4 Pump Court's commercial and IT offering is bolstered by a healthy handful of construction, shipping and banking work from across the globe.
4PC retains a special position at the Commercial Bar as a set that offers a mix of IT, construction, banking, general commercial and insurance work. “We've also worked hard to invest in the Middle East and East Asia,” joint senior clerk Carl Wall adds. Other areas of development include international arbitration, energy and shipping. Overall, 4PC's practice can be sliced up as follows: 28% construction and energy, 16% commercial, 14% IT and telecoms, 14% shipping, 12% banking, 9% professional negligence and 7% insurance. Chambers UK hands out rankings to 4PC for most of these areas. In addition, at the Chambers Bar Awards 2017 Carolyn McCombe – chief executive of the set from 1990 to 2018 – won a lifetime achievement award.
A recent international commercial case saw joint heads of chambers Nick Vineall QC and Nigel Tozzi QC secure a worldwide freezing injunction of £1 billion for a consortium of Indian banks, while on the shipping side Alex Gunning QC worked on a dispute between a Chinese shipyard and a US drilling contractor over the cancellation of a $125 million contract for delivery of an offshore vessel. In one recent tech case Simon Henderson defended the Post Office after its computer system allegedly caused dozens of job losses, unnecessary prison sentences, bankruptcies and a suicide.
As this example illustrates, 4PC's professional negligence work overlaps with its other areas, particularly in the technology sphere; barristers also handle negligence cases related to accountants and construction workers. Notable techy lay clients include Fujitsu, IBM and Vodafone, while instructions come from tech-focused law firms like Bristows, Bird & Bird and Taylor Wessing.
Pupils sit with three supervisors over the course of pupillage: two for three months each and a third for the final six months. “You have the same supervisors as your co-pupil, which is nice," one insider revealed. "You're not with them at the same time though; instead we go through a little rotation.” Pupils get exposure to different areas of the set's practice, as “each supervisor specialises in a different area of law.” The range of work typically consists of a mix of “financial services, insurance, construction and shipping.” While our interviewees didn't report getting much exposure to IT work, we were assured they could assist other members working in this area should they wish to, and one source said grandly they had got "a fairly compendious view of chambers' work."
"It was a nice vote of confidence, but obviously it was terrifying!”
In the first six, pupils are given “a mix of live cases and some dead work that my supervisor had done before – that was good because it helped me learn some of the basics. It's important to actually understand what you're doing as opposed to rushing through it to meet a deadline.” Typical tasks include drafting pleadings and advices plus doing lots of research. Pupils are also encouraged to attend court hearings with their supervisors. One said excitedly: “They'd leave me to talk with the clients alone! It was a nice vote of confidence, but obviously it was terrifying!”
In the second six pupils begin taking on their own cases. "It's good to get on your feet,” one cooed. The clerks specifically seek out low-value cases for pupils to cut their teeth on like road traffic accidents and personal injury claims. “We have two or three of those booked in a week," one source shared, "so you really get to improve your cross-examination skills.” Some of the cases second-sixers handle may settle before they go to court, but that's a useful lesson too. “I've been in court five times over the last three months," one interviewee shared, "but I've also done a lot of credit handling stuff that comes to us from insurance associations through the clerks.” In addition pupils remain busy on an eclectic and unpredictable mix of work for their supervisor, such as “working on a summary judgment based on an Islamic finance loan using Shari'a law, researching a construction dispute, and working on an enforcement decision from a European country.”
Formal feedback is provided at the end of each seat by the head of pupillage. Aside from day-to-day work, pupils also have four assessments to complete: two written ones and two advocacy ones that are “spread out over the course of a few months so you have about a week to do each one.” Each piece of work completed during pupillage is stored inside a 'tenancy folder', which is then “circulated among your three supervisors, the head of pupillage, a QC and a junior.” This folder also includes your initial pupillage application, so “it's always good to do an extra spell check before you send your application in!” In 2018, 4PC granted tenancy to one of its two pupils.
