Hailsham Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Meet Hailsham Chambers at the Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fair on Saturday 9 October 2021

When the set was established more than a century ago, it took its then name from the premises it occupied at 4 Paper Buildings. Though still being its home, it was renamed in 2001 as Hailsham Chambers, taking its name from Quintin Hogg, a former tenant who inherited the title of Lord Hailsham and went on to become Lord Chancellor. Past big-name members also include Eleanor Sharpston, former Advocate-General at the European Court of Justice and late law lord, Lord Diplock.

Parallel to its developing history, the set has moved from being a generalist covering a broad range of civil and criminal work, to specialising in select areas of civil litigation. Today it has more than 50 tenants, nine of whom are QCs. Silks include head of chambers Julian Picton, the editor of McGregor on Damages textbook, David Pittaway who was instructed on the Hillsborough Inquests and The Shipman Inquiry, and deputy head of chambers Nicola Rushton who has a niche specialism in enforcement of legal aid regulations.

Few sets can rival Hailsham’s focus on professional and clinical negligence. The two practices each account for 40% of instructions, with the balance being made up of costs, regulatory work, personal injury and commercial. The set’s specialisms make for “varied and interesting cases, as well as “intellectual challenges” for its members. “There is some truly excellent work in chambers’ core practice areas,” an insider tells us, while at the junior end, as with most civil sets, there is also plenty of RTA and credit hire work.

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Hailsham has several members with ties to medicine who tackle medical law work. Two juniors are qualified doctors; Clementine Coram James, who was seconded to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and Jack Steer who sat on an NHS Research Ethics Committee. There’s also Michael Patrick, a former student statistician at NHS Blood and Transplant. One member tells us the clinical negligence work is “challenging but highly stimulating as every case is different and you have to learn about different medical specialties all the time”. Another tenant at the set says: “The interplay between complex medicine, cross-examining Professors in various medical disciplines pre-eminent in their field, with the human element that someone has suffered serious injury in a medical accident is pretty stimulating.”

The setting, a Georgian building in Temple overlooking Inner Temple Gardens, is picture perfect. So much so, “clients love coming to our chambers,” one member explains. The interior is “regularly upgraded and kept in good condition”, and is “not extremely swish, but definitely cosy and functional,” we are told. Note however that those at the start of their career may find their office is a basement room overlooking the car park — but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? The sets technology and IT support is described as “top notch” with problems being “resolved quickly and efficiently”.

Hailsham aims to recruit two pupils each year, and those selected benefit from, what one barrister responding to the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Barrister Survey says, are “top pupil supervisors who are very generous with their time”. Pupils receive three main supervisors one in professional negligence, one in clinical negligence, and the final in another practice area. One former pupil offers this account “The vast majority of the feedback I have received has been detailed and constructive. My three pupillage supervisors have all had slightly different specialties meaning that I have been exposed to a good range of work. In addition, the advocacy training has been carefully tailored to the types of hearing I will appear in in the next couple of years.”

Pupils also meet with the “brilliant” head of pupillage, Nicola Rushton QC, who “reviews each pupil’s experience and performance with them at regular intervals”. During the second six, pupils are allowed to handle their own cases and expected to complete work for at least ten other members of chambers who have an input on the tenancy decision. So don’t expect to be hiding in the shadows of your supervisor’s gown.

For those finding their feet, help is always available thanks to Hailsham’s open door policy and “highly congenial selection of colleagues”. One barrister tells us “doors are always open to colleagues, especially junior tenants”, while another colleague describes chambers as a “friendly place” with “plenty of people to turn to when one needs to chat through an issue or case”. One member simply “cannot wait to be back full time” after the separation of the pandemic. As for tenancy, nine out of the last ten pupils in the past five years have stayed on.

On the topic of work-life balance, one tenant says there is “lots of work but you can get off the escalator any time you like”, while another boasts they have plenty of time to unwind, “often finishing by 5:30pm and rarely working weekends”. One junior adds however that “due to the unpredictability of the bar, you can have free days in the middle of the week because your hearings have settled or been vacated, but have to work a weekend because things come in on a Friday with a Monday or Tuesday deadline”. We are also told “clerks are reasonably amenable in letting individuals set their own workload/capacity”.

