20 Essex Street specialises in shipping and commodities matters but has a broad practice that also includes public law and wider commercial disputes. Recent cases handled by members of the set include a dispute concerning over US $10 million (£7.88 million) worth of claims arising out of discharge and delivery of cargo in China and the ‘Brillante Virtuoso’ case, a claim for total loss after a vessel was boarded by armed men in the Gulf of Aden.
20 Essex Street’s capabilities in maritime issues blur with its work in public international law at times. Barristers at the set have been recently instructed in claims brought by Bolivia before the International Court of Justice in relation to an alleged obligation to negotiate access to the Pacific Ocean and have acted for the government of the Republic of Kenya in Somalia v Kenya, a dispute concerning a maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean.
The downside of such big cases is that they don’t tend to afford huge opportunities for those at the start of their careers. 20 Essex rookies instead often focus on supporting senior members of the set in much larger matters through legal research, drafting statements of cases, skeleton arguments and opinions. Pupils have three supervisors over the course of their training and also take part in a programme of advocacy exercises. Assessment of these exercises are given in addition to overall reviews every three months. During their training pupils work for a variety of members of chambers and there is also the opportunity for pupils to be instructed on their own in smaller cases during the second six months.
The set – which is based on the edge of the Temple area of London – also encourages socialising within the chambers and organises evening drinks every Thursday. Another draw is 20 Essex Street’s office in Singapore, where lucky rookies occasionally get to do a secondment.