Landmark Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Formed in 2002, Landmark Chambers has developed into a figurehead set for planning, property, environmental and public law. Based in London, the set now boasts a stellar 36 KCs and 64 juniors who take on work across the spectrum of these areas, though there is usually a property connection in some shape or another. It is no wonder then that one of the three pupils it takes on each year must want to specialise in property. Landmark Chamber’s team is bolstered by having former Supreme Court justice and planning law expert Lord Carnwath as an Associate Member.

The work taken on by tenants at Landmark is incredibly varied. One junior at the set tells us: “I have a fantastic range of work with different clients and colleagues in a variety of sectors across the country.” In addition to its staple planning, property, and environmental law work, the set has particular strengths in local government, real estate litigation, agriculture and rural affairs, and social housing work. Of course, much of this feeds into their planning, property, and environmental core. As one tenant puts it, “planning and environmental law picks up on so many fascinating tensions at the heart of government policy — whether it’s solving the housing crisis in a way that is environmentally sustainable, or the future of major infrastructure like Heathrow Airport or HS2”.  The work is said to be highly-stimulating, with one junior explaining that “it involves difficult points of law on a daily basis, and my research often takes me to the library to uncover long-forgotten authorities”.

Recent cases worked on by tenants at Landmark include Stephen Whale successfully representing the Forest of Dean District Council in a highly-reported case in which an accountant was jailed for building then refusing to demolish, “Britain’s biggest man cave” — featuring a cinema, bowling alley, and badminton court — in his back garden without planning permission, and Matthew Dale-Harris acting for the Environment Agency in a High Court case relating to the Agency’s approach to investigation and assessment of impacts caused by water abstraction on protected fenland habitats in the Norfolk Broads. Meanwhile, Jonathan Wills represented Crawley Borough Council in the Upper Tribunal in a case which saw the Tribunal order the removal of a telecoms apparatus — the first ruling of its kind, Camilla Lamont appeared in a significant High Court case concerning restrictive covenants, and David Forsdick KC acted for Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council in a case in which a scheme for a major housing developing adjoining Old Trafford was refused permission.

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It’s not all planning, property, and environmental law at Landmark Chambers, however. The set also has great strength in the field of public law, whether its members are challenging restrictive laws on the abortion services in Northern Ireland or defending the government in the Shamima Begum case. Members really do have “challenging, interesting and high-profile” caseloads. Landmark attracts public law work from all kinds of clients, including individuals, central government (around 30 of its members are on the Attorney General’s panel of counsel), local government, companies, and NGOs. “I have been genuinely surprised by how much good quality public law work there is,” says one rookie. “I don’t think there are many other sets professing to do public law where a junior can do this much interesting work.” 

Recent public law cases worked on by tenants include Alex Shattock working on a challenge to an undisclosed Home Office asylum seekers accommodation policy, Julia Smyth and Yaaser Vanderman acting for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in a challenge to the law permitting abortion on the basis of disability, and Satya Jeremie playing an instrumental role in helping British gymnasts launch and pursue actions against British Gymnastics for the abuse they experienced. Yaaser Vanderman and Charles Bishop acted in one of the biggest cases of 2022: the claim for judicial review of various government policies on care homes during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another COVID-related case saw Natasha Jackson act for the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago in a challenge to the constitutionality of the COVID regulations in the country. In an altogether different line of work, Alex Goodman excitingly recently acted as the legal adviser to a BBC documentary about Sir Mo Farah, in which he spoke about his history of leaving Somalia for the UK as a child. There is certainly a lot of high-profile work taking place at Landmark! 

