Cloisters, in the heart of the Temple near to its world famous church, was founded on a commitment to civil liberties and had a historical leaning to the political left. The set’s more than 50 barristers, including 13 silks, are renowned for their involvement in groundbreaking and pioneering cases which regularly make headline news.
Former head of chambers, Robin Allen QC, has been instructed in more than 40 Supreme Court/House of Lords test cases. He represented Doug Paulley in the case in which the Supreme Court ruled wheelchair users have priority over buggies on buses and he acted for Gareth Lee in the “gay cake” case against a bakery which refused to make a pro gay-marriage cake, in the first time the court sat in Belfast.
Cloisters is far from being a one-trick pony — it is the go-to set for employment and discrimination law with stars including Caspar Glyn QC and Jason Galbraith-Marten QC. It has the predominant claimant clinical negligence practice and a reputation for handling multi-million actions. Its professional discipline & regulatory practice is highly regarded and members of its sports, media & entertainment team act for the Football Association and other sporting bodies and personalities. In addition, its mediation practice is led by former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley.
Recent case highlights include Jason Galbraith-Marten QC and Sheryn Omeri securing victory in the Aslam & Farrar v Uber Supreme Court case. The court found drivers to be workers and not independent contractors, thereby entitling them to minimum wage and holiday pay. Catherine Casserley secured a positive result for deaf people in a case whereby the Cabinet Office failed to make reasonable adjustments in respect of the absence of British sign language interpreters, while Paul Epstein QC successfully represented an actress in a discrimination employment claim for being dropped from a TV show after a production company found out she was pregnant. Schona Jolly QC and Claire McCann are also representing athlete Caster Semenya, who was prohibited to compete in women’s category events unless she reduces her naturally circulating testosterone levels.
A set with such credentials and reputation is a good place for rookies to learn the ropes. Pupils and juniors give it solid marks for training and work in the Legal Cheek Junior Barristers Survey. The set takes on up to four pupils a year who each receive £54,000, half of which is guaranteed earnings, and you can also ask for £8,000 in advance.
Pupils here complete four three-month stints with four different supervisors, seeing all areas of the set’s work, and are encouraged to undertake work for other members as well as do pro bono work through the Free Representation Unit and law centres. The set says it sees its role as “educating, supporting and developing pupils” in line with its values of commitment to excellence and delivering exceptional results. Pupils are subject to a formal appraisal at the end of each stint in addition to receiving feedback throughout the 12-month training period.
Headed up by Jacques Algazy QC and Martyn McLeish, Cloisters bills itself as a “supportive and nurturing set where everyone is given the opportunity to thrive and become the best in their field” and it takes seriously its role to support and develop its pupils. The tenancy decision is based on a series of assessed tasks conducted during the second six months. These include drafting, legal research, advocacy and interview. The decision is also based on feedback from each pupils’ supervisors, other barristers they have done work for, and, interestingly, from opponents, clients and clerks.
Typically, juniors work a pretty average 50-59 hours a week and after hours there are the myriad of nearby Fleet Street watering holes to trot off to with your warm and collegiate colleagues. Demonstrating the close-knit and friendly nature of the set, one junior says: “If I had a son I imagine our head of chambers would be happy to be his godfather!”.
Cloisters looks for pupillage candidates with academic ability, skill in advocacy, written abilities, communication/interpersonal skills, those with an independent mind and initiative, and those with an alignment with the set. To get a taste of life in chambers, Cloisters offers up to ten mini-pupillages per year, five of which are reserved for those from less advantageous backgrounds, those with a disability or applicants who have/had caring responsibilities.