Pupil Life – Jack Palmer and Paige Jones

Jack Palmer and Paige Jones commenced their 12 months pupillage at 5 Essex Chambers in September 2022. They have been gaining experience across Chambers’ core practice areas. We asked them to tell us about their experience so far. Their answers provide a snapshot into life as a pupil at a busy set of Chambers.

What kind of work do you do?

Paige – 5 Essex Chambers is, of course, a police law set and as pupils here we are exposed to all areas of Chambers’ practice. Now that Second Six has started, my main work is making applications in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts for civil orders such as, amongst other things, Stalking Protection Orders, Sexual Risk Orders and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders. I am really enjoying this kind of work as I joined the Bar in order to help people and this kind of work really has the victim at its heart.

Jack – Civil applications for the police are a great opportunity to gain regular advocacy experience. You quickly get a sense for the importance of the work and develop your client handling skills. There are also opportunities for you to get instructed on big cases. I have recently been instructed on the Reading terrorist attacks inquest as a baby junior. There are not many sets where you can get straight into big public law cases and I cannot wait to start.

How often are you in court and where?

Paige – Chambers has an excellent clerking team who work tirelessly to keep our diaries busy and varied. I find myself in court anywhere between 2-4 times a week. I am receiving instructions from police forces in and out of London. Just this week I was in court in Birmingham and then Essex a few days later. I am from the North West originally so working out my journey to court has also become part of my case preparation!

Jack – This really varies; some weeks it will be 4 or 5 days and others it might only be once or twice. This is one of the best parts of being a pupil at 5 Essex Chambers where no two weeks are the same. Most of the work is centred around London and the Home Counties for the moment but I have been further afield once or twice. Whilst a romantic train ride to some far flung town can be fun I don’t mind these being fairly infrequent as they often involve setting of at quite unsocial hours!

Do you work from home or in chambers?

Paige – A bit of both. There’s a really collegiate atmosphere in Chambers and many people prefer to work in here instead of working at home. Unless I am in court, I will be in chambers, but I have also found that my supervisors have been understanding if, for example, I did want to work from home for a couple of days.

Jack – This depends on what you have on at any given time. My preference is to work from Chambers as much as possible as it’s where the social stuff happens and you can always pop your head round someone’s door when you get stuck on something. Plus, as the weather gets nicer, there are few nicer places to work than in any of the Inns of Court.

Do you have a favourite thing about pupillage?

Paige – my favourite thing has to be how much you learn. Your knowledge sneaks up on you. One minute you’re sat in reception on your first day of pupillage and then before you know it, you have absorbed a lot of information and skills. I am really grateful to my colleagues who have given their time to teach me.

Jack – I joined the bar to be an advocate and once your second six comes around you are at the coalface straightaway. It is exhilarating how much responsibility you take on in such a short space of time. Learning what went well and what went poorly on a given case and changing your approach on the next one is rewarding. With the responsibility comes a certain amount of pressure but one thing that doesn’t get said often enough is that it is really fun being a courtroom advocate.

What is the hardest thing about pupillage?

Paige – The hardest thing for me are the “unknown unknowns.” There is a lot to learn during pupillage and with such brilliant colleagues it can be daunting to realise how much I don’t know yet and despite preparing for a hearing, there may still be something that crops up. Although, members of Chambers are always on hand on the phone if I ever have a question.

Jack – Pupillage involves keeping a lot of plates spinning. You will have your own practice, work for other members of Chambers, training and development, and all manner of other things to balance. Not getting bogged down on any one thing and making sure you plan your time effectively is a central part to the job. Trying to create as little stress or extra work for the clerks is always a good start when thinking about what makes a good pupil!

What has been your best day of pupillage so far?

Paige – Professionally, it was sitting with my First Six Supervisor in the RCJ in which she successfully defended  a negligence claim against the Metropolitan Police despite the facts seeming to be stacked against our case. It taught me a lot about the importance of clear advocacy and being on top of the evidence.

Socially, my colleague was appointed as a bencher at Lincoln’s Inn and she very kindly invited me to her “dragging in” ceremony. Such a fun tradition!
Jack– For me it was seeing my supervisor in the Court of Appeal on a complex issue of law. This is the sort of case pretty much all barristers aspire to doing. Having three law lords peering down at you did look pretty terrifying but seeing months of hard work being weaved together in oral advocacy is always a good spectator sport. Honourable mention goes to the Friday evening in a various watering holes in and around around Temple when getting involved in the social side of Chambers life.

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