PUPILLAGE AND RECRUITMENT POLICY
LAST UPDATED 09 OCTOBER 2023
Aim and remit of policy
This is a Pupillage and Recruitment Policy document explaining the framework of pupillage applications, pupillage itself and the recruitment of tenants at Pump Court Tax Chambers (“Chambers”). Arrangements for third-six pupils and existing practitioners are dealt with at the end of this Policy.
We offer pupillage (the ‘work based learning component’) to those who have followed any of the three-step, four-step or integrated academic and vocational pathways. We do not offer the apprenticeship pathway.
Choice of Pupils
Applications are made via the Pupillage Gateway, in accordance with the standard timetable (details available on www.pupillagegateway.com). All applications are considered by a subcommittee of the Pupillage Committee (which consists of senior and junior members of Chambers). The most promising candidates are invited for interview.
In making our initial selection for interview, the subcommittee considers the candidates’ written applications. The paper-based assessments are anonymous. We look for strong academic qualifications or some clear indication of academic ability in applicants, and also evidence of commitment to (and interest in) practice at the Bar. We do not require prior experience of studying or working in tax. We are interested in assessing candidates’ potential to develop as tax barristers, not their current level of legal or tax knowledge. However, we do expect candidates to have given sensible thought to why they might be suited to and interested in a career at the Tax Bar; this might be demonstrated by reference to mini-pupillages, attendance of tax events or simply a cogent explanation in the application form perhaps based on their studies of law.
Other important qualities, which will be assessed via the written application and interview, include the ability to communicate clearly, both on paper and orally, confidence (without intellectual arrogance), teamwork, commitment to diversity and equality, interest in detail and a desire (and ability) to work hard.
The interview process is generally as follows:
Our first round interviews are based on a short problem given to the candidate twenty minutes before the interview begins. Typically, it will be a question of statutory interpretation with a relatively simple set of facts. This exercise is designed to test the candidate’s ability to work through statutory provisions, and to weigh the merits of different interpretations. We may also ask about the candidate’s written application, but we only expect a candidate to be able to talk sensibly about what they have written: our main focus is on the problem.
Our second round is a written exercise to be completed within a set time. We may use this exercise to test how the candidate deals with case law, including how the candidate analyses and applies relevant legal principles. Relevant cases and materials are provided: it is not intended to be an exercise in research. Written answers are anonymised before being marked by the committee.
The most promising candidates are then invited to a second interview to discuss their written answers from the second round.
The final decision is taken in light of the candidates’ performances over the whole of the application process including the references taken up.
We take a risk-based approach to checking the mandatory credentials of our prospective pupils.
The Chambers’ Equality and Diversity Policy applies to all pupillage applications. All pupillage offers are made in accordance with this Policy. All members involved in the process of selecting pupils will have undertaken equality and diversity training in accordance with the Equality and Diversity Policy.
We provide pupils with a written agreement.
Number of Pupils
Chambers normally makes two offers of pupillage (lasting for twelve months). Chambers will review the likely need for new tenants before advertising and offering pupillage to seek to ensure that our policy (described below) on decisions on tenancy offers can be implemented.
Pupillage awards are offered for up to £75,000 for 12 months, and are payable in equal monthly instalments in arrears.
Up to £30,000 of the pupillage award can be drawn down in the year prior to the commencement of pupillage. Chambers reserves the right to require the repayment of the whole or any part of the amount drawn down in the event that the pupil does not complete pupillage.
Pupils are not expected to pay for meals, drinks, public transport costs etc. when accompanied by their pupil supervisor or other members. Their travel expenses will be reimbursed if they are required to travel outside London to attend conferences or court hearings. Chambers also reimburses the costs of attending any compulsory courses (such as advocacy and Forensic Accounting). Chambers will only pay for any second or subsequent resits necessary to pass the professional ethics examination in exceptional circumstances.
Roles and Duties
Pupils receive no work of their own and no court work. First and second six pupils are treated alike in this respect.
The pupil will assist their pupil supervisor, and where appropriate other members of chambers, with paper work and preparation for court. In particular, pupils are expected to write opinions, draft skeleton arguments and research points of law as if their pupil supervisor’s case were their own. They are generally expected to attend all their pupil supervisor’s court appearances, conferences and telephone conferences. At conferences and in court, pupils are expected to take comprehensive notes. Other than this, pupils have no formal duties. Pupils are not expected to perform purely administrative or secretarial tasks, such as photocopying, for any member of chambers except in relation to matters in which they are involved.
