Commercial and Chancery cases take the lead at this set that now recruits up to two pupils a year.
Radcliffe Chambers was formed in 2006 from a merger between 11 Old Square and 11 New Square. Instead of calling the set 11 'In The Middle' Square, members chose a name they felt was more relevant to their practice. The set is named after Sir Cyril Radcliffe, an eminent mid-century Chancery silk, who reflects the high standard of Chancery work that the set practises to this day. CEO Fiona Fitzgerald told us in summer 2018: “Chambers has experienced a significant growth spurt over the past four years. In the last six months alone we’ve grown by 26%.” The practice now breaks down like this: 24% private client, 20% insolvency, 18% commercial, 11% pensions, 13% property, 9% banking and 5% charities.
“Chambers has experienced a significant growth spurt over the past four years.”
Fitzgerald continues: "We’ve seen an increase in international clients and also in work from magic circle firms. Our insolvency practice has grown by 46% over the past year.” Fitzgerald attributes this expansion in part to “a raising of our profile. We’ve won numerous awards and had a lot of press, and our barristers have been out giving talks around the country and the world.” Keith Rowley QC was named Chancery silk of the year at the 2017 Chambers Bar Awards. Given the set's recent growth, it is now aiming to recruit two pupils a year rather than just one as it did previously.
So what have members been up to lately? In one recent traditional Chancery case a silk acted for the literary executor of a deceased Oxbridge professor in a dispute with his widow over his literary estate, while in another a senior junior worked on rights of way dispute related to land recently acquired by a developer. In a more commercial Chancery case a silk acted for law firm Mishcon de Reya after it was sued for breach of trust by a property purchaser who'd been duped by fraudsters posing as the owners of a property in Earls Court. Another member defended Credit Suisse in a £1.5 million mis-selling claim.
Besides its staple Chancery and commercial work the set has other specialisms too: it's top-ranked by Chambers UK for charities law. One member recently worked on a Court of Appeal case in which the Children's Investment Fund Foundation was seeking approval for a $360 million grant to another a charity. The set is also ranked for pensions: one barrister represented the Pensions Regulator in a £13.7 million pension scam case.
Pupils have four supervisors for about three months each across pupillage. One pupil began with traditional Chancery work, and got “a good introduction to the fundamental work like what an opinion looks like and talking to clients. I was learning from observing my supervisor, who I was with all day every day.” As part of this, one interviewee described “going to Zürich to attend a meeting related to a multimillion-dollar loan dispute.” Sources estimated that 70 to 75% of their work was live, with the remainder dead. “Dead work is quite useful because it was complex and I could see what happened next after I'd done one element of it,” an interviewee reflected.
“We’re quite unusual in that we’re a Chancery set that actively encourages people to do their own work.”
In the second six pupils get up on their feet on their own cases. “We’re quite unusual in that we’re a Chancery set that actively encourages people to do their own work in the second six,” a baby junior noted. “A lot of the work I did was very similar to the work I’m doing now, like drafting opinions, addressing judges and producing skeleton arguments.” Pupils visit County Courts around the country and handle winding-up petitions at the Chancery Division. A baby junior told us they get stuck into “probate disputes, corporate insolvencies, individual bankruptcies, companies making invalidation orders, and general contractual claims.” During the second six pupils also continue to do work for their supervisor and for other members. “By the last few months you’re focused on working with different people and creating your own practice so that by the time you’re a tenant you’re ready to go,” a baby junior said.
Each of the four supervisors produces a report at the end of their three months, which is sent to the pupillage committee along with every piece of work a pupil has done for other members. On top of that there's a formal advocacy assessment that counts towards the tenancy decision, usually eight or nine months into pupillage. It's usually an application for which you have to prepare the skeleton argument too. Feedback from instructing solicitors can also be included in the report compiled by the pupillage committee, which is then sent to all members, who vote on the tenancy decision. In 2018 the set granted tenancy to its single pupil.
Live and let apply
Radcliffe previously recruited through the Pupillage Gateway, but now hopefuls must apply directly to the set with a cover letter and CV – criteria to cover are listed on Radcliffe's website. The four members of the pupillage committee individually review and mark each application. A total of 20 to 25 candidates are then invited to a first-round interview at which they're presented with a set of problem questions, “which may or may not have been given to them beforehand.”
