Mini-Pupillage with Oriel Chambers



Barrister Tom Hynes was able to provide one of our Mini-Pupils, Oliver J. Sharman the experience of shadowing him recently at court.

Here's an insight into his experience.

"Its Monday, its 8:00am and I’m on a packed-out train in the kind of humid weather you’d typically attribute to Southport, Australia not Southport a few miles northwest of Liverpool. I keep asking myself in the reflection of my phone, “Is my tie straight?” After constantly lint rolling my suit to remove the bright ginger cat hairs that seem to follow me everywhere, “will one strand manage to avoid my efforts?” As I step off the train and head towards Chambers, I tell myself, “you just have to be you.” These are all important things to think about, I don’t want to appear untidy, unprepared, or nervous.

As I walk through a large glass door, I am greeted by an infectious smile fashioned by a lady who I would come to know as Paula, who instantly identifies me as a mini-pupil. Maybe I don’t walk with enough panache or have the self-assurance that ‘I made it to the Bar’ which would disguise my rose-tinted cheeks. I know I don’t have a good poker face yet but is it that obvious? I’m asked if I’d like a coffee and to take a seat and instantly put at ease. I’ve been in Chambers all of forty seconds and I can already feel that today is going to be a good day.

Shortly after, I meet Chambers Director at Oriel Chambers, Nicholas O’Neill. I’m stunned by the interest he and other members of Chambers are taking in learning about what stage I’m at and the progress I’m making. Upon hearing my current studies focus on issues within Family Law, I’m informed it may be possible to attend a fact-finding hearing. To the uninitiated, these tend to be completely off limits to the public and are held in closed court hearings. However, it turned out that I was to be the luckiest person in the Liverpool region and would be granted permission to attend the hearing, which set dates coincided with the days I would be undertaking mini-pupillage. Today is turning out to be a very, very good day.

Upon arrival at the Civil and Family Court, I’m introduced to Tom Hynes who I will be shadowing, the adjacent solicitor and the client. It’s not long before we’re ushered into the courtroom and the ‘fact find’ begins. I was able to observe such carefully crafted cross-examination and was left in complete awe of the tactical questioning skillset Tom possessed. Later, I would sit in with the client and legal team during each interval and see what client discussions really look like. This continued for three more days (mini-pupillages tend to be three days but Tom was very kind and invited me to stay an extra day) with more cross-examination of witnesses until ultimately, closing submissions. There is certainly an art to structuring an argument in such a way as to leave no stone unturned but doing so in an engaging and captivating way whilst under strict time constraints. My experience was then rounded off at the end with an informal 1-1 Q&A with Tom who I had been shadowing and was an excellent opportunity to ask about Chambers, life at the Bar and to think about another person’s journey and why they chose this career path.

It was sad to say goodbye to the members of staff and barristers who had welcomed me and made sure I was able to take a lot from the experience. My time with Oriel Chambers has simply re-affirmed the dream, and for that I cannot thank you enough."

Oliver J. Sharman

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