A leading commercial chambers has become the first magic circle member to boost its pupillage award to £80,000 amid fierce competition for new barristers.

One Essex Court will increase its pupillage award from £75,000 to £80,000 for those starting their training in October 2024 or 2025, The Lawyer understands.

One Essex Court’s pupils also receive any amounts earned for advocacy or fee-earning work conducted during the second six months of their year-long training. According to the chambers’ pupillage brochure, pupils in recent years have each made over £10,000 in respect of second six earnings.

The combined compensation package – including the pupillage award rise and the second six supplements – means that One Essex Court pupils can expect sums of around £90,000.

This propels the magic circle set towards the top of the market, where specialist tax boutiques Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers and Chancery Court Tax Chambers are offering six-figure pupillage awards of £100,000.

The latest increase places pressure on other members of the magic circle – Blackstone, Brick Court, Essex Court and Fountain Court – which all currently advertise pupillage awards of £75,000.

Remaining competitive in the battle for top-tier graduates could see other magic circle chambers match (or even raise) One Essex Court’s money-move, if not re-evaluate perks included within the complete compensation package advertised to pupils. Essex Court, for example, currently guarantees minimum gross earnings of £125,000 in the first year.

The elite group already faced a pressure from commercial rivals – including XXIV Old Buildings, 2TG and 4 Pump Court – which raised their awards to £80,000 or above last autumn.

One Essex Court was contacted for comment.