My pupillage experiences. The story so far…

Ellie Whiteside-Hunt started her pupillage in January 2020 under the supervision of Joseph Lynch, undertaking predominantly family work. As her first-six nears an end, she thought she would share her first-six experience and tips she has learned along the way. 
Ellie Whiteside-Hunt

My supervisor eased me into life as a pupil and Chambers did all they could to welcome me. I was involved in all aspects of my supervisor’s work and was able to watch a variety of hearings covering different issues. I observed both public and private law cases in pupillage.

A case I had been observing included a trip to the Royal Courts of Justice within the first few weeks of pupillage. However, from very early on in my pupillage, I also attended court with more junior members of my chambers; getting a feel for the work for which I was preparing. This also gave me a chance to get to know fellow members of chambers and to watch different styles of working. 

Three months into Pupillage, the covid-19 pandemic led to lockdown and my pupillage experience altered in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  After the initial shock, confusion and teething-problems that come with navigating Skype, Teams and Google Meets, I realised virtual court may have some advantages. 

Being at home for hearings meant that I had much more time on my hands. I was able to participate in more hearings than had been possible when attending court in person. This allowed me to observe more cases than might have been the case in a ‘normal’ first six.

The Bar has been very supportive of pupils during the pandemic – particularly the Northern Circuit and Middle Temple. There has been training that I previously wouldn’t have had access to on offer. I have had the opportunity to catch-up and speak with pupils around the country in the same predicament as myself. Lockdown has allowed me to attend training sessions by Bernard Richmond QC – gaining valuable advice on cross-examination and vulnerable witness handling.

Chambers have also ensured ongoing advocacy training has been available, undertaking exercises via Skype and Teams.  I have learned not to spend the session looking at myself or someone else on the screen and to pay attention to the camera! I didn’t expect to find myself in the strange land of virtual court, but it has proved to have some uses and my chambers have been incredibly supportive with the process. 

I have learnt a number of things in my first-six. Early on, I was pointed in the direction of Becky Kocerhan’s piece on her first six which I found very useful. My number one tip for first-six pupils is to ask questions; the stupid, silly and utter ridiculous (though they really never are). People are always more than happy to explain things and to go through it with you. It’s better to ask now and know for the future than to never ask at all. 

Ensure you always prepare. I was lucky prior to lockdown to spend a week marshalling with three of the Circuit Judges in the Civil Justice Centre, the top tip they all gave me was to always be prepared. Preparation prevents poor performance! Read the papers in detail. Know the case as if you are doing it yourself. Get in the habit of doing it now and it will make life as a second-six pupil smoother. 

Enjoy it! Enjoy the experience, the first six bliss is over sooner than you think. Take the opportunity to learn and develop your skills. But also, outside of court, get involved in chambers life and meet your fellow pupils. Life at the Bar has a lot to offer.  

I am excited to be on my virtual feet in the coming weeks and hope to be on my non-virtual feet in the not-so-distant future. 

Ellie will be available to receive instructions from 6th July 2020. Her areas of practice are public law family and private law children.