Law firm Harrison Clark Rickerbys is taking a bold step into the future, taking on trainee tax barristers (pupils), to create a mini tax chambers within the firm, expanding on its existing expertise.
The first pupil, Victoria Alicea, has just joined – the first of two pupils who will serve their two-year pupillage under the firm’s tax barrister Sarah Woodall. She also won a coveted Grays Inn pupillage scholarship on her first day at HCR.
Sarah explained: “There are very few other specialist tax chambers outside London in England and Wales, and opportunities are very limited – here, pupils will have all the benefits of a large organisation but all the challenge of actually seeing real cases from the start.
“In a traditional tax chambers, pupils report feeling used as cheap labour, but here we have such a diverse range of cases that they will learn fast. We are very busy, so they will get the kind of experience that they might have to wait a long time for in London – we expand our team, and pupils gets hands-on experience, so it is a win-win.”
Finding a pupillage, the important first step on the employment ladder for barristers, is getting tougher – in 2016/17, 815 people graduated from the Bar Professional Training Course, but only 474 pupillages were available, with 3,000 applicants each year. Given that the BPTC qualification runs out after five years, candidates have only that amount of time to find a pupillage, amid greater competition than ever.
Victoria, who has been working at the Supreme Court in London, helping judges to work remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, is now herself working remotely – she said: “This step by HCR is a major move forward for clients and I think it is the way for the Bar to go.
“For a case to be handled from start to finish under one roof and within one team will make a real difference to clients – they will know us all, and we will know their case fully; that kind of case progression will really help them. They won’t have to deal with a barrister they don’t know and who doesn’t know them – that’s a real advantage.
“I think this is a brilliant development, especially for such a specialist area as tax; the support I have had already has been great, and I am looking forward to really being able to help clients within our new team.”