Landmark Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Meet Landmark Chambers at the Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fair on Saturday 4 December 2021

Formed in 2002, Landmark Chambers has developed into a figurehead set for property, planning and environment law. With premises in London and Birmingham, Landmark now boasts a stellar 34 QCs and 58 juniors. The majority of the set’s work concerns property in some shape or another, whether planning applications for major developments or rights concerning historic buildings and village greens. It is no wonder that one of the three pupils it takes on each year must want to specialise in property. They’ll be joining former Supreme Court justice and planning law kingpin Lord Carnwath, recently scooped up by the chambers as an associate member.

Landmark barristers are all over the cutting-edge litigation in infrastructure as well as major housing and planning inquiries. As one pupil tells us: “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 set’s branch in Birmingham city centre has been involved in regeneration projects including the Library of Birmingham and the Midland Metro extension. “Most of my work is property-based, with some planning and environment crossover,” explains one junior. “It involves difficult points of law on a daily basis, and my research often takes me to the library to uncover long-forgotten authorities.” If you need any property-based case law then check out Landmark barrister Miriam Seitler in ‘Carpool Caselaw’.

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Landmark has a similarly high-profile standing in the field of public law, whether its members are challenging restrictive laws on the termination of pregnancy, the fairness of Ofqual’s system for awarding A-Level grades during the Covid-19 pandemic, 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.” Members of the set are also often instructed in reviews and inquiries, such as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the Westminster School review.

Another junior in their second year of practice set out their current activities as this: “Work has included a three-week planning inquiry into energy from a waste plant (unled), work on the Heathrow Court of Appeal decision, an upcoming Court of Appeal decision on housing and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.” Another baby junior says: “I can rarely predict the next week” due to their “incredibly varied practice”. As ever with the bar, if a lot of work comes along at once, one can struggle with work/life balance. Litigation is always demanding but the “clerks fully enable time off and colleagues are available to cover” meaning it is “very possible to have a good balance at Landmark” with no pressure coming from the chambers’ direction.

Its premises on London’s Fleet Street are nicely situated near the Royal Courts of Justice and lawyer-y drinking holes such as El Vino, even if they lack the historic grandeur of Lincoln’s Inn. “It’s not the most impressive building, but who cares? Are the barristers in it impressive? Oh yes” — nuff said. Most barristers have individual rooms with copious shelving along with air conditioning with technological support provided both on-site and remotely.

Several tenants say every door is open for a chat about a work problem, with the set being described as “a very collegiate place”. 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”. 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”. There are regular chambers teas which are “well-attended” (and turned virtual during the pandemic).

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. A third six pupil at the set tells us, “chambers is incredibly supportive and takes its training, even of third sixes, very seriously”. 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 QC 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: “When I joined Landmark my legal skills were like soft clay. Now, they are like the impossible abs of a Greek marble statue: smooth, sculpted, and cool to the touch.”

What The Junior Barristers Say

Landmark Chambers is perhaps best known for its highly regarded planning practice. “We’re involved in matters you’ll often see on the news, such as the decision to build a new runway at Heathrow,” says junior barrister Anjoli Foster.

Spread across eight floors on London’s bustling Fleet Street, and just a stone’s throw from the Royal Courts of Justice, Foster says chambers has a more “modern” feel to it than most. “We’re based on a busy road among banks and various other non-law institutions. It’s a nice change from the Inns of Court,” she explains.

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The floors aren’t separated by practice area and most tenants tend to share a room. Luckily, planning law specialist Foster shares a room with a senior barrister who happens to work in a similar field to her. This allows them both to bounce ideas off each other, she explains. Most doors in chambers are made from glass which “gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘open-door policy,’” quips Foster, but this helps give chambers a more “open-plan feel”.

What’s more, Landmark has recently opened a new office in Birmingham’s City centre. Understood to be the first top tier London set to do so, Landmark hopes to capture the growth of the Midlands market and make chambers even more accessible to clients. There’s also a strong international offshoot in the form of Landmark Chambers International. Foster tells us barristers have been instructed in several jurisdictions, including the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

So what’s pupillage at this high-ranking set like? “It’s commonly referred to as a year-long interview process, but I really enjoyed mine,” says Foster. During the year, pupils rotate between four seats. The first three are in chambers’ key specialisms: planning and environmental law, property law and public law. Pupils then go on to complete a fourth seat in an area of their choosing. 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 fact that Landmark barristers act in both the private and public sphere, appealed to Foster.

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 three written assessments and an advocacy task during each seat. Following the completion of each seat, pupils receive more detailed feedback on their performance from the pupillage committee. Going from pupil to junior barrister was “exciting” for Foster. Having secured tenancy, she found herself appearing in court around twice a week and prepping advocacy for fast track trials. But it’s a steep learning curve: “You’re now in charge of your own caseload and have to take responsibility and make decisions. But you can always turn to your supervisors and colleagues for help,” she adds.

Indeed, Landmark is a supportive environment. Pupils are assigned mentors with whom they meet up with 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.

Foster is already making a name for herself, despite being in the relatively early stages of her career at the bar. She has built up a significant practice in planning and environmental law and was recently ranked as one of the top juniors under 35 in Planning Magazine’s planning law survey. Planning law isn’t a module that is taught during the undergraduate law degree, explains Foster, but it was the seat the first-class Oxford law grad enjoyed most during pupillage. Now, she’s acