Henderson Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

For excellent training in a leading commercial and common law set with a down-to-earth culture, look no further than this Temple-based chambers. With more than 50 barristers, including 14 silks, Henderson is a prestigious set with a genuine commitment to training and a lively, sociable atmosphere. One major perk of training here is that all pupils are offered a month’s secondment to the Caribbean firm Griffiths & Partners in the Turks & Caicos Islands, where they assist with drafting opinions and pleadings as well as attending court and conferences with clients. Flights and accommodation are provided.

Areas of expertise cover a wide range of civil matters for business and government, often with an international element. The set’s group action work has expanded in recent years and it has a long-standing reputation in the fields of consumer issues and product liability. Henderson’s barristers acted in the Seroxat group action and the high-profile Post Office group litigation and are currently instructed on the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry and the Volkswagen Emissions litigation. “My case load is a really interesting combination of commercial work, group actions and health & safety prosecutions ― a great mix of led and unled work, and all of which require me to take on significant responsibilities,” says one respondent to the 2020-21 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey.

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Pupillage is structured across four seats, and the regular feedback and gradual expansion of responsibility makes for a smooth transition from pupil to junior barrister. Henderson’s commitment to training includes a dedicated pupillage website, hendersonpupillage.co.uk, complete with videos.

According to one Henderson alumnus, “Chambers runs a dedicated in-house pupillage training programme, involving advocacy exercises in front of senior members of chambers and high court judges. Each piece of work done in pupillage also receives individual written feedback which is collated and reviewed over the year. A mentoring scheme provides continuing support and guidance throughout the first few years of tenancy. The quality of work available at all levels provides the best on-the-job training you can get.”

The Henderson premises are well-appointed. In particular, according to one insider “a recent refurb has left our in-house conference facilities looking more like a swanky boutique events space than a workplace”. That’s just as well because (pre-lockdown at least) barristers can expect to spend long hours at their desk. “We work hard, and we work for FTSE 100 companies and Magic Circle law firms,” says one respondent. “That means that, at times, the demands on our time are very significant and can intrude into evenings and weekends. BUT ― and it’s a big but ― we play incredibly hard too, and we all understand and respect the value of family and friendships. Overall, the balance is good and better than many sets at the bar.”

Consequently, you’ll be spending a large part of your life among your colleagues — fortunately, the people at Henderson seem like a nice bunch. Pre-lockdown, Henderson members enjoyed regular trips to the pub, weekly drinks in reception and Christmas and summer parties. Now COVID-19 has struck, the entertainments schedule is more restrained as the set makes do with online communications.

“My colleagues are genuinely my friends,” says one barrister. “It is wonderful. In normal times, chambers operates an ‘open-door’ system and absolutely everyone in chambers (from my head of chambers down) will happily make themselves available to discuss problems with me, no matter how trivial. Oddly, lockdown has only served to intensify that support and collaboration across chambers.”

Henderson takes on two pupils each year and offers an award of £70,000.

What The Junior Barristers Say

“The juniors hang out all the time”, says Rachel Tandy, a junior barrister at Henderson Chambers, “it’s actually quite funny how much time we spend together.”

While doing a mini-pupillage at Henderson, Tandy “really liked the atmosphere”, which felt different to some of the “more traditional sets” that are around. “Everyone’s doors were open, people were chatting to each other, I liked everybody who I met,” she says. The “friendly and supportive vibe” has been consistent.

As Henderson is a broad commercial set, training in chambers exposes you to “a range of work”, which you can “narrow down later”. This means you can make better choices when deciding which areas of law you want to practise in. Chambers gives you the “opportunity to try a whole range of different practice areas”. This appealed to Tandy: “I came to law late and I still didn’t know what areas I would be interested in. The GDL doesn’t give you much time to figure that out,” she says.

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Pupillage itself is structured across four seats. The first three months are “a bit of a grace period; no one expects you to turn up and immediately be marvellous at everything”. In between your first and second six, you have the option to spend a month in an international posting. Tandy went to a law firm in Brussels; a recent pupil had the opportunity to work in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Tandy recalls her first ever trial. She was acting for a defendant in a contractual dispute. The claimant’s evidence was “unbelievably inconsistent” and overall he was perhaps “one of the most unconvincing witnesses” that Tandy has ever cross-examined. This made her job much easier, and she had “hoped that every trial would be this straightforward” but “quickly realised that that’s very rare”, she laughs.

The feedback during pupillage is regular. Each supervisor that you’ve worked with will fill in a feedback form at the end of each three months. This guidance system “gives you a clear steer throughout the year — not just before your tenancy decision when it’s too late — and lets you know how you’re doing” as you go along. You’ll be able to see if there are any gaps in your experience. For example, you might conclude that you need to draft more pleadings before the end of pupillage.

The transition from pupil to junior barrister is “quite smooth”. You gradually go from “baby barrister work” to more challenging cases. Many juniors get the chance to do an early secondment for one or two days a week. Doing so will ease your transition as it will provide you with a steady stream of work as you start out. Tandy herself worked on a long SFO (Serious Fraud Office) case that included reviewing “tons of investigation files” and picking out documents which were relevant to the case. Tandy continued with this disclosure exercise for a year.

Work/life balance tends to be pretty good and flexible. Tandy works from home about once a fortnight — “the clerks are perfectly happy for you to do that”. She works late occasionally “because that’s the nature of the job; sometimes cases will change or develop late in the day and you have to respond”. Tandy says she “doesn’t go home at five, but overall the balance is good”. What’s really helpful is that “people working on the same case can plan around and accommodate each other”. It’s a cooperative process where they will often “divide work up” and “match schedules”. This is important if, unexpectedly, “cases throw up issues at the last minute”.

Henderson is housed in the modern interior of ancient 2 Harcourt Buildings in London’s Temple. One of the top facilities is the espresso machine. It makes “real coffee”, the sort that “gives you a twitch behind your eye because it’s so strong”. It’s “a small thing but makes such a difference,” Tandy adds. There are currently refurbishments underway inside the building, although a plea for the new conference suite to include double doors out onto “a terrace on the Inner Temple’s lawn for drinking aperol spritz” has sadly been unsuccessful.

To secure pupillage at Henderson, you’ve got to be more than smart and hard working. “Everyone knows that you want a pupillage,” Tandy says, but it “can be more challenging to explain why you want to come to a broad set” like Henderson. You have to “be honest”; if you don’t know what you like yet, you can “be upfront” about it and explain that you want the opportunity to try different areas. But “you do need to show you know something about us, other than the fact that we are offering pupillage.”

Conversely, if you are interested in a particular area of law, “shout about it”. Be sure to supply “evidence of that interest somewhere on your form” — “it’s not enough to just say you love product liability”. If you don’t have relevant experience on your CV, it’s “useful to refer to a relevant case, or series of cases” and “explain why you think they’re interesting or impressive”. You’ve got to “do more than just looking at chambers’ website”.

And finally, “persevere”. Tandy herself wrote 27 applications over two years. Her advice for future barristers? “The only thing that the court should be noticing is what is coming out of your mouth,” she says. “The way you look, if you’re fidgeting, or what nail varnish you’re wearing, shouldn’t be conspicuous. Strip that stuff out, and focus on the content of what you’re saying. Everything else is white noise.”



September – December 2021
Applications close 23/07/2021

Third Six Pupillage 2021

Autumn 2021
Applications close 17/09/2021

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
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 36
QCs 14
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 3/5

*Figure is for the five most junior members of chambers; does not include postgraduate studies.


Pupillage award £70,000
BPTC advance drawdown £20,000

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 42%
Female QCs 0%

The Chambers In Its Own Words