Hailsham Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Few sets can rival Hailsham Chambers’ focus on professional negligence and clinical negligence. The two practices each account for 40% of instructions taken on by the chambers, with the balance being made up of costs, regulatory work, personal injury and commercial.

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 the chambers is still based there, 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. Parallel to this, the set has moved from being a generalist practice covering both civil and criminal work, to specialising in civil litigation.

Today, Hailsham has more than 50 tenants, nine of whom are QCs. These silks include head of chambers David Pittaway, who was instructed on the Hillsborough Inquests and The Shipman Inquiry, and Julian Picton, the editor of the McGregor on Damages textbook.

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The firm has considerable strength in clinical negligence cases. Two junior barristers are qualified doctors. Another trio of juniors also have strong links to the medical field. Clementine Coram James was seconded to the Nursing and Midwifery Council; Jack Steer has sat on an NHS Research Ethics Committee and Michael Patrick worked as a student statistician at NHS Blood and Transplant during his undergraduate maths degree. As if to underscore further, Hailsham even has its own X-Ray Lightbox.

“There is some truly excellent work in chambers’ core practice areas of professional negligence, costs and clinical negligence,” an insider tells us. “However, at the junior end, as with most civil sets, there is also a lot of RTA and credit hire work.”

A practitioner at the chambers explains that 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”. The work can be complicated. 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.”

Hailsham offers up to two pupillages each year, and those selected benefit from what a barrister responding to the 2020-21 Legal Cheek Barrister Survey describes as a “comprehensive range of internal seminars on legal issues and practice management”. The 18 best applications through the Pupillage Gateway are invited to a single round of interviews. Approximately half of barristers under ten years of call at Hailsham studied at Oxbridge.

Pupils at Hailsham have three main supervisors over the course of the year, one in professional negligence, another in clinical negligence, and the final one in another practice. An insider tells us: “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.”

During the second six, pupils are allowed to handle their own cases. Pupils are also expected to complete work for at least ten other members of chambers, who weigh in on the tenancy decision.

The setting, a Georgian building in Temple overlooking the Inner Temple Gardens, is picture perfect. The interior is “regularly upgraded and kept in good condition”, and is “not extremely swish, but definitely cosy and functional,” Hailsham barristers say. Note however that those at the start of their career may find their office is a basement room overlooking the car park. The set also benefits from “decent booze at chambers events due to a popular in-house wine club”. For newbies in the law business, help is always at hand. “Doors are always open to colleagues, especially junior tenants,” one barrister says. A colleague agrees: “Chambers is a friendly place with many colleagues also friends. There are plenty of people to turn to when one needs to chat through an issue or case.”

Unusually among chambers, Hailsham scored fairly highly for work-life balance. “Clerks are reasonably amenable in letting individuals set their own workload/capacity,” one relieved-sounding tenant says. “A rival set’s management team was once quoted as saying ‘Our barristers go where they are told, when they are told’. That is not our approach. Prospective members of a set should take care to investigate the culture at any set that they are thinking of joining. The disparity between sets of equal standing in an area can be very marked. I have been in three sets and so I have practical experience of the difference and knowledge of the effect that chambers culture can have on one’s life.”

Generally, barristers work 35-50 hours per week, although “due to the unpredictabilities 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”. Another barrister explains they are able to enjoy their home life, work from home whenever they wish and also have a great range of interesting work. “Unless I am in trial, I very rarely work weekends or late into the evening,” says another colleague. “No one expects me to check my emails late. I feel very lucky compared to most of my friends at the Bar.”

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

To commence September 2022
Applications open 07/01/2021
Applications close 07/02/2021

Open Evening

January 2021
Applications open 04/11/2020
Applications close 01/01/2021

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A
Quality of work
A*
Colleagues
A
Facilities
A
Work/life balance

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2020-21 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 45
QCs 9
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 2/5

*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.

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 36%
Female QCs 11%