As well as the work at Landmark being high-quality, we hear that the tenants themselves are also wonderful. Senior members are said to go out of their way to nurture those starting out, with one junior saying they “have felt supported from day one of the tenancy”. There is very much an open-door policy throughout the set, and so there is always someone to go and speak to if you need help. Even if not physically in the set, help is available via email. One junior tells us: “If you e-mail your colleagues, then despite everyone appearing so busy, you get multiple response within minutes, even for the most minor or stupid junior barrister queries. This level of support for the most junior members of chambers baffles me, frankly. I can only assume that, contrary to appearances, there are lots of people in chambers with very little to do.” The clerks are also praised, with one tenant telling us they are “excellent and unstinting in their support and dedication”. Landmark has been there in times of need on a personal level for one member recently who praises the set for going “above and beyond when I had a health issue”. Wellbeing initiatives are in place such as the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which is in place to help barristers, pupils and staff with personal and professional problems. 

This support is sometimes especially important as high-level work can often mean long hours. One tenant tells us: “I’ve had a lot of high level cases on hand recently, which has made balancing work and life a little bit more tricky than usual but my clerks are really helpful in supporting me through difficult times and keeping my work diary sensible.” It seems that pressure usually comes from the barrister themselves rather than Chambers or colleagues. This perhaps makes it all the more important to unwind. It’s common for members of Chambers to meet together for lunch or for cake on Mondays — sounds lovely! We hear there are “fairly frequent” social events, but other tenants tell us that, because everyone is so busy, “post-work casual social activity is limited”. 

At least Landmark’s location means it is easy to pop out for a quick lunch or post-work drink. Based on Fleet Street, it is nicely situated near the Royal Courts of Justice and lawyer-y drinking holes such as El Vino. Whilst it’s safe to say it lacks the historic grandeur of those Chambers that find themselves in the Inns, the inside of the building is well-equipped. The client-facing side of Chambers is said to be “well-presented” and there are “well-equipped conferencing facilities” with “decent air conditioning and heating”. The IT receives fairly mixed reviews, with the team apparently not being as responsive as they might be. The move to a new platform has also been a challenge for some members. In terms of the barrister’s rooms, we are told there is an endless supply of tea and biscuits on each floor — this can only be a positive! Apparently, the lifts are quite interesting. One tenant reveals: “The lifts have clearly been possessed by a wayward sprite or djinn — mischievous rather than malevolent — who enjoys toying with pupil and KC alike. How his antics make us chuckle!” As one tenant puts it: “It’s not the most impressive building, but who cares? Are the barristers in it impressive? Oh yes” — nuff said. 

Landmark recruits up to three pupils per year, one specialising in property. Pupillage is divided into four seats: planning and environment, property, public law and a fourth of the pupil’s own choosing. Pupils complete three written, and one advocacy assessment with feedback being provided on all. One former pupil says: “I had an absolutely lovely pupillage. Assessment and results were clear, supportive colleagues and interesting work where I learned a lot.” Pupils are encouraged to work with other members on their cases throughout the year, and Landmark arranges for them to work with a KC or senior junior on more complex cases. In the second six months, pupils will be given their own cases and dispatched off to court — usually the county court or first-tier tribunal — on small applications. The overall training process clearly worked well for one insider, who tells us: “Being on your feet for the first time is nerve-wracking for every new second six but I felt ready to rise to the challenge. It helped that my supervisors were always on hand to provide last-minute assistance.”

Those wishing to apply for pupillage should apply through the Pupillage Gateway. Those scoring highest in the written application will be invited to complete an hour-long written assessment, for which no prior preparation is required. Those scoring highest in this assessment will be invited to an interview in front of a panel. Offers will be made based on the scores from the written application, assessment, and interview. The pupillage award is a generous £65,000. 

Landmark states that they are committed to improving equality and diversity at the Bar. In association with Cornerstone Barristers, Falcon Chambers, Field Court Chambers, Francis Taylor Building, and Kings Chambers (all sets with similar specialisms), they run a mentoring scheme for under-represented groups at the Bar. They also support Bridging the Bar and 10,000 Black Interns. 

