With the pay war for newly qualified (NQ) lawyers raging, several commercial chambers have reignited the battle for pupil barristers at the Inns of Court.

XXIV Old Buildings, 4 Pump Court, 2TG, and Tanfield Chambers have turned up the heat on their commercial rivals after recently increasing pupillage awards to £80,000 or above.

Commercial chambers 4 Pump Court will hand out two pupillage awards of £80,000 in 2024, a 14.3 per cent increase from £70,000. Meanwhile, civil and commercial chambers 2TG raised its pupillage award from £70,000 to £82,500 for its 2024/25 cohort.

From 2024, XXIV Old Buildings will award three pupils a whopping £85,000 each, up by 30.8 per cent from £65,000. Similarly, property and real estate set Tanfield Chambers, which offers up to three pupillages, hiked its award by a third from £60,000 to £80,000.

In recent years, fierce competition for top-tier graduates has piled pressure on the UK’s leading commercial chambers to raise pupillage awards in a similar vein to their deep-pocketed City cousins.

Sean Brannigan, 4 Pump Court’s joint head of chambers, told The Lawyer: “We want to attract the very best candidates and we hope that this increase in our pupillage award, among our other recruitment efforts, will help us to do that.”

For XXIV Old Buildings, increasing pupillage awards ensures it will “continue to attract the best advocates of the future,” said pupillage supervisor Edward Cumming KC.

4 Pump Court’s other recruitment efforts includes a guarantee that pupils will earn at least £10,000 in their second six months paid in addition to their awards. 2TG goes even further: offering £15,000 of guaranteed second six earnings.

The boost in pupillage pay, along with the compensation package of guaranteed second six earnings and the optional advance to fund post-graduate bar training, is an attractive proposition for entry-level candidates particularly amid the cost of living crisis.

As a 2TG spokesperson explained, the set was “conscious of the ever increasing costs for those joining the legal profession”.

The changes propel the four chambers ahead of their rivals – including the magic circle sets – which sit around the £70,000 to £75,000 pupillage award bracket. Instead, the push past £80,000 places them towards the top of the market, where tax boutiques Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers and Chancery Court Tax Chambers are offering pupillage awards of £100,000.

Although commercial chambers may have shunned pay rises among niche tax specialists, the latest increases will be harder to ignore. While leading sets — especially the magic circle — will rely heavily on the reputation of their barristers and the clients they represent to attract high calibre candidates, many will be forced to reconsider their compensation package to remain competitive.