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 over 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 over 50 tenants, eight 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 and the Financial Conduct Authority; 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.

Beyond clinical negligence, the work has “real variety”, with a mixed caseload that “could involve a multi-million-pound matter one day or a tiny one the next”. Pupils can find themselves doing everything from bankruptcy hearings to personal injury claims following a road traffic accident to attending the Court of Appeal on high profile matters.

Here are a couple of accounts from insiders about their practice:

“My practice is very mixed. I undertake clinical negligence, professional negligence, personal injury, landlord and tenant, and commercial work. The subset of solicitors’ negligence work (which Hailsham specialises in) is particularly interesting, simply because you are assessing the conduct of other legal professionals, potentially undertaking legal specialisms you have never encountered before.”

“Really cracking mix of gruesome, fascinating Clin Neg work and heavy commercial trials. Covering everything from Kenyan history to the Saudi-Qatar diplomatic crisis and acquired brain injury cases.”

Barristers at the set clock up around 50-59 hours a week. A rookie tells us that they “have a good work/life balance compared to most of their friends at the bar”. Another junior informs us that “colleagues could not be more supportive” and that “you could approach anyone in chambers for guidance”.

Indeed, adds another insider: “there have been many times when I’ve called someone late at night, met for coffee after hours and talked through cases.” Outside of work, the social life is pleasant, with “a good group of friends” who will “often go out for lunch or grab a bottle of wine together in the evenings” and “share a lot of jokes”.

Facilities at the set are good. The building has “plenty of kitchens and loos”. While some tenants have “beautiful”, “luxurious” offices with views overlooking Temple Gardens and the River Thames, others have to contend with basement rooms “facing the car park”. One otherwise content rookie informs us that “the only real negative is a printer which keeps breaking down”.

Turning now onto pupillages at the set. Hailsham offers up to two each year, and those selected benefit from what a junior describes as “extremely specialist training in professional negligence, insurance and clinical negligence”. 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. 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. An insider tells us that Hailsham “takes the training seriously” and pupils “are here to learn on the job”.

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 Open Evening

Wednesday 15 January 2020
Applications close 13/01/2020

Pupillage

Commencing September 2021
Applications open 07/01/2020
Applications close 07/02/2020

Mini-Pupillage

Takes place for a few days between September-December 2020
Applications close 31/07/2020

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 2019-20 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 46
QCs 8
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 1/5

*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 35%
Female QCs 13%