to give me a good mix of work that gradually increased in complexity. I was in the Crown Court from day one and from then on, I did some fraud and POCA work, Magistrates trials and a lot of Youth Court trials – which included serious robberies and violence that would have been in the Crown Court if the defendants were adults. The clerks helped me plan for the future and made clear that Chambers would assist in any way it could if I ever got into financial difficulties. Luckily, I found I was able to budget myself on the pupillage award (with my travel expenses covered by Chambers).

For anyone reading this who is a future 15NBS pupil, my top tips are: 1) keep reflecting – keep as full a pupillage diary as you can; and 2) try to forget about tenancy until the last month of second six. It would be unbearable to think you were being interviewed for a whole year! I tried to remember how good it felt to receive an offer of pupillage and how pleased I would be just to qualify at the end of it. What a bonus it is that I now find myself a tenant in the Chambers I trained in.

Oliver Kavanagh