Interview with a Recent Pupil

Interview with a Recent Pupil

Interview with James Fagan (pupil 2019/2020)

James Fagan - BarristerYour journey to pupillage

My journey was not one of going straight from university to chambers. I obtained my undergraduate degree in law at University College Dublin (with a year abroad at a Chicago law school) following which I obtained my postgraduate degree in law (BCL) at the University of Oxford. During my undergraduate I interned at investment banks and worked for a personal injuries law firm in Chicago. I graduated from the BCL in 2013 following which I commenced the LPC. I then trained with Latham & Watkins in their London and Hong Kong offices and qualified as a solicitor in 2016. I worked as an associate in their Litigation and Trial department for a year before taking a year out to work as a judicial assistant to Lord Hughes and Lady Black at the UK Supreme Court. I returned to Latham for a little over a year before leaving to take up pupillage at Radcliffe Chambers in 2019/2020.

I undertook around 3 mini pupillages in 2012. I applied to about 10-15 chambers for pupillage in 2017/18 but did not succeed in getting a pupillage offer (even Radcliffe Chambers rejected me without an interview!). I applied again the following year on a more targeted basis and successfully obtained an offer from Radcliffe Chambers.

The pupillage experience

Pupillage is divided into a non-practising first six, and a practising second six. In each six months a pupil is supervised by two pupil supervisors, each for a duration of three months. I was drawn to Radcliffe as it is one of the only chancery sets that offers a practising second six. As a qualified solicitor I could have had a reduced pupillage but I opted for the full 12 months to ensure I had as many opportunities as possible to learn the ropes of being a practising barrister.

I found the work during pupillage to be steady and varied. What you work on depends on your supervisor. In general, I found it was a mix of working on producing materials based on completed cases and helping out your supervisor on their current matters. Chambers does strive to ensure you are exposed to all the types of hearings you are likely to encounter as a junior tenant.

Opportunities arose during pupillage to carry out work for other members of chambers. This helped to flesh out the experience and expose me to chambers’ practice areas. I had the opportunity to assist members on a number of matters including a case about knowing receipt.

As part of pupillage, we had to undertake an advocacy assessment and one assessed written advice. However, there are now additional assessments.

The transition from pupil to tenant

It was very straightforward. I found that Chambers upped the number of cases I was working on as the final months of my pupillage rolled by. In the end it meant that I had a steady stream of work once I was a tenant. The decision on tenancy tends to happen relatively early on so once you are offered tenancy the efforts to get you work increase.

I have found chambers very sociable. During pupillage it was hard to keep in touch with everyone during the initial stages of the COVID lockdowns. However, once the lockdowns had lifted there was a concerted effort by members to socialise and I found it fairly straightforward to build up good workplace friendships.


What is the culture of chambers?

Chambers has a supportive and collegiate culture. Everybody works hard but keeps in touch with each other. There are social events on a regular basis and there are members who go for tea and coffee together daily. Going to lunch with other members happens regularly too.

I find there is a good relationship between the members, clerks and staff and this is encouraged by Chambers.


Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers

Build up a set of transferable skills which will help you at the bar. Being a barrister is not just about having strong academics. You need to demonstrate you have the requisite skills in advocacy (written and oral), time management and organisation. You also need to show that you are capable of making judgement calls despite finding yourself in the middle of tense and stressful situations. You also need to be a resilient individual capable of working on your own and under pressure.

Consider what type of chambers you want to be at but also the type of culture you want to be a part of. We do a whole range of work at Radcliffe Chambers, but we have core practice areas and you will be expected to work in some of them. You will also be expected to participate in chambers life and to work at developing chambers’ practice areas.

When applying to Radcliffe, seriously consider what sets it apart from competitors, what sets you apart from other applicants and why you want to be a member of the chancery bar. Be able to explain your reasons succinctly and persuasively and give examples.

Visit our YouTube channel to watch our Pupillage Q&A videos and gain further insight into pupillage at Radcliffe Chambers, applications and life as a junior barrister.