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.
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”.