4PC recruits outside the Gateway and its application process consists of three steps. First you apply with a lengthy form which “gives lots of space for people to talk about their achievements and to demonstrate the written advocacy skills that we're looking for,” head of pupillage Lynne McCafferty QC says. We heard “it's worth looking at the marking scheme online and attacking each of those points.” The eight basic criteria are academics, advocacy, analytical skills, integrity, motivation, people skills, resilience and writing skills.
Approximately 20 applicants attend a first interview and just four make it to the second and final round. In the first round applicants are “asked quite friendly questions. We also get around 15 minutes to prepare a problem question” – for instance whether trials should be televised –“to have a chat through. After that there's a debate, with questions like 'What do you think about X?' which requires you to think on your feet and argue on the spot.” One previous question was an insurance-related one about a certain 'Bradley Wiggins' who had his bike stolen from the common area of his flat. In the final round, applicants are given a couple of days to prepare a problem question in advance. On the interview day, pupillage hopefuls are then asked questions on the topic. “The objective is to get you to perform as well as possible," one junior interviewee recalled. "You're cross-examined but in a friendly way.”
A look at the set's most junior members shows that a lot of them studied at Oxford and Cambridge, but the group also contains graduates of Trinity College Dublin, Glasgow and Durham. One insider said that “your academic ability is obviously something that they'll take into account, but there are so many other factors which are considered.” These include extracurricular activities, mooting and work experience.
"4PC has a lot of interesting people, and not all of them are white macho men!"
One baby junior summed up the atmosphere at 4PC with this story: “I used to laugh with my co-pupil that all the junior tenants were so helpful that we used to knock on one barrister's door and say 'it's pupils' clinic!' and he'd always take the time to answer our questions... I still call it that now!” This level of ease extends itself to working hours during pupillage. “It's unbelievably reasonable," one pupil shared. "The hours are strictly 9am to 6pm. I still have a life, which I hadn't expected.” Days typically begin by chatting to the clerks – “they're all really friendly, and everyone's on first-name terms.” One pupil also reminisced about chatting with both heads of chambers about “loads of different things from really basic questions about work to music, art galleries and how you would go about making a violin.” As is the case at most commercial sets women are underrepresented at 4PC, even at the junior end. One pupil shared their view: “4PC has a lot of interesting people, and not all of them are white macho men! It's rare that I'm the only woman in the room.” In most recent years the set has had one male and one female pupil.
Chambers throws a Christmas family party each year, which one of our interviewees proudly recalled “meant that I got to dress up as Santa! I always keep my eye out for future pupils who might be a good candidate for that costume.” Pupils also go out with the clerks to places like Daly's Wine Bar, conveniently located just round the corner. “Last night we were out till 2am," one source shared. "It was a laugh!”
Pupils are afforded a generous award of £70,000, one of the highest at the Bar.
4 Pump Court
4 Pump Court,
- No. of silks 23
- No. of juniors 42
- No. of pupils 2
- Contact Claudia Dine, [email protected]
- Method of application chambers’ application form – see chambers' website
- Pupillages (pa) Two 12-month pupillages
- Tenancies in the last three years 6
Types of work undertaken
We are committed to equal opportunities and diversity, and select candidates for pupillage and tenancy solely on merit.
We require a minimum of 2:1 in your degree, but we do not require a law degree.
We want to encourage you to develop your skills and to contribute fresh ideas.
Your pupillage will be for 12 months and during that time you will have three different pupil supervisors. We try to allocate our pupils so that you have the opportunity to experience as broad a range of work as possible. In your second six months, you can expect to undertake a significant case load of your own. We place great emphasis on the development of advocacy skills and we are committed to giving our pupils as much experience in court as we can.
Apply by 11 January 2019 for pupillage beginning October 2020.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2018
- Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 1)
- Insurance (Band 4)
- International Arbitration: Construction/Engineering (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 1)
- Property Damage (Band 2)
- Shipping & Commodities (Band 2)