What do our pupils and barristers say?

Sophie Smith-Holland, Pupil, Family & Divorce

“I spent 2 and a half years immediately before pupillage working in the family team at Royds Withy King in Bath. I worked on children matters and predominantly cases representing parents in care proceedings. This experience is invaluable now that I am practising as I am able to see each case from my instructing solicitor’s perspective too.

A huge benefit of undertaking a specialist family law pupillage is the opportunity to see a broad range of quality work. As I have been focusing only on family law for 7 months I have been able to see a huge variety of work in all areas, with practically every member of the team. This has provided me with a great foundation to build upon during second six.

I applied to St John’s because of its excellent reputation in the South West and nationwide, and in particular the reputation of the Family & Divorce team. As I had been working at a firm that frequently instructed barristers from St. John’s, I had had the opportunity to meet and chat with their barristers and clerks on a regular basis before applying. I always found everyone to be friendly and approachable, which reassured me that I would be looked after as a pupil – and I have been!”

Harriet Dudbridge, Pupil, Family & Divorce

“Under the Justice First Fellowship, my pupillage started with a year at the Bar Pro Bono Unit where I worked as a caseworker, preparing applications covering all areas of law and allocating these to an appropriate volunteer barrister. Prior to that I worked as a paralegal for Bevan Brittan LLP on secondment to public private partnership involving NHS lease reform. During this time I worked with Volunteers in Child Protection, where I was placed with one family whose four children were on a Child Protection Plan due to neglect, sexual abuse and domestic violence. I would visit this family weekly, assisting them to access relevant support services and monitor the children’s developmental progress whilst submitting and presenting reports at Child Protection Conferences. This has allowed me a real insight into the pre-proceedings work of public law for both parents and the Local Authority.

Under the Justice First Fellowship Scheme, I had the benefit of creating a project that focused on public legal education for children around different aspects of family law including public proceedings and child arrangement orders. The JFF year also enabled me to keep in contact with members of Chambers before I started so I already knew some friendly faces.

I have really enjoyed being able to specialise in family law from the start of my pupillage. This has enabled me to really focus on my chosen area of practice and to see a range of public, private and financial matters at various levels of seniority. It has given me greater confidence when embarking on my second six with the knowledge that I have experienced this work for the full six months.

St John’s appealed to me for three reasons, firstly because of it’s excellent reputation as a set as a whole and particularly the family team. Bristol is my home town and St John’s gave me the opportunity to return home without compromising on the quality of work available. Secondly, I was drawn to the real community ethos of St John’s which includes its sponsorship of Judge Lamb and links with local law centres and charities. Thirdly, I was impressed with the nurturing environment that was advertised for pupillage which I have definitely experienced since coming here. Any tenant, junior or senior, is only a phone call away and each individual seems invested in my progress and development.”

Annie Sampson, Pupil, Commercial & Chancery

“I studied English at university before converting to law. Then, once I had completed the BPTC, I worked as a County Court Advocate on the Western Circuit for two years: an experience which has proved invaluable since starting second six.

I feel that I have had the opportunity to gain experience of everything that a commercial and chancery practice has to offer, even including a trip to Valencia to assist with an ongoing High Court case in London. I have not only been struck by the wide variety and quality of work which we have been asked to undertake from the very first day of pupillage, but the environment in which the work is undertaken. Being surrounded by a wealth of expertise on a daily basis and the generosity with which people share their expertise has made pupillage really enjoyable, even when working under pressure and to tight deadlines.

It was the mini-pupillage I did which reinforced my desire to join St John’s. Again, this was not only because of the exciting work I had the opportunity to observe during that week, but also how welcoming everyone was. For example, that week included my first introduction to ‘chancery tea’, when everyone in Chambers stops work on a Friday afternoon to catch up over a cup of tea and a slice of cake. That week’s mini-pupillage has happily proved indicative of my pupillage experience.

I am a keen runner and also enjoy the occasional cycling adventure, so I cycled to Paris (stopping at every bakery we passed) before commencing pupillage.”

Jonathan Lindfield, Pupil, Personal Injury

“I grew up and went to school in Worthing, West Sussex. I then went off to do my Undergrad in Oxford, before doing Bar school in Nottingham.

