The Legal Cheek View
42BR is a large multi-disciplinary set made up of 120 barristers, including 5 KCs. The sheer size of the set and the range of areas it works across is very impressive. The set divides down into seven distinct practice area teams: business and property, housing, employment, family, personal injury and clinical negligence, coroner’s inquests, and – newly added this year – animal welfare. Each team contains talented tenants tackling exciting cases. Barristers are not, however, confined to just one team – many work across two or more, allowing them to maintain a broad practice. Welcoming nine new tenants in 2022 and seeing one tenant, Gemma Farrington KC, take silk, 42BR is a set set on success.
Within the business and property team, tenants work on a range of exciting matters ranging from commercial litigation to professional negligence to construction matters. Matthew McDermott and Robert Winspear recently successfully appeared in the Court of Appeal in an important case about the quantum of Rent Repayment Orders. Meanwhile, the housing group deals with common housing disputes surrounding unlawful eviction and homelessness, as well as more specialised disputes such as those related to environmental law or housing discrimination. Christopher Mann recently appeared in an appeal concerning a challenge by the owner of a property to the amount of damages awarded to a tenant for the owner’s breach of duty as a landlord.
Perhaps the jewels in the 42BR crown are their employment and family teams. One tenant tells us “42BR has great relationships with leading employment law firms – there is plenty of solid work coming through the door”. Tenants work across the full spectrum of employment law and are highly respected in this field. This work can range from claims of unfair dismissal to discrimination to whistleblowing protection. A recent exciting case saw Christi Scarborough successfully represent a company that purchased another company and made individuals redundant. Due to Christi’s successful arguments, the company, facing a claim worth a whopping £230,000, was found not to be liable. In the family law team, members again work across the spectrum of family law, but have particular expertise in children law. One junior tells us: “I often deal with complex children matters following the breakdown of a relationship”. Four of the set’s five KCs belong to the family team, adding to its strength. This year has seen three members appear in the Supreme Court on a case involving final care orders and the approach to be taken when children are being removed from their parents. Very important work.
The personal injury and clinical negligence team also houses a KC, Lisa Henderson KC – she has worked on numerous multi-million-pound settlements over the years. Work ranges from road traffic accidents to industrial disease. The coroner’s inquests team has worked on a number of significant inquiries including members being instructed as counsel to The Sandilands Croydon Tram Disaster Inquest. The new animal welfare team sees two KCs from the family team, Damian Woodward-Carlton KC and Gemma Farrington KC, wear two hats. The team was founded post-Brexit and in light of the new Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022), and hopes to build a strong reputation.
All in all, the work on offer at 42BR is varied and exciting, with one tenant describing their work as “adrenaline-fuelled”. Naturally, there will be some more mundane or bread and butter work: one junior tells us that “there is a lot of repetition, but [the work is] still stimulating”. Tenants who mix and match practices seem to be especially pleased with their work, with one telling us: “I am a member of two practice areas and they both offer a complimenting and varied practice”.
As ever at the Bar, striking a good work-life balance can be a struggle. One junior at the set tells us: ““as ever, work feels like feast or famine, but the reality is a pretty steady stream of work. Mid trial, there is little work-life balance but if your diary goes quiet then taking a day off to compensate for those late nights and weekends is fine – indeed, encouraged”. The clerks are said to be very supportive, with one tenant describing them as “probably the best there are”. Another junior tells us: “the clerks are fantastic at making sure we get as good a balance as we need”. Ultimately, work-life balance seems to be a matter of personal choice and need. One female tenant confides: “I’m a working mum and I have had the most amazing support when I have childcare to sort, working reduced hours or days. It’s so flexible. There is no judgement. It is just how it is supposed to be”.
As well as the clerks, the tenants at 42BR are said to be a supportive bunch. We hear that there are WhatsApp groups for each practice team where tenants help each other out and arrange socials. One tenant tells us: “we have a lively practice WhatsApp group where you can get anything from the inside track on what a judge is like to a detailed answer to a technical question. If you need a more in-depth answer you can always find a colleague available to chat on the phone or in chambers”. Another tenant, who has moved to 42BR from another set, confides: “as a large common law set there is a huge pool of possible support. In the family group we offer in-house training, mentoring, social events and a hands-on approach to helping each other – it’s not always like 42BR”.
When it comes to socialising together, we hear that 42BR hasn’t quite recovered post-COVID, but there are monthly drinks in Chambers and an “increasing number” of lectures and talks with drinks afterwards. Another adds that social life is “definitely on the up”. Of course, it’s not for everyone. One tenant jokes “there are some people who never engage and others who’d turn up to the opening of an envelope. You choose how you want your chambers life to go and there is no impact on your development either way”.
In terms of 42BR’s location, they are situated in charming Bedford Row and have a “beautiful” older building. As one tenant says, however, “like many prestigious older buildings [it is] not as geared up to business in the 21st century as newer developments”. Fortunately, however, we hear that the tenants are moving home in 2023. Apparently their new building is “currently being fitted out to [their] specifications and is going to be amazing”. Hopefully they will be bringing their “great in-house tech guy” with them, as he is apparently “always really helpful and good at problem solving” and provides assistance to any of the self-professed technophobes at the set.
Those looking to apply for pupillage at 42BR should make their application through the Pupillage Gateway. Chambers typically takes on two pupils per year and offers an award of £40,000. Pupils can expect to see a broad range of practice areas during pupillage, and can express their preference for particular practice areas. This will be taken into account where possible. In their second six, pupils will appear in court in their own right – we hear that being on your feet around 3 times a week is the average – which provides fantastic advocacy training. Training doesn’t stop at pupillage either, with a range of in-house and external seminars also on offer into tenancy.
