Alice Holloway is a recently qualified barrister practising at the Crown Prosecution Service as a Crown Prosecutor. She completed her pupillage at the CPS and prior to this studied Law and the Bar Training Course at Cardiff University. In her spare time, Alice enjoys teaching at Gray’s Inn, learning Welsh, and watching too much TikTok.
Here, as part of the Bar Council’s Employed Bar Pupillage blog series, Alice discusses the benefits of working for the CPS and lays out what she gets up to in a typical day.
Why I chose the CPS
I knew I wanted to practice in criminal law, that was always the goal. In my third year of University, I didn’t know much about the Employed Bar but heard about the CPS scheme through Twitter and thought I’d give it a shot — completely expecting to be rejected.
After four rounds of recruitment — a CV and cover letter round, standard civil service tests, a video-recorded interview, and a strenuous live interview — I received my pupillage offer in the second week of my Bar Course. I was completely over the moon! Between every round of recruitment, I researched the CPS. I was thrilled by the idea of being able to work on some of the most serious cases while also having a stable and structured career. I made my decision knowing that I would receive some of the highest quality training available while also being supported and challenged. If I could go back and make the decision again, I would choose the CPS every time.
The benefits of being an employed pupil
So many of my friends undertaking self-employed pupillage speak of the extremely late nights and early mornings, travelling around the country at short notice with very limited funds. I have to say my experience is completely different. I am contracted to work 37 hours a week. I still work late nights and early mornings, but the CPS has flexible working policies — I can start later and finish earlier when my work is light, and I can claim any overworked hours back as ‘Flexi-Leave’. Additionally, I work solely in South London, covering 14 courts in total, all within a couple of hours from home. I don’t work outside the area, and I know that if I was asked to, my travel would be paid. In addition, I have a regular wage and an excellent pension plan, so I have stability and comfort in my finances.
“I know that I am supported and cared for… this support is what has allowed me to thrive.”
For me, the CPS’s disability policies have been the main benefit. As an aspiring barrister with several mental and physical health conditions, I was very concerned about how I would manage my health during pupillage and how I would be supported. The CPS has been nothing short of excellent, I have had Occupational Health assessments, reasonable adjustments in the workplace, and have been allowed leave for various medical appointments. I have been able to manage and improve my health and adjust very smoothly to being in the workplace. I know that I am supported and cared for by my superiors and colleagues and I truly believe that this support is what has allowed me to thrive.
A Day in the Life
- Arrive at court and speak to the experienced Crown Advocates for advice on my cases and any issues I’ve had.
- Meet my Paralegal Officers for the day, and they assist with ensuring all my case material is where it needs to be and that I have everything I need for a smooth and effective hearing.
- Speak to defence counsel as well as the Police Liaison and Probation officers to iron out any issues before my hearings.
- Get wigged up and ready to go.
- I take on several hearings, some days only one and on busy days I’ve taken up to five — many at very short notice.
- Bail applications, appeals against the granting of bail and committals for sentences are my forte.
- Court breaks for lunch and I rush a sandwich at my laptop while preparing my afternoon cases, speaking to defence counsel, Crown Advocates, police liaison and probation once again.
- Back into court for more advocacy.
- On a quiet day, I’ll head home early and spend the afternoon catching up on admin (the dreaded pupillage diary) or working on my learning and development. The CPS has an extensive range of online training on everything from refreshers around criminal procedure to webinars on niche areas of law such as the use of 'trap music’ produced by gangs as evidence in criminal proceedings.
- The court lists for the next day come out and we receive our allocations, so the prep for the next day begins!
Why a pupillage at the CPS is a great start to one’s career
The experience I have gained at the CPS has been phenomenal and I can’t imagine that any chambers would be able to provide the same — chambers handle a limited number of criminal cases, but the CPS handles them all. In my first six months, I helped with press releases at the Old Bailey, observed a murder trial, spent two months working on charging decisions in cases of serious sexual violence and had small group advocacy training with the CPS’s own KC, Heidi Stonecliffe. Not only were these experiences valuable for my career, but incredibly interesting, enjoyable, and completely tailored to myself and my passions.
I have felt challenged, supported, and celebrated during my career at the CPS and would recommend this pathway to anyone broaching the idea of pupillage.
Check out our essential guide to Starting at the Bar which is written by young barristers for young barristers and includes information on working at the employed bar. It also provides answers to the key questions that arise when you join the Bar and signposts you to the resources available to support you in the first seven years of practice.