What The Junior Barristers Say

Spread across eight floors on London’s bustling Fleet Street, and just a stone’s throw from the Royal Courts of Justice, the Chambers are said to have a more “modern” feel to it than most. The floors aren’t separated by practice area and most tenants tend to share a room. As most doors in Chambers are made from glass, there is a more “open-plan feel” to the building. There’s also a strong international offshoot in the form of Landmark Chambers International. Barristers have been instructed in several jurisdictions, including the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Landmark Chambers is perhaps best known for its highly regarded planning and
property practices. Joel Semakula, author of the article ‘The Pupil Experience’ for
TargetJobs Law Pupillage Handbook 2021, is developing a practice across all three
of Chambers’ main practice areas with a focus on property, environmental and
planning law. “I have had four, three-month seats across Chambers’ main practice
areas. Throughout, I have completed a range of tasks from drafting pleadings, to
writing advice, to conducting legal research and helping my supervisors prepare for
hearings. Most of the work has been “live” and it has been useful to compare my
supervisor’s final product against my drafts. Both pre- and post-COVID, there has
been a good mix of paperwork, conferences with clients and attending hearings.”
Joel says.

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So what’s pupillage at this high-ranking set like? “Prior to pupillage, I had heard
stories from my peers about how hugely demanding, challenging and tiring the
pupillage year could be. I expected to give up my hobbies, disappear from my family and friends and for sleep to become a luxury. Although the learning curve was steep, that was not my experience,” says Joel. Pupils support the caseload of their supervisor and most of the work they take on relates to a live case. This, as well as the diversity of cases in which Landmark barristers act, appealed to Joel.

There’s a real emphasis on training in Chambers and supervisors are approachable
and want pupils to succeed. As well as rolling feedback throughout the year, pupils
complete a number of assessments. Following the completion of each seat, pupils
receive more detailed feedback on their performance from the pupillage committee.

On the transition from pupil to junior barrister, Joel described it as “exciting – it was the culmination of years of graft and training and I was ready for this next step.” Having secured tenancy, he found himself appearing in court around twice a week and prepping advocacy for short hearings. But it is a big change: “the new level of responsibility takes some getting used to. It is no longer one case at a time and you are solely responsible for the work that goes out. That said, the whole of Chambers is on hand to help you thrive,” he adds.

Indeed, Landmark is a supportive environment. Pupils are assigned mentors with
whom they meet once a month to discuss any pressing professional matters over
lunch. Once qualified, Landmark rookies can opt to receive mentoring from a more
senior barrister in their preferred practice area, who’ll help guide them through their first few years of practice. There are also mental health and wellbeing workshops for barristers to turn to should they need the additional support. “Chambers puts so much time into ensuring its training meets the needs of its pupils. I have never been expected to stay late in Chambers or come in on weekends. The few times that late-night work was required, members of Chambers would regularly check in and ensure everything was okay.” explains Joel.

It’s not all work and no play. Landmark’s central location means there are plenty of local pubs and restaurants in which juniors can unwind and discuss the day’s work over a drink or two. Other perks include a “massive” fruit delivery that arrives at the office every Monday and Wednesday, and the weekly “Monday cakes” social.Chambers also hosts events. There’s a monthly drinks reception and a number of big parties every year. But if standing around making small talk over drinks isn’t your thing, Chambers also organises competitive table-tennis and soft-ball matches for its clients, and regularly holds internal lunch events.

Deadlines

Mini-Pupillage

February/March 2023
Applications open 01/08/2022
Applications close 30/11/2022

Virtual Open Evening 2023

25 January 2023
Applications close 24/01/2023

Pupillage

Applications open 04/01/2023
Applications close 08/02/2023

Mini-Pupillage

May/June 2023
Applications open 01/12/2022
Applications close 28/02/2023

Mini-Pupillage

October/November 2023
Applications open 01/03/2023
Applications close 31/07/2023

Insider Scorecard

A
Training
A*
Quality of work
B
Facilities
B
Work/life balance
B
Social life
B
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard grades range from A* to C and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2022-3 completed by barristers at the set.

Key Info

Juniors 64
KCs 36
Pupillages 3
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 4/5

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

Money

Pupillage award £65,000
BPTC advance drawdown £25,000

Diversity

Female juniors 34%
Female KCs 22%
BME juniors 10%
BME KCs 8%

The Chambers In Its Own Words