42BR are proud to support the 10,000 Black Interns Initiative, participate in the London Legal Walk, and support CHICKS children’s charity, which provides free breaks for disadvantaged children all over the UK. The set also encourages its barristers to participate in pro bono work.
What The Junior Barristers Say
Your journey to pupillage
My journey to pupillage started with GCSEs and A-Levels at my local comprehensive and then Sixth Form College, before an undergraduate degree in law at the University of Cambridge. Whilst in Cambridge I was involved in mooting at both my college and at a wider university level, as well as in various projects arranged by the ‘lawyers without borders’ project. This included a death penalty clinic, undertaking research for various offices in the United States, which eventually lead to an internship at the Center for Equal Justice, New Orleans after my graduation.
Around this internship and during my BPTC year, I worked as a tutor, paralegal and a waitress – the latter of which formed the basis of a question in my first-round pupillage interview at 42. During this time I also worked on various research projects and published an article based on my undergraduate dissertation.
I undertook several mini-pupillages in predominantly mixed common-law, family and criminal sets during and after my degree – and was fortunate enough to be offered pupillage prior to commencing the BPTC. The pupillage application process at 42BR comprised of a first-round interview addressing matters referred to in my own application, and a second round dealing with legal and ethical questions presented on attendance at the interview.
The pupillage experience
I applied to 42BR because its large family and employment teams would allow me to have a predominantly court-based practice, in areas of law which impact individuals’ day to day lives. My first-six was divided between those two teams. My first pupil supervisor practises predominantly employment law, and I was able to observe a number of multi-day hearings encompassing a wide range of legal issues, as well as to observe and be offered feedback on, for example, the drafting of pleadings and advice in other civil matters. With my second supervisor – now a family silk – I was able to again observe a wide variety of multi-day hearings and see a significant amount of cross-examination, as well as to understand more of how the family court operates, with a particular focus on public law proceedings.
During my second-six, a very busy practice comprised a range of small claims, employment tribunal cases, housing matters, ‘Stage 3’ personal injury hearings and a mix of public and private family law. Pupillage at 42BR is not formally assessed, but feedback is welcomed from all members of chambers with whom you have worked.
I was fortunate to undertake pupillage with a very supportive and friendly co-pupil, and the intention at 42BR is not for its pupils to ‘compete’ for tenancy.
The transition from pupil to tenant
The transition from second-six pupil to tenant was a straightforward one, predominantly based around a meeting with the clerks to discuss the logistics of managing your practice (and meeting your obligations to chambers!)
Socially, the junior members were very welcoming from my having joined as a pupil, and this did not change when I became a tenant.
What is your practice like now?
My typical week involves five days in court, in either London or the South-East. I am now 6-years call and made the decision at around 3-4 years to practice exclusively family law. This encompasses public and private law children, and financial remedies work. My working hours vary from week to week, and – in part due to the urgent nature of some family law applications – some evening and weekend work is unavoidable. However, with careful diary management in liaison with the clerks this need not be the norm, and I have found my caseload and work/life balance matters on which I can take the lead as I progress further into my practice.
Not having practised in civil law for some years – but this being a big part of the work undertaken by 42BR – I also consulted a colleague of the same call, who said: “My practice is centred on regular court and tribunal appearances supported by a steady flow of pleading and advisory work, a working week can be quite varied. At the junior junior end it gives great experience to cut your teeth on, so you can then progress to be more specialist based on real hands on experience. It also provides the chance for a good work life balance as days with a shorter application hearing for example give a reprieve to prep the more time consuming multi day matters.”
What is the culture of chambers?
I would describe the culture at 42BR as friendly, unassuming and supportive. From the perspective of the family team, members of all levels of seniority are reliably available to give advice on a tricky case or ethical issue, or to provide support generally in what can be a sometimes challenging environment. I am aware that similar informal channels of communication and support exist within the other ‘teams’ and would note that chambers’ intent is that each area of practice should function as such.
The ‘junior junior’ members of chambers meet as regularly as their diaries and travel allow for after work drinks!
Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers
I am not sure there are any specific ‘top tips’ for either the Bar, or to chambers. I would affirm the standard advice to practice your public speaking as much as possible, acquire some interesting and varied experience and work hard on your academics. However, I would also encourage those thinking of the Bar or applying for pupillage to think about what else has informed their decision to pursue this career, particularly any broader life or work experience which might be more relevant than you initially think.
Particularly for those seeking to practice in family law (or indeed, many of the practice areas at 42BR) I would also encourage an awareness that, immediately on getting on your feet, you will be representing those going through one of the most stressful and challenging experiences of their lives – in a system likely entirely unfamiliar to them. Any experience which would prepare for you that will almost certainly be valuable.
I would also encourage prospective pupils to undertake mini pupillages at as many as possible of those chambers where you wish to apply. The ethos and culture of a chambers will inform both your own experience of pupillage (and I would think carefully about what you might wish this to be), and also if an interview panel will think you are a good fit for them.
When applying for pupillage the reality of life at the Bar felt quite a tenuous concept, and a long way away! I’d encourage those who are at that stage that, day-to-day, it is a thoroughly interesting and rewarding career, and to ask as many questions as possible to anyone you encounter during mini-pupillages/careers events/Inn dinners about what that looks like. You’ll likely find people quite eager to talk about it!