Olivia Kirkbride is Coram’s pupil barrister this year and wrote the below piece, to give readers an idea of what it’s like to be a Coram pupil.
I joined Coram as a pupil in October 2020, and am currently supervised by Sima Kothari, an experienced public children law practitioner. In my first few months I have worked on a broad range of interesting cases, including public children work, Court of Protection, and cases involving FGM and forced marriage. I was also able to get involved in the recent Supreme Court case, In the matter of T (A Child) [UKSC 2019/0188].
The idea of starting pupillage is naturally daunting, and particularly so during a pandemic! However, I have felt welcomed and supported from the outset. I have where possible been able to accompany different members of chambers to in-person hearings and I attend, on average, four remote hearings a week. Coram also has an extremely collegiate atmosphere, with regular virtual social events.
This is how a typical week looks, for a first-six pupil at Coram:
This week my supervisor is representing a mother in a remote fact-finding hearing, in proceedings involving FGM. In preparation, I read through the papers and virtually attended all the pre-hearing discussions. My supervisor is attending in person with the client, and I was even present virtually during their pre-court conference! I researched the law around FGM protection orders, helped to draft our position statement, and took a full note of the hearing.
The second day in the FGM fact-finding. Today, both our client and the father are giving evidence; in preparation I assisted my supervisor with devising examination-in-chief and cross-examination questions. We also catch up throughout the day, to discuss the case as it progresses.
In the morning, I joined another member of chambers in a Court of Protection case. Chambers was acting for the local authority, in a family dispute concerning a vulnerable adult. The hearing was held remotely, and I was involved in the pre-hearing discussions between the advocates and with the instructing solicitor. In the afternoon, I worked on a piece of research I have been asked to conduct on an interesting point of ECtHR law. This is a new area for me and provides an example of the varied work Coram undertakes.
My supervisor is representing the mother in a fact-finding in a complex public children law dispute. In such cases, evidence can be heard from a variety of professionals, from treating clinicians to police officers and psychologists, and I was interested to read the various expert reports. In preparation I researched the relevant law in this area and created a document setting out the evidence in relation to each allegation made by the local authority, which will assist my supervisor in developing lines of questioning.
Every Thursday chambers also arranges a virtual tea, which is a great way to meet members who are currently working from home.
Today is the second day in the fact-finding hearing. In the morning, I read through my notes of the evidence given the day before and started to devise written closing submissions for my supervisor. I have learned that thinking about submissions as the case progresses is helpful, as there is usually a large amount of evidence to go through by the end of the fact-finding.
I will not be expected to work over the weekend. My hours have generally been around 9am – 6pm and although there have been times when I have had to work beyond this, I am generally able to finish my work during the day.Posted on