Pupils are integrated into Chambers life as much as possible. They are expected to join the tenants for the regular morning coffee sessions and encouraged to participate in Chambers functions (such as dinners and other social events).
Chambers abides by the Working Time Regulations in accordance with Bar Council Guidance and the Pupillage Funding Regulations.
In relation to the failure by pupils of any of the compulsory courses, our expectation is that we would allow at least one resit where this is consistent with the relevant rules and regulations (and perhaps more resits on application) see paragraph 24 above for our policy on funding resits. We regard our role as providers of pupillage as being to help our pupils complete pupillage.
Pupils sit with a number of pupil supervisors and will usually begin the year with a single supervisor for the first two to three months. Each pupil in Chambers works in rotation with the same set of pupil supervisors for that year. This assists Chambers in providing a more comprehensive form of training and in applying uniform criteria in assessing pupils. Feedback should be given to each pupil on their work from their pupil supervisors at regular intervals during their pupillage.
At the end of their time with each pupil supervisor, the pupil will be given an overall review of the work they have done for them. Each pupil supervisor will also be asked to provide feedback to the Chair of the Pupillage Committee. The pupil will then have a formal feedback session with the Chair of the Pupillage Committee generally every three months.
Only members of chambers who have received the necessary pupil supervisor training (and where appropriate refresher training) are permitted to act as pupil supervisors. If a pupil supervisor were no longer available, a pupil would be transferred to another pupil supervisor with the necessary training. If Chambers were to close, we would expect a pupil to transfer to new chambers either with the pupil’s pupil supervisor or with the Chair of the Pupillage Committee.
During their second six, pupils are asked to do work for silks and other senior members of chambers.
At least one moot will be held during the year involving the pupil(s). This may in appropriate circumstances be held jointly with another set of tax chambers. This provides the pupils with the opportunity to do some advocacy and to demonstrate their ability to members of Chambers who will not otherwise see the pupils’ work. The pupils will be expected to draft skeleton arguments for a moot, which will be circulated to all members of Chambers.
Holiday and sickness / absence
In addition to bank holidays, pupils are entitled to two weeks’ holiday in every six months in accordance with Bar Council regulations. It will generally be most convenient to take holiday during court vacation (ie Christmas and Easter) but Chambers will be flexible. The timing of any holiday (including additional holiday) should be discussed initially with whoever would be the pupil supervisor at the time of the holiday or, if more convenient, the Chair of the Pupillage Committee. The secretary of the committee (whose identity shall be made known to the pupil at the beginning of their pupillage) should be informed by the pupil of all holidays.
If pupils need to be absent for other reasons (eg compassionate reasons or planned medical appointments), again this should be discussed initially with the relevant pupil supervisor and if necessary the Chair of the Pupillage Committee. The secretary of the committee should be informed as soon as possible.
If a pupil needs to be absent for unforeseen reasons, they should inform the secretary of the committee as soon as reasonably possible.
Chambers uses a bespoke checklist to help ensure that pupils meet the standards outlined in the Bar Standards Board’s Professional Statement.
In the last five years preceding the most recent review of the policy, 100% of our pupils have successfully completed pupillage, and see below in relation to tenancy.
A pupil has the right to terminate their pupillage after six months.
Chambers reserve the right to terminate a pupillage at any time and with immediate effect in the event of a serious breach of Chambers rules or the Bar Council Code of Conduct. This includes circumstances where the pupil engages in unprofessional conduct, is in material breach of rules concerning confidentiality, is rude to staff, colleagues or clients or their work is regularly of a highly unsatisfactory quality. Chambers also reserves the right to terminate or withdraw pupillages in the other circumstances set out in the Written Pupillage Agreement.
Decision on Tenancy Offers
The process for making tenancy offers is as follows:
The Pupillage Committee considers written and oral reports from those who have seen the pupils’ work and on that basis decides whether to recommend the relevant pupil for tenancy.
If one or more pupil is recommended, the recommendation(s) will be considered as a Chambers meeting. Chambers as a whole will decide whether to make a tenancy offer.
If pupils are not recommended, Chambers will be informed and members can request a meeting in any event.
This process generally takes place in early July with a view to making tenancy offers (if any) during July.
The main criterion for considering offers of tenancy (at each stage) is whether the pupil can be expected to make a successful career at the Bar. This will include demonstration of the qualities mentioned above (the ability to communicate clearly, both on paper and orally, confidence (without intellectual arrogance), teamwork, commitment to diversity and equality, interest in detail and a desire (and ability) to work hard). In terms of knowledge of substantive tax law, we will expect a pupil to have demonstrated an ability to learn but will not expect, eg, a formal tax qualification.
