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.
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.”