In this article Caroline Greenfield discusses her four main tips for turning pupillage into tenancy.
Caroline joined Atkin Chambers as a tenant in September 2019, following the successful completion of her pupillage. Caroline read law at Oxford before undertaking the BCL, and then completed the BPTC at BPP Law School.
Prioritise pupillage for the year
Firstly prioritise pupillage for the year. If you have secured a pupillage then it’s safe to assume that you have worked incredibly hard and with concerted focus for many years. To make that effort count and to give yourself the best chance of becoming a tenant, you should put pupillage first all year. That might mean explaining to flatmates or friends that the year is likely to be an intense one, thinking about who is in your support network, not committing to long holidays in advance and keeping ‘school nights’ calm. You owe it to yourself to devote your time and energy to learning and succeeding.
That said pace yourself. If you go in all guns blazing, work late every night and spend every Saturday in the library you will completely burn out. From week one, my supervisors emphasised the importance of aiming to keep work within the working pupillage day (8.30am-6.30pm) and to rest on weekends and over Christmas and Easter. Adjusting to any new work environment is tiring but when you factor in that you are essentially on a year-long job interview which is designed to be testing, and that you will constantly be worrying about how it’s going, you will be socially and mentally exhausted.
Take your time on pieces of work, particularly at the beginning. Performing under time-pressure is an important part of the job and your supervisor will let you know when a task is time sensitive. If it isn’t, then I remember being told it is better to take an extra day than to rush a piece of work: people are much more likely to remember that the work wasn’t done well than the fact it took you one more day.
Listen to feedback
Thirdly and crucially listen to feedback – supervisors are well aware that nothing can really prepare you for pupillage and that you will probably not be at tenancy standard at the start of the year. However, they will expect to see improvement. Turn on sponge-mode, ask questions if you haven’t understood a piece of feedback and enjoy seeing a range of styles as you rotate through supervisors. I had a running word document called ‘general lessons’ and every time I received feedback or got useful advice from someone about a particular point of law or procedure I would go away and write it down. It is still a useful reference point for junior practice.
People want you to succeed
Lastly remember that people want you to succeed. At Atkin Chambers we offer two pupillages for two tenancies. This isn’t a Chambers where pupils are pitted against each other in a competition for one spot. Your supervisors, and Chambers more widely, will put lots of time and resource into training you in the hope that you will become someone they can work with and rely on in due course. Take comfort in the fact that the common goal is for your pupillage to end in tenancy!