Chambers only offers pupillage to those we believe have the ability to make successful careers at the tax bar (and as set out above takes the expected need for junior tenants into account when deciding how many pupillages to offer in a given year). We aim to offer tenancy to all pupils who reach the relevant standard, without regard to the relative performance of any other pupils or the short-term need (or otherwise) for junior tenants at the time the tenancy decision is made.
Pupils who accept offers of tenancy
Pupils who accept offers of tenancy are expected to complete their pupillage in Chambers. They will be given as much assistance as possible to this end. Subject to this, they may be asked to work as juniors but in anticipation of the start of tenancy.
Pupils who are not offered or do not accept tenancy
Pupils who are not taken on as tenants are not expected to continue in Chambers, except to complete their pupillage. As much help as possible is given in finding further pupillages or vacancies outside the Bar. Chambers has an excellent history of finding work in accountancy or law firms.
Chambers also accepts applications for mini-pupillages, generally of two or three days’ duration. Where in-person mini-pupillages are not feasible (in particular due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, but also where a prospective mini-pupil lives outside the UK), we will attempt to offer a virtual mini-pupillage.
Experience suggests that mini-pupils get the most out of their time in Chambers if they are in their second or later year of a law degree or have started the GDL. We therefore give priority to such applicants when mini-pupillage rounds are over-subscribed.
Applications should be made by CV (including university examination results to date) and covering letter. The covering letter should explain why the applicant is interested in undertaking a mini-pupillage in Chambers. The main selection criteria are academic ability and some evidence of enthusiasm for the subject. The Chambers Equality and Diversity Policy applies to the selection of mini-pupils.
The dates for mini-pupillage applications are published on the Chambers’ website. Mini-pupils should, when applying, indicate the preferred length of mini-pupillage and preferred dates. In the case of two-day mini-pupillages it should usually be possible, if this makes it easier to fit around work or study commitments, for the mini-pupillage to take place on non-consecutive days.
Mini-pupillages are funded and all mini-pupils receive, as a minimum, an allowance of £50 per day. In addition, where a mini-pupil’s reasonable costs of attending a mini-pupillage exceed that amount, a further needs-based allowance is available. We will contact successful applicants to ask if they wish to apply for the further allowance.
Mini-pupillages are not assessed. Completion of such a mini- pupillage does not in itself affect consideration of any subsequent application for pupillage, but it can provide helpful material to demonstrate an interest in tax.
Mini-pupils are supervised by the junior members of Chambers but are, where possible, exposed to work at all levels. Arrangements are also made for them to follow members of Chambers to court when possible.
In addition to Chambers’ mini-pupillage program, Chambers offers places on the Bridging the Bar’s flagship mini-pupillage scheme. This scheme, including applications, is administered by Bridging the Bar: see www.bridgingthebar.org for information.
Third-Six Pupils and New Practitioners
We will consider applications from exceptional candidates who have recently completed pupillage elsewhere, and those in the early years of practice (generally up to 5 years) who, for whatever reason, feel they might be suited to a switch to the tax bar.
Applications should be made to the Chair of the Pupillage Committee, enclosing CV, covering letter, ideally two references (one of which can be taken by telephone if easier) and a sample of recent, unassisted work.
The financial support offered to any successful applicant would be determined in light of individual circumstances.
Chambers may also advertise third six pupillages if we are actively seeking to recruit.
We will consider applications from exceptional candidates. We would expect such candidates to bring an existing practice/client list.
Unless the circumstances are such that applying for pupillages in the normal way is appropriate, applications should be made to the Chair of the Pupillage Committee, enclosing a CV and covering letter. Depending on the circumstances, Chambers may ask for further information, including references, a client list, an indication of current and expected turnover and a sample of recent work.
If necessary, Chambers would help any successful candidate to fulfil the transfer/conversion requirements for practice at the Bar.
The Chambers Reasonable Adjustments Policy applies to all pupils and mini-pupils. Chambers is committed to ensuring that everyone working in Chambers, including pupils and mini-pupils) can participate fully in Chambers life.
Accessibility information is published on the Chambers website, and our Equality and Diversity Officers can be contacted (via firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss any queries regarding accessibility or reasonable adjustments. We will, at each relevant occasion, seek to encourage future and prospective pupils to identify any reasonable adjustments they are likely to need both during the selection process and their pupillage.
This policy is reviewed annually.