The set provides a solid social scene for those members who desire it, with “big efforts made during Covid” to get together virtually. The set also benefits from “decent booze at chambers events due to a popular in-house wine club”.

What The Junior Barristers Say

“Going to court was terrifying at first,” says barrister Alexander Echlin, whose practice consists of professional negligence, clinical negligence and some common law, “but juniors at Hailsham go into court a lot and the more you do, the less stressful it becomes. You get used to thinking on your feet.”

One year into his tenancy at civil law set Hailsham Chambers, courtrooms now play a prominent role in Echlin’s life — as do trains. On a typical day he is doing one of two things: either “in chambers doing written work, such as pleadings and advice” or “out all day travelling to court”. Echlin continues, “I have been all over the country. I went to Cornwall, Wrexham and Newcastle in one week. I absolutely love it, going up and down the country, meeting people from all walks of life, and it is great practice.” He has also acted in a Court of Appeal case on liability under section 39 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and vicarious liability, which was “hard work” and “very interesting”.

Echlin rates the intellectual challenge of law, travelling and meeting people as the best parts of his job. And his least favourite? “Block lists [where several cases are listed for the same time], which means you can be waiting all day for something that was meant to start first thing,” he says.

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The junior barrister has a BA and a masters in history from Oxford University and, before switching to law, fitted in a mini-career in the art world, working at Dickinson fine art dealers as a specialist in Impressionist and Modern paintings, drawings and sculpture. Echlin explains: “I knew people who’d had careers before going to the bar, so I went down the commercial art route first. I knew it was possible to go to the bar after working in art but doing it the other way around would be more difficult.”

Although that’s not to say it was easy. Echlin describes the experience of “cramming a law degree into one year” for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) exam as “more stressful and difficult than anything I’d done before, from an academic perspective”. This was followed by the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and then pupillage.

At Hailsham, pupils have three supervisors: two in the first six and one for the second six. “It is organised so that you are exposed to all areas of work,” he says. “In the first six you only do work for your pupil supervisor, on top of advocacy training, which is really useful, and lots of cross-examination practice. In the second six, you are in court a lot and assessment consists of work for other members of chambers as well as advocacy assessments.”

Hailsham, located in Inner Temple at 4 Paper Buildings, is “very friendly, laid-back and professional. Members of chambers are always willing to help and are generous with their time,” and there are frequent drinks and social events.

Looking to the future, Echlin aims to build a busy practice in professional negligence and clinical negligence. He describes the latter as an area with “real human interest whether you are claimant or defendant. You have to master a large number of facts and get your head around complex medical facts and complicated arguments about causation”.

For anyone interested in a career at the bar, Echlin’s advice is to make the most of the resources around you, i.e. other people who’ve followed the same path, for tips and insights. He also suggests that you “be realistic” about where you apply. “Look at the educational backgrounds of pupils and junior tenants at sets first to see if their qualifications are broadly equivalent to your own. Once you have identified suitable places, be resilient and take rejection in your stride because you only need one to bite,” Echlin says.

He has specific advice for those who have worked in other fields first: “Your previous career experience will definitely be useful and in ways that you may not expect. Don’t feel you will be discriminated against — far from it, in fact. When you apply for scholarships and mini-pupillages, think about how the skills you have developed through your experiences of work can apply.”

Echlin, for example, used skills learnt while drafting lots of contracts at Dickinson. “Learning how quite valuable contracts are formed in real life gives you a useful commercial perspective,” he says. Alternatively, Echlin says, sales skills always come in useful at the bar, or you may have worked in a team.

Deadlines

Pupillage 2023

To commence September 2023
Applications open 05/01/2022
Applications close 09/02/2022

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A
Quality of work
A*
Colleagues
B
Facilities
A*
Work/life balance
A*
Social life
A
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2021-22 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 44
QCs 9
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 3/5

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

Money

Pupillage award £50,000
BPTC advance drawdown £10,000

Hailsham’s pupillage award includes £5,000 guaranteed earnings.

Diversity

Female juniors 36%
Female QCs 11%
BME juniors 8%
BME QCs 0%