Between my undergrad and bar school I worked in my local pub! But for two days a week I went to a local firm in Brighton and helped out with general admin/file handling/document drafting etc. It really helped me to learn the ins and outs and the particular difficulties associated with managing caseloads at that level, and has definitely made me more aware of those when I have been speaking to instructing solicitors. During Bar school I worked as an Assistant to a Barrister in the local area. I helped him to manage his practice mainly by dealing with his Direct Access clients, fielding various emails/phone calls etc. I also then began to assist with drafting advices, particulars of claim etc., with a focus on industrial deafness claims. I also assisted with court hearings, and with taking notes and various other tasks; looking back, it was like a watered-down version of my first six!

Despite the inevitable worry and stress about doing it, without doubt the most enjoyable part of pupillage so far has been starting on my feet and appearing in court of my own right. I have already been involved with a wide variety of cases, some of which have had particularly novel facts! I have loved the dynamic nature of doing my own courtroom work, dealing with issues as they arise and really working ‘on my feet’, reacting to the changing landscape of a trial as it unfolds. The first day I was in court I will always vividly remember as one that was unbelievably stressful and scary, but also the moment when I knew that I’d made the right decision in coming to the Bar.

Apart from that, the ability to go to court with people so much more senior than myself and see the work that they do has been fascinating. Being able to observe and digest the complexity of the facts (especially all the medical language that I have had to learn!), pick through the relevant law, and to watch some very skilled members of the Bar present that to the court has been excellent. I have had the opportunity to learn from some really great people, and even better barristers, which has made pupillage thoroughly enjoyable, if incredibly hard work!

I first became aware of St John’s at the Law Fair at Oxford University in 2012. I distinctly remember speaking to a couple of members of Chambers then who were approachable, more than happy to give advice and guidance, and left me with a distinct impression of what Chambers would be like. As a result I applied for a mini-pupillage, which I was lucky enough to have been offered in June 2013. I came to Chambers for a week, attended court almost every day with different members of Chambers, experiencing a wide spectrum of Chambers’ work. Thankfully, my suspicions were confirmed as true and everyone I met carried the same ethos as those I’d met at the Law Fair. I saw the quality of work that even junior members were receiving, the level of guidance and support offered to pupils, and the collegiate, friendly manner in which Chambers operates. I left knowing two things, that I definitely wanted to come to the Bar, and that I wanted to do Pupillage at St John’s.

I’m a keen sportsman, and have spent most of my life playing rugby, football and cricket. Thankfully, despite the workload, I’ve managed to carry on the latter of those two through the Bristol Bar teams and the St John’s Chambers Cricket Club, which has been great. When it comes to watching sport, I am a big fan of Brighton and Hove Albion FC (despite having moved somewhat further away from the ground!) and watch as many games as I can.

I also play the saxophone and the guitar, and have played sax in local bands for a number of years – currently seeking out bands in the Bristol area to carry this on! I also enjoy reading, hiking, skiing, theatre and live music.”


Robert Mills, Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Practice Groups

“I joined St John’s having successfully completed my pupillage in 2015. Pupillage was a busy year and I benefited greatly from the exposure to a wide range of work across the personal injury and clinical negligence litigation spectrum. The feedback which I received was invaluable and has provided a strong foundation for life as a junior tenant.

Life at the junior end of the Bar is no less challenging, and the opportunities to build and develop my own practice as well as building a reputation with solicitors’ firms are excellent. I receive instructions in fast-track and multi-track trials, as well as maintaining a good flow of work on the small claims track, MOJ Stage 3 and Infant Approval hearings. My paper practice is also consistently busy with advices on liability and quantum, as well as pleadings.

The opportunities to develop a first class practice are available for juniors at St John’s, combined with a caring and highly efficient clerking team, this is an excellent set in which to practice.”

View profile: Robert Mills

Charlie Newington-Bridges, Commercial and Chancery Practice Group

Charlie Newington-Bridges “After completing my pupillage in October 2012, I was accepted as a tenant of St Johns joining the Commercial and Chancery Practice Group. I do a wide range of work that includes court appearances as well as advice related work. I attend court on average twice a week, acting for clients in cases from small claims to multi-track trials in a variety of courts across the South-West and London, including the High Court, Tribunals and County Courts. My instructions have involved a diverse and challenging array of non-court related work, from writing opinions on professional negligence  to drafting pleadings. My clerks ensure I am kept busy with a steady work flow, and chambers as a whole continues to provide me with invaluable resources and support.”

View profile: Charlie Newington-Bridges

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