Katherine Moggridge has recently completed her pupillage year at intellectual property chambers Three New Square, and took up tenancy at the set on the 17th September last year. We met up to discuss the her pupillage year, the life of an IP practitioner and the terrors of her first day.
Intellectual Property is not an area of law which has traditionally attracted legions of women to its ranks.“It’s incredibly simple to explain why that is, I think,” says Katherine. “A background in science is a considerable advantage in this field, as our set’s website suggests, and a lot of IP barristers do have some training in the sciences. Women science graduates, particularly from the ‘purer’ science areas, are generally fewer than men. Then you have to consider that those who do graduate want to move away from what is essentially a fairly niche area and into law, then on top that they have to want to go to the Bar. If you consider it as a Venn Diagram of those three considerations, then add a fourth circle for gender, that goes a long way towards explaining it as the overlap is pretty small.”
Katherine is one woman who does fall into the small overlap in that Venn Diagram. She has recently accepted tenancy at premier intellectual property set Three New Square, following a year’s pupillage there. How has her foray into this male-dominated area been? “I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I have never been aware of my gender in this environment. Everyone has been absolutely fantastic and really supportive the whole time I have been in Chambers. Being a woman doesn’t really come into it. In my, albeit limited, experience of the Bar thus far you are judged on what you bring to the table and how bright and able you are. It is on that basis that I have succeeded in Chambers and hope to continue to throughout my career.”
And succeed she has. Not only has she taken tenancy with the set, but she is only the second woman to join their current ranks, and the third overall. This is perhaps not surprising as “it is a very small chambers, with only eighteen members, so the fact that there are two female barristers and two women clerks isn’t that unusual at all.” But, whilst size and proportionality are certainly factors to be considered, one can’t help but wonder how this compares with other sets in this field? “They probably have a couple more women than us, but then they don’t always take scientists as we do. Some of our competitors are larger than us, too. To some extent it just depends where people apply and who gets offered what. The kind of work you want to do is important, too. My set used to be really known for doing predominantly patent work, which ties in well with a science background, but it is not the case any more. We have made some significant steps to broaden our IP offering and expand the non-patent IP practice, which may affect the type of people who apply to us in the future.
As to the gender-split at the wider Bar she says feels less able to comment: “my experience of the Bar is quite niche, as IP is a stand alone area. My friends who got pupillage last year showed at least a fifty fifty gender-split, if not slightly more women. Family and crime are definitely areas that, from what I have seen, have more women; whereas the traditional chancery sets are perhaps more male-dominated. What is definitely fair to say is that, compared to forty years ago, there are significantly more women at the Bar. I do hope that this is because the Bar is a meritocracy, rather than anything else.”
But back to her own practice and experiences. She may now be a fully-fledged member of chambers who seems calm and confident in this environment, but what was her first day like, I ask. Surely she must have had some concerns? “I remember being really worried about what time to turn up,” she laughs. “I was told to turn about nine, which was a bit imprecise! I didn’t want to turn up too early and fluster people, but at the same time I didn’t want to turn up late and have people think I wasn’t taking pupillage seriously!”
Fortunately, she seems to have managed to pitch her arrival at the right time and the first day that followed was “interesting for me as I was the only pupil, although chambers were also taking on a transferring solicitor-advocate. I elected to start on the same day as him. We had a meet and greet and walk round chambers; which included really simple stuff like the codes for the doors and so on. Then I was introduced to my first supervisor. Luckily he had been head of the Pupillage Committee for my year and had also interviewed me so he wasn’t a complete stranger! He sat down with me and we had a chat about the next few weeks and the amount I would be learning.”
Of course, it isn’t just the pupil supervisor who supports a pupil through the first weeks and months of the job – the whole chambers, especially in one the size of Three New Square, mucks in to help. As Katherine notes: “Everyone has been completely and utterly phenomenal. From the first moment I stepped in I felt like I had joined this wonderful family. They are a really friendly lot, particularly bearing in mind they all have brains the size of planets, and are all down to earth and incredibly approachable. They have all been supportive, no matter how senior or junior they may be. The clerks, in particular, have been really fantastic in terms of making sure I am OK and that I know the ropes. Chambers have an open door policy, which is great, and everyone has made an effort to get to know me from day one. We have tea everyday, which is fantastic. At half past three every day everyone who can comes down and has a cup. It was good as it meant that I got to know everyone in a more informal way and on a more personal level. It really adds to the family feeling of the set.”
