Tomos Rees

Pupillage in a nutshell

Tomos Rees, pupil 2021–2022

Chambers is a friendly and supportive place to complete pupillage, combined with the rigorous training of a leading Chancery set.

Chambers’ core practice areas – estates, trusts, tax and Court of Protection – are specialist but diverse. The focus of pupillage at 5 Stone Buildings is to ensure that pupils have breadth and depth across those practice areas so that they can take on their own work from day one of tenancy. The goal is to develop potential junior tenants, rather than to catch pupils out or to pit pupils against each other.

I saw the full gamut of chambers’ main areas of practice during my pupillage. The format of pupillage is pretty standard: four three-month periods, each with a different supervisor. This is a good way to get to grips with the range of work chambers does. One of your supervisors might spend more time in court and another might expose you more to advisory work involving trusts and taxation. Overall, I saw an incredible range of work, from mediations involving warring siblings to a hard-fought case involving the authenticity of various artworks.


There was also a good weighting between contentious work and non-contentious work, including accompanying members of chambers to court and drafting opinions, skeleton arguments, deeds and other documents. My supervisors and other members of chambers made sure that I saw a variety of work and went along to interesting hearings (e.g. Guest v Guest in the Supreme Court). Towards the end of pupillage I also accompanied junior members of chambers on more run-of-the-mill hearings, such as executor removal applications. Junior tenants have sole responsibility for most of their work, so these experiences were invaluable!

In terms of hours, I generally started at 9.30 (unless court or urgent work necessitated an earlier start) and finished at around 18.00–18.30. I don’t recall working on a weekend and I was given plenty of time within normal working hours to prepare for internal assessments and external training. There was a good balance between making sure that I was seeing enough work to develop and ensuring that my schedule wasn’t overloaded. There is no expectation that you work longer hours – and if you are suspected of over-working you will likely be discouraged from doing so.

Pupillage at 5 Stone Buildings is entirely non-practising, although I completed a couple of pieces of my own work in the last month or so of pupillage. This reflects the fact that chambers’ core areas of practice are complex and unfamiliar to most pupils, as they are not taught in detail (or at all) on undergraduate law courses/the GDL. As a result, it is crucial that pupils have had time to learn about those areas before they are given responsibility for their cases as junior tenants.

As mentioned above, chambers has an informal and supportive atmosphere in which most people are happy to help with questions. Having said that, pupillage can never be entirely stress-free or relaxed. There is a lot to learn, and I would imagine that most pupils find that the pupillage year goes by alarmingly quickly. I found that feedback was constant, and there was an expectation that this would be used to hone both legal knowledge and key skills. The process at 5 Stone Buildings is, however, focussed on building pupils up rather than knocking them down.

Overall, pupillage at 5 Stone Buildings gives you a solid foundation in chambers’ core areas of practice in a close-knit chambers. It provides the perfect start for practice!