The second-round interview used to last two days(!), but has now been shortened to just one day. Candidates are sent a drafting exercise to do beforehand, usually an opinion related to Radcliffe's work. They then come in the next morning and have the chance to speak with a number of the set's members. The interview itself is in the afternoon and consists of going through the written work, as well as doing a conference problem. “The interview panel pretend to be lay clients and solicitors,” a source explained. “That's helpful for us as it gives an indication of how a candidate will interact with clients.” One pupil remembered writing “an opinion on easements, which involved fairly tricky land law.” A baby junior reckoned “the goal is to see how you deal with something you don't already know the answer to.”
Half of Radcliffe's ten juniors under ten years' call did their undergraduate degrees at Oxbridge; the others graduated from Durham, Cardiff, Reading and the University of Washington in Seattle. Fiona Fitzgerald explains what the set does to improve access and diversity: “We recognise that there aren’t as many people from non-traditional backgrounds pursuing a career at the Bar, so we've created a student camp for sixth-formers from under-represented groups. They can get involved in mock trials, advocacy exercises and a mentoring scheme. The aim is to open people’s minds to a career at the commercial and Chancery Bar.”
“We order Domino's, open up a conference room and eat pizza.”
“We are quite strict and clear with pupils that their hours are 9am to 6pm and there’s no expectation for them to be here before that,” a baby junior told us. “You start to manage your own time during the second six, which is a very good introduction to life as a barrister, and there’s scope to structure your practice around your personal life.” On the set’s broader culture, one source shared: “When I first visited Radcliffe I saw people having tea together every day and felt like the atmosphere suited me. Being a barrister can be a lonely profession at times, but it’s very easy to chat to other people here.” Another interviewee chuckled: “Tea can either involve very complex discussions of things people are working on, or we might be ranking James Bond films!”
There are also alcoholic beverages up for grabs when semi-regular emails go round asking if anyone fancies a pint. And if food is more your priority, once a month the set hosts lunch. “We order Domino's, open up a conference room and eat pizza,” a source reported. “There's a concerted effort to make sure everyone goes to that, otherwise it's easy to get lost in your work. You have to blow off steam.”
Radcliffe has increased its headcount from 44 members in 2016 to 61 in 2018.
11 New Square,
- No of silks 5
- No of juniors 56
- Noof pupils 2
- Contact [email protected]
- Method of application Applications must be made by CV with a covering letter addressed to our Pupillage Committee by email at [email protected] or by post to Pupillage Committee, Radcliffe Chambers, 11 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3QB. The covering letter should briefly address the selection criteria outlined on the website, and should be a maximum of two sides of A4 in length
- Pupillages Up to two 12-month pupillages
- Tenancies Up to 2 per annum
Members of chambers are regularly involved in the leading cases in their fields and chambers continues to grow its reputation for quality and innovative legal services. These services are supported by a professional and dedicated clerking and management team who provide a transparent and client driven service.
Type of work undertaken
• Evidence of legal experience (such as mini-pupillages, marshalling and other work experience)
• Experience and achievements in oral advocacy (particularly legal advocacy including mooting)
• Strong and convincing reasons for applying for pupillage, and in particular for wishing to join Radcliffe Chambers
• Chambers are looking for academically bright and commercially practical pupils who have the ability to interact well with clients and chambers members and staff
Our pupils are encouraged to gain as much advocacy experience as possible during their second six. In recent years, second six pupils have been able to undertake a significant amount of their own court work.
Applications should be made by CV and covering letter. Applications by email are not accepted.
Applicants may find it helpful to read our mini-pupillage policy before making an application. Applications received between 12 February 2018 and 24 August 2018 will be considered for mini-pupillage between 1 October 2018 and 21 December 2018. Applications received between 27 August 2018 and 1 March 2019 will be considered for mini-pupillage between 11 March 2019 and 13 May 2019.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2018
- Court of Protection: Property & Affairs (Band 2)
- Chancery: Commercial (Band 3)
- Chancery: Traditional (Band 2)
- Charities (Band 1)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)