The professional support has also be excellent, Katherine enthuses: “chambers have been very good on giving me feedback on how I am doing and getting me involved in live cases. That is the great thing about a chambers like Three New Square: I get to work with some very senior and experienced barristers and get instructed as their junior.” Just before we met, in fact, she had been instructed as junior counsel in a trademark and passing off trial concerning two rival magazines. The advantages of taking part in such work, Katherine explains, are twofold: “it is, first and foremost, a fantastic learning experience and also invaluable in terms of reputation and getting to know lots of people.”
The work in the trade mark and passing off trial involved “the day to day stuff,” she says.“Things like corresponding with solicitors to bring them up to speed on trial preparation. Usually, the junior counsel will do the first draft of the trial skeleton, make sure the bundle index is correct and everything is sorted out. Junior counsel is also likely to do some groundwork on the witnesses, getting to know their statements inside out to help their leader.”
At the time we spoke all the learning was yet to be put into practice, but one sensed it was only a matter of time. In the meantime, though, there is still much to be done. “I am still learning and the nature of the work the chambers does is that, in the bigger stuff, I just hang on the end. At the moment I am trying to get out there and get instructed in smaller patent and non-patent work.”
In spite of all of this though, whilst the atmosphere sounds great, the learning is continuing apace and the barristers friendly and welcoming, being alone as a pupil, solicitor-advocate aside, must bring some terror and pressure. Katherine is quick to quash this suggestion, though. “It has been a hugely positive thing, although I admit I didn’t know what to expect when I started! First, because there is no one else there and, secondly, because you get all the efforts and energies of everyone in chambers. I know friends at other chambers where they have multiple pupils and, for them, it has been both a good thing, as they are all in the same boat, and a bad thing because ultimately it is a forced friendly environment, particularly if there are clearly not enough places.”
The set has been looking after Katherine beyond knowing the way things work in chambers and where the toilet is, though. Part of the challenge is, of course, ensuring that work keeps coming in – and that requires networking. Chambers have ensured that this is not the completely daunting hurdle it may appear at first sight, too. ““In terms of networking chambers have been very good and made a real point of including me in all of the chamber’s events, whatever they may be. At those my gender has never been an issue. In fact with there being slightly fewer women in IP I hope that I am a little more memorable and, in a bizarre way, I am almost thankful for that. It is fantastic for me in terms of networking!” Other profile-building initiatives include plans to give lectures to solicitor’s firms on aspects of IP.
It might be suspected that what with being in court on big cases, lecturing, networking and so on Katherine might find it hard to have anything approaching a social life. However, as if to prove that you really can have it all, she recently got engaged as well. Not that those who have met her need worry about remembering her new married name when the time comes: “I am going to be Miss Moggridge professionally. I have been very lucky throughout tenancy to have contact with several current and potential clients. A surname like Moggridge is quite unusual and it sticks in people’s minds. As I have already started to establish myself with it this year it would be silly to change it for something less memorable. I have also already had my first proper case in the High Court and that will go out under Moggridge when judgment is handed down.”
As she also notes, her position may be easier than her legal contemporaries in solicitor’s firms, or those in office jobs, because “as a barrister you are self-employed so you can have much more flexible working hours. I have seen people in chambers pop off to see their children’s sports day or similar. Most barristers have home offices, too, so it is easier to work from home. In that respect it is more manageable as you are far more in control of your diary and where you are supposed to be. So as long as the work gets done I don’t think there is any problem with you taking the time off. It is all about being available to clients, making sure they can contact you and doing what they have asked you to do.”
And, speaking of getting things done for clients, it is there that our interview ends – Katherine has to go back to chambers to get her preparation done for a teleconference the next day.