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Over its more than 100-year history, Hailsham Chambers has undergone some big changes. Not only was it once called 4 Paper Buildings – the name of the building where it is still located – but it has also transitioned from being a generalist set covering a broad range of civil and criminal work to specialising in select areas of civil litigation. Today, the set is best known for its professional negligence, clinical negligence, professional discipline, and costs litigation work. Several of its 57 tenants, of whom eleven are silks, also take on personal injury cases and commercial disputes, as well as having alternative dispute resolution expertise.
When it comes to professional and clinical negligence, Hailsham Chambers’ tenants are some of the best in the field. These two practice areas each account for around 40% of the set’s instructions, with costs work making up the most significant portion of the remaining 20%. The set’s specialisms make for “varied and interesting cases, as well as “intellectual challenges” for its members. Given chambers’ reputation, some of the best work in these fields comes through the clerks’ room. One insider at the set tells us: “there is some truly excellent work in chambers’ core practice areas”.
On the professional negligence side, Hailsham’s tenants represent everyone from lawyers to accountants, construction professionals to financial experts. One tenant tells us they’re “extremely lucky to have such high profile work representing top City firms all the time”. Cases taken on by tenants at the set have ranged from judicial reviews of the decisions of the Financial Services Ombudsman to multi-million-pound claims against solicitors. Indeed, when it comes to acting for or against lawyers, the set’s expertise is cemented by the fact that tenant William Flenley KC is the co-author of ‘the bible’ in this specialist area of law: Solicitors’ Negligence and Liability. High-profile cases have included The Hillsborough Inquests, the lender litigation at the end of the 1990s, and the significant Grondona v Stoffell Supreme Court case of 2020 which clarified the illegality defence.
On the clinical negligence side, Hailsham has several members with ties to the medical world, including two juniors who are qualified doctors. One tenant tells us 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”. Another 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”. High-profile cases over the years have included The Harold Shipman Inquiry, The Cervical Screening Litigation, and The Stepping Hill Hospital Deaths. Certainly some headline-grabbing stuff.
Over the past year, cases worked on have included Michael Pooles KC and Richard Anderton acting in a claim against solicitors arising out of a 20-day multi-million pound fraudulent misrepresentation trial in the Chancery Division; Catherine Ewins successfully representing the claimant in a four-day trial to determine whether the claimant’s stroke would have been avoided if she had received proper initial treatment in A&E; and Nicholas Pilsbury appearing for the successful Defendant in a case concerning the Court’s jurisdiction to vary the period for acceptance of a Part 36 offer.
Of course, work can’t always be this exciting. For juniors in particular, there will be fair amounts of bread-and-butter type cases such as RTA and credit hire work. “Nothing is highly stimulating ALL the time,” one junior explains. “I do not enjoy drafting schedules of loss; sorry”. Another tenant, who specialises in costs work, said when asked how stimulating their work is: “I practice costs: I don’t expect much.”
Even when the work is less than thrilling, morale at Hailsham is high due to its “collegiate” atmosphere. One insider offers this insight: “Whenever I need advice, I know that the senior people in chambers will all answer the phone or talk me through a case without hesitation. I also have a strong friendship group of juniors in chambers, we support each other through the good and the hard times and have lots of fun together whether it’s over lunch, spontaneous drinks or WhatsApp. I regularly check in with anyone who I know is having a tough time”. Other members concur that “nobody is too senior to ask for help” and that the clerks and staff are also brilliant – the “superb” business development manager Zoe Gardiner also gets a special shoutout from one junior..
Talking of the clerks, we hear that they are very supportive when it comes to barristers maintaining a work-life balance. Of course, it will never be perfect at the bar but we are told they will often prompt someone to take time off after they have had a busy period. “The work-life balance is perfect for me now but I am one of the most senior members of chambers so only get the more complex cases which means that I no longer have to rush around the country on a regular basis or work all hours of the day,” one insider tells us. Those at the more junior end of the set, on the other hand, may find themselves travelling across the country to attend a 30-minute hearing in relation to a road traffic accident — though one of the positive effects of the pandemic has been that some of these such hearings will now take place virtually! There is also an inevitable unpredictability. One junior says “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”.
When tenants do have time to unwind, there is a “very fun group” of people and a number of “impromptu social events”, which we hear are “on the up” again after the pandemic. We are told that people are beginning to come back into chambers and events such as after-work drinks are picking up. One member also tells us that they run an in-house wine and food club, which sounds very fun!
Hailsham’s setting, a gorgeous 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. It also overlooks Inner Temple’s garden which is a definite bonus. 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 set’s technology and IT support is described as “top notch” with problems being “resolved quickly and efficiently”. The clerks are also said to be “tech-savvy”.
Hailsham aims to recruit two pupils each year, with each receiving an award of £60,000. Those selected benefit from, what one barrister days, 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 KC, who “reviews each pupil’s experience and performance with them at regular intervals”.
During the second six, pupils 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! Into tenancy, the training continues. One tenant summarises: “as a tenant, KCs and juniors regularly give internal training as well as lots of external talks which means we are always learning from each other.”
Those looking to apply to Hailsham should do so through the Pupillage Gateway. As part of the initial application, applicants will have to complete a problem question which will focus on either professional negligence or clinical negligence. No specialist knowledge of these areas is required – all the information you need is provided. Those scoring highest on the application and problem question will be invited to interview, which will take place in front of a panel of around five tenants. The problem question will be discussed, as well as general questions.
Hailsham are looking for candidates who are intellectually able, persuasive communicators, able to get on with colleagues, clients, and judges, and are motivated and ambitious. The set is “passionate” about encouraging applications from a diverse pool of candidates, according to its website, and will make reasonable accommodations or adjustments where necessary.