How does a pupil find life at Westgate Chambers?

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Pupillage at The Bar is notoriously challenging and demanding so it’s easy to let work overtake its primary objective – to produce excellent new barristers and to make sure these barristers careers begin with a flourish. We’ve asked our pupil’s to provide an honest and open appraisal of their pupillage and how, as a pupil, they found life at Westgate Chambers.

This is what Komal Patel had to say.

“Prior to becoming a practicing barrister, my primary concern was whether I was going to be able to work and have a family of my own. Really, the question was whether it was a juggling act that I was going to be able to keep up.

Now as a working mother, I can say I can!  It was made  possible by the fantastic Clerking team at Westgate.

I joined as a pupil at Westgate Chambers in November 2018 and received confirmation of my pregnancy soon after. I completed my Third Six at Westgate under the supervision of Sarah Taite who not only professionally supported me, but also took great care in ensuring I was not overworked during the first 6 months of my pregnancy.

The pupillage structure allowed me to shadow my Colleagues and commence my own practice in Brighton. Prior to joining Westgate, I had completed a Criminal Pupillage but the team at Westgate helped me to take my first small steps in Family Law. I successfully completed my Third Six and shortly after gave birth to my daughter.

My return to work following giving birth was seamless. Prior to my return, I had a meeting with the Clerking team outlining both Chambers and my own requirements. Due to my personal commitments, Chambers allowed me to work part time until my daughter started nursery. I was able to inform the Clerks when I was available to work.  This suited the needs of my family and enabled me to have a degree of flexibility to accommodate my family commitments.

What I did fail to appreciate – despite a number of warnings – was maternity pay and the reduction in the communal feeling of being in touch with colleagues.  Again, (and I am not getting paid to say this!) Westgate Chambers has been fantastic on tackling both these issues.

Having just had my second child and currently on maternity leave, my clerks have kept giving me few cases a month to financially keep my family afloat whilst maintaining the incredible ‘family feel’ via texts, social media and Zoom.  During maternity leave, I have been in almost constant contact with my Colleagues who support me and make time for me when I need it, no question is ever too big or too small.

Returning to work has had its own challenges, challenges that no doubt every parent at the Bar has faced.

But I can say with confidence that my experience has been well supported and smooth which I can do nothing more than thank Chambers for. I have not had to take a back seat in the career I have worked very hard to build.  Neither have I had to take a back seat as a parent.  To this day Chambers continues to support me both professionally and personally, allowing me to take on varied, interesting and challenging cases building on my junior practice.

Essentially, I have learnt that it is about a balance that is found which is unique to the person involved. There are days that are not so perfect, where my working hours will take priority over the children or days of being told that having a child will be at the detriment to my career. However, as with most parts of life everything is possible if you put your all into it and know what result you want at the end.”