One of the big names in insurance law, Crown Office Chambers focuses on major clients defending themselves from personal injury and fatal accident claims. The commercial and common law set’s 73 juniors and 24 QCs are best known for dealing with cases of industrial disease and clinical negligence, but also specialise in construction, criminal regulatory, health and safety, inquests, property damage and product liability, among others.
Commenting on the work available, one member says to the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Junior Barristers Survey: “There is a great range of work which is challenging and novel. Some very high profile cases which are exciting to be involved in.” Those notable high profiles cases have included representing the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and acting for the defendants in X Children v Minister for Health & Social Services – the largest personal injury claim in British legal history as child abuse victims in Jersey sue the Minister for Health & Social Services for £238 million.
Other recent appearances include securing the acquittal of the Bosley Mill Managers in respect of the Bosley Mill explosion in July 2015 in which four people died; Harry Lambert successfully securing victory for 11 victims of trafficking in the High Court; and Susanne Tanner QC being appointed as the lead for the independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of an Edinburgh Council employee. Due to the sheer size of the set — over 100 members — there are many different teams, meaning barristers here have “plenty of opportunity” to spread their wings into areas outside of their traditional practices.
“The only risk in my experience is of having too much excellent quality work — a great risk to have!” one member tells us, commenting on their work/life balance. This balance at the self-employed bar is ultimately down to individual choice and control, as well as how responsive the type of work a barrister does is. However, we are told by several members that the chambers is great at supporting each individuals’ choice, with clerks especially being “wonderful in making sure there is one!”. There is reportedly a “strong awareness of the need for a sensible balance” which one member says means “there is flexibility allowing me to take breaks from work whenever needed, whether that is micro breaks or longer holiday type breaks”.
Crown Office Chambers offers up to three pupillages a year, with two supervisors provided in the first six, and one in the practising second six. Work is predominately completed for supervisors, but the set says pupils are likely to receive work from a range of members, allowing pupils to broaden their knowledge. The beginning of pupillage is less intense but following that, it can become more rigorous with continuous feedback from supervisors, as well as regular advocacy training exercises to prepare for second six. One former pupil tells us: “My pupil masters were all I could hope for and they still maintain a supportive relationship with me even more than a decade later”.
Rookies can expect to be on their feet during the second six months, making applications and conducting small trials at least two to three times a week. Lucky ones occasionally get to appear in larger cases and even in international courts. Beyond pupillage, there is ongoing training provided in-house on topics including equality and diversity, which one member says is “so useful for recruitment” and apparently the set ensures everyone takes part.
The atmosphere is supportive of new pupils, with junior tenants given the role of supporting the pupils. Members tell of the “supportive culture”, “real camaraderie” and “generosity of spirit among colleagues”. One member says: “Everyone is always willing to help with any work queries or any matters about work/life balance and life in general. The general rule is we always stop what we are doing if someone needs to ask a question.” Another says the supportive network in chambers has allowed them to build their practice quickly and to “graduate to serious and interesting cases much earlier in my career than I was expecting”.
Crown Office Chambers is based opposite Inner Temple Garden. The views over the Thames and gardens leads one member to say “the setting is among the best in London”, whereas we are told, “the next door competitors are overlooking the car park”. The traditional Temple architecture is mixed with a brand new modern reception and conference rooms meaning the “outside and public areas are as impressive as you could hope” and a “mile away from fausty, dusty and dull”. While “working areas require some refurbishment” (which apparently is “on the cards”), there are good facilities including showers. IT wise, conference rooms include “state of the art technology”, the phone system has recently been upgraded with more IT upgrading planned. The set boasts a dedicated IT person who is described as a “legend” who is “willing to help at any time with problems in chambers or with home set-ups”.
On the social side, there is lots on offer, with the set even having its own bar! Crown Office Chambers tries to encourage and facilitate a “strong social life with regular drinks and spontaneous evenings together” as well as members usually grabbing lunch together. Even during lockdown, members regularly kept in touch with events across chambers, and then smaller groups meeting over Zoom.
Crown Office Chambers looks for pupillage candidates with “intellect”, an appropriate “work style”, “people skills”, skill in “communication and advocacy”, “self-awareness” as well as “commitment and motivation”. For those lucky enough to secure pupillage here, you will be invited for drinks before the commencement of your pupillage to meet your future colleagues. The set participates in outreach initiatives including Access to the Bar, Inner Temple’s Pegasus Access and Support Scheme. The set also supports a host of charities covering areas such as domestic violence and children with learning disabilities or autism.