39 Essex Street takes pupillage gap year

The number of junior barristers and pupils joining from 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square has lead 39 Essex Street to suspend recruitment of pupils for the 2014-15 pupillage year.

A statement on 39 Essex Street’s website reads: “In the light of its recent expansion, and the consequent short-term changes in chambers demographics at the junior end – which mean that it is not possible to predict what the business case for recruitment will be at the relevant time – 39 Essex Street has resolved that it should take one year (only) out of the pupillage round.”

Last year, 24 members of 4-5 Gray’s Inn, including seven silks, moved to 39 Essex Street, along with one pupil who had just been made a tenant, a third-six pupil and one other pupil (28 November 2012).

For the pupillage year due to commence this October, in addition to the three already granted pupillage, 39 Essex Street also took on one pupil from 4-5 Gray’s Inn.

Charles Cory-White QC, joint-head of pupillage at 39 Essex Street, said that the decision had been made in fairness not only to future pupils but also to those juniors currently in chambers “as in any chambers there is a limited amount of work at the junior end … and we have a strong policy where we do not recruit people as pupils unless we are able to guarantee that we could take them on.”

39 Essex Street has a policy of offering tenancies to pupils who satisfy its stated criteria for recruitment as tenants which in the past five years has led to only one pupil not being kept on by chambers.

“This is not a sign of concern about the market place in general, but due to our particular situation and the large number of people we have been recruiting,” he added.

The website statement added “this decision neither impacts upon, nor is any reflection of concerns about, recruitment to tenancy from this year or next year’s crop of pupils, in relation to whom the position remains as before.”

Earlier this month Charter Chambers, which this year also took the decision to stop offering pupillages, stated that the current legal aid cuts will combine with the introduction of best value tendering to “destroy the whole notion of pupillage” (3 May 2013).