Previous Guildhall pupils, Caighli Taylor and Matthew Brown write:
I undertook a pupillage in crime under the supervision of Brendon Moorhouse. The first six of pupillage is intended for you to learn the ropes, to gain as much exposure to the different stages of crime proceedings at all levels, and watch as many advocates as possible. From the beginning I started to learn how to find my way round a brief, assimilate information quickly and put into practise case analysis skills. Criminal practice differs from other areas of law in that it is less about written work and more about oral advocacy, so I spent a lot of the first six shadowing members of the team at court and in conferences. I discussed the case with them and prepared written work, which was particularly rewarding when barristers would use what I had prepared! It is a nerve-wracking but exhilarating time, and a real privilege to be able to see so many experienced advocates at all levels of call - from those involved in shoplifting matters at the Magistrates Court to those involved in long trials of sexual and violent offences in the Crown Court.
The second six heralds the start of a very steep learning curve as you venture into six months of your own real cases. I spent the vast majority of my second six 'cutting my teeth' whilst prosecuting or defending in the Magistrates Court. This was excellent experience. Cases proceed at a fast pace and you are required to assimilate lots of information and have it at your fingertips often within a short space of time. This is a time for building up confidence, developing your skills and gaining exposure to instructing solicitors.
I also spent some time in the Crown Court, at first doing bail applications, preliminary hearings, preparatory hearings and appeals, before being instructed in trials and more serious cases. Throughout the entire time members of the team were always on hand to offer support or help with anything I asked of them. Being part of such a strong and busy set ensured that my pupillage was rigorous and effective preparation for tenancy.
The pupillage experience differs widely from chambers to chambers and from practice area to practice area. With that caveat in mind, I think it's fair to say that my first six experience was somewhat different to that faced by my contemporaries in Bristol. Aside from shadowing at the odd hearing or trial, the majority of my time was spent in chambers, undertaking research for senior members of the team(s) and (amongst other things) completing and drafting "mock" advices and pleadings (my pupil supervisor etc having already carried out the relevant task before handing me the papers). This was a chance to look into complicated matters and advise in respect of issues that would otherwise not have come across the desk of somebody of my call. It was an enjoyable yet challenging experience; perpetually in a state of worry about whether my finalised piece would measure up to that previously completed by the member.
The second six months was an altogether different experience. In contrast to the first six, it was largely spent travelling to courts throughout the South West, having often received the papers the day before the hearing/trial. Nonetheless, there was still plenty of interesting paper work to complete; solicitors having chosen me (it seemed) not because of my experience (for I had little at that stage), but because of my hourly rate. However, their choice provided me with the opportunity to look into some truly interesting matters, although my pupil supervisor was always there to lend a hand (he must have grown tired of hearing the words, "do you mind if I pick your brains for a second?") if needed. All in all pupillage was a tiring yet enjoyable experience and certainly prepared me thoroughly for the rigours of tenancy.