For an insight into pupillage at 5RB, we asked Hannah Gilliland, who recently became the latest 5RB tenant (October 2023), a few questions:
Where did you go to university and what did you study?
I went to the University of Cambridge where I studied Human, Social, and Political Sciences. Following this I studied the GDL and the BVS at City, University of London.
Why did you choose 5RB?
I chose 5RB because it is the preeminent media and communications set. When looking at the 5RB website, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the interesting subject matter and the breadth of cases that 5RB has worked on. Since starting pupillage, this variety and interesting subject matter has been confirmed.
Media law is also an area of the law that is constantly changing and evolving. The proposed implementation of the Online Safety Bill is just one example of how the law may change in the years to come. When applying for pupillage, I was keen to work in an area which will continually challenge me and about which there is always more to learn.
Finally, I chose 5RB because of my experience on the mini-pupillage. It is an important consideration when applying for pupillage to choose sets where the people are welcoming. The mini-pupillage was a good opportunity to meet members of 5RB and confirmed the friendly and open chambers environment which I have since experienced during pupillage.
What one thing prepared you best for pupillage?
In the gap between finishing my studies and starting pupillage, I worked for ten months as a paralegal at a leading media law firm. This was an invaluable experience for me. The difference between studying law in textbooks and the practical reality of civil litigation is vast, and I am grateful for the skills and litigation experience I gained before commencing pupillage.
What other preparation would have been useful?
When preparing to begin pupillage any relevant work experience would be useful. Working at the Law Commission or as a Judicial Assistant would be beneficial as would, in the case of 5RB, any time spent at newspapers or broadcasters.
Other (less time-consuming) preparation includes setting up legal alerts from Westlaw linked to the area of law you are interested in and subscribing to relevant legal blogs.
What’s the best thing about pupillage?
The best thing about pupillage is the opportunity to learn from the best people in this area of law. The quality of legal training is unparalleled, and I am particularly grateful for the time my pupil supervisor puts in to giving me detailed feedback on my work. This is helping me to improve the quality of my legal work greatly.
What’s the worst?
Pupillage is an inherently stressful time by its nature. This pressure has been somewhat alleviated by the well-structured pupillage at 5RB. Periodic reviews and regular feedback ensure the process is transparent.
Was pupillage what you were expecting?
Yes, in many ways it has been. One thing I wasn’t expecting, however, was how much time I would spend in court. Within my first month, I have attended a High Court preliminary trial, a High Court trial, a Master’s hearing, and even an appeal in the Court of Appeal. It has been brilliant to watch oral advocacy in action.
Further, although Covid has had a lasting impact on many barristers’ attitudes towards working from home, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there have been informal drinks in Chambers every Friday evening as well as various other social events organised at 5RB. I have appreciated being able to meet members of Chambers in a relaxed and friendly setting.
What advice would you give to potential applicants?
First, make sure you tailor your application to the set that you are applying for. 5RB is a specialist media and communications law set and it will help if you can show an interest in media law in your application. Remember that the written application is a piece of written advocacy, and you must take time to ensure it is well crafted.
Second, prepare for the interview. Research the set and the recent cases they have worked on. Anticipate what kind of questions they could ask. A useful tip I always found was to write down every question I was asked during a pupillage interview afterwards. Inevitably the same questions come up between sets and it will be helpful if you have already thought of an answer in advance.
Finally, take care of yourself. The application process can be very demanding, especially if it matches up with law school exams. Take breaks, go on walks, and see friends – it is important to take time to look after yourself!