5 Essex Court

The Legal Cheek View

5 Essex Court is a leading civil law chambers that specialises in police law, public inquiries, inquests, employment, public & administrative law, and personal injury & medical negligence. It has seven silks and 36 junior members, and aims to recruit two pupils each year.

Lately 5 Essex Court barristers have worked on cases including the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the Deepcut Inquests, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the Tunisian Shooting Inquests. Members of chambers’ practice extends to public international law, immigration, education, personal injury and even equestrian law.

The set is perhaps best known for its police law expertise, which encompasses an array of high profile work across core practice areas including public law, public inquiries, inquests, human rights, disciplinary proceedings, civil jury actions (such as false imprisonment or malicious prosecution claims) and employment law. Recent high profile police law instructions include the Daniel Morgan litigation, Ipswich Town Football Club v Chief Constable of Suffolk in the Court of Appeal and the Birmingham Pub Bombings Inquests.

What The Junior Barristers Say

“There’s no pomp and circumstance” at 5 Essex Court, says John Goss, who studied law as a postgrad at Nottingham Law School after serving as a Royal Engineer officer in the British Army for six years, some of which was spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having turned his energies to training for the bar, Goss joined 5 Essex Court as a pupil in 2015. “It’s a genuinely unstuffy, open and informal chambers,” he adds.

This is despite the fact that the work is high profile and not for the faint-hearted. In the second four months of his pupillage, Goss was working on one of the inquests to come out of four deaths at the Army’s Deepcut barracks in Camberley in the late 1990s. “I would do a first draft of something and then my supervisor, Francesca Whitelaw, would look at it. So at a very early stage, I had a real sense of contributing to what chambers was doing,” he recalls.

Goss says that the chambers provides particularly broad-based advocacy training: “For a civil set, 5 Essex Court has plenty of opportunity for court exposure. For instance, we do inquests and these are very different from civil courts because they often have a jury where the police are involved. There are plenty of opportunities to really examine evidence. Because they are neither purely civil nor criminal courts, it’s quite unusual experience.”

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5 Essex Court’s bread and butter work at the junior end is police law work, in Magistrates’ Courts and Crown Courts representing police forces on operational orders such as anti-social behaviour injunctions or cash forfeitures. “Often you are the only one in court who knows much about the applications,” says Goss. Plus sometimes you get to feel that you have made a difference to peoples’ lives: “I did a recent closure order for the police where they were applying to extend the closure of a space that had been used for drug dealing. I had statements from residents who were saying how amazing it was to have it closed.”

In case that is not training enough, 5 Essex Court is lucky to have Alastair Hodge who teaches advocacy and is an Honorary Professor at Nottingham Law School: “There is no formal training course but we all take a bit of time out during pupillage to do sessions with him and get some feedback from a real master,” says Goss. In addition, there are talks from various members of chambers.

Mentoring is done informally: “We are a small, very friendly set so all the juniors are talking to each other pretty much all of the time, and pupils are very much part of that: it is a rare day that I wouldn’t talk to another junior about something. And this goes all the way ‘up’ the Chambers. I would not hesitate to talk to our seniors too.”

Alongside the advocacy experience, Goss has built up drafting, advising and research skills along the way. In his third seat, with Jason Beer QC as his supervisor, he was helping Beer on public law work often “going through evidence finding lines for cross examination.”

Goss’s first case was doing minicab licence renewals where Transport for London had decided not to renew a driver’s minicab licence: “It was coalface experience: you have to do closing submissions, you have to able to think on your feet,” he remembers.

Now Goss, whose first degree was in Classics at Cambridge University, from where he graduated in 2006, is working on another Deepcut inquest, this time on the death of Sean Benton whose family has reopened the matter.

So what advice would he give to someone who wanted to apply for pupillage at 5 Essex Court? “You must have a good understanding of the sort of work we do and demonstrate that you would be really interested in doing our type of work,” he responds. “Yes it’s police law but it’s not only police law, we do central government work, there is a real range. Also, it’s the defendant side of public law and you need to understand that you have to be sensitive to client’s needs and appreciate the statutory duties they are under”.

And PS: “We publish a report from each pupillage application round which tells us what we are looking for, and what were some of the good answers. For us this is about transparency. We do not want anyone to have an innate advantage: anyone can apply. So make sure you read the material – it’s really useful.”



A week between 1 October-30 November 2018
Applications close 31/07/2018


Applications open 08/01/2019
Applications close 07/02/2019

Key Info

Juniors 35
QCs 5
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 3/5

*Figure is for the five most junior members of chambers; does not include postgraduate studies


Pupillage award £55,000
BPTC advance drawdown Discretionary

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 31%
Female QCs 60%