Life As a Crucible Pupil - December 2023.
13 December 2023
Following on from our very successful pupil blog in the last legal year, our two new pupils Christopher Bealey and Alice Byron have agreed to carry on the tradition. A couple of months in we are delighted to see how well they have both settled in, and we look forward to seeing them prepare to get on their feet in a few months' time.
Throughout the application and interview process I found Crucible to be a set where I could really see myself growing and developing during pupillage, and I was delighted when I was offered a pupillage in May. A few weeks before our first day, my co-pupil Chris and I were invited to meet members of Chambers, clerks and see Chambers’ new premises, where everyone welcomed us warmly, and gave us crucial hints and tips for pupillage.
These kind and helpful values are deeply embedded in Crucible’s culture, and members of Chambers are open and take the time to explain the cases they are working on. I have also been invited to observe matters which members of Chambers recognise would be both interesting and helpful for my ongoing learning and development.
My first few weeks as a pupil has been brilliant. My pupil supervisor Clea Topolski specialises in criminal defence work. With Clea I have seen a variety of hearings and applications. I am currently observing a complex multi-handed trial. I have also learned about communicating effectively with lay clients, including highly vulnerable people, from attending conferences with Clea. I have found this experience to be valuable, and I am learning something new every day.
Outside of court, I have undertaken legal research for Clea and her instructing solicitors on discrete aspects of law and procedure. I have really enjoyed the process of researching a point of law and forming a conclusion based on the relevant authorities.
Furthermore, Chris and I have commenced our in-house advocacy sessions, and have gained valuable feedback on our style, format and content of both a plea in mitigation and a bail application. I am really grateful for this opportunity starting from an early stage of pupillage as it assists us with to measurably improve our advocacy, and lays a firm foundation for the future.
My first two months have been a thorough induction into the frenetic nature of life at the criminal bar! The only constant is being in court every day. Which court that may be varies from week to week, or even day to day. I have observed trials, sentencing hearings, client conferences, and pre-trial reviews. To complement this, there has been plenty of written work; I have researched and written an advice, bad character applications, and skeleton arguments. On top of that, Alice and I have also begun in-chambers advocacy exercises (more on which later). No two days have been similar which I have really enjoyed.
Oli Renton is my supervisor for the first 3 months. Having unlimited access to his knowledge and insight is invaluable, and he is a brilliant sounding board for any questions or ideas. I am currently shadowing him in an interesting case involving EncroChat messages. Following French and Belgian authorities infiltrating the Encro server in 2020, a significant number of prosecutions were brought as a result of the messages that were found. Despite now being a frequent feature in criminal cases, there are still residual issues relating to their admissibility and reliability which I have found fascinating to learn more about.
Just because Oli is my supervisor does not mean I am restricted to working with just him. I have been fortunate to spend time on trials with, and to complete work for, other members of chambers including Dr Justin Yang and Alex Monaghan. Each member has their own perspective and style, which has helped me to start considering my own approach for when I start practising.
We have now started advocacy exercises in chambers. They have been helpfully positioned throughout our first six to prepare us fully for when we get on our feet in April. We are openly encouraged to use the sessions for experimenting with new ideas, and I have found it extremely useful to have a safe environment among experienced advocates to gain honest feedback. I can already feel that all these experiences are helping me grow and improve, and I look forward to making the most of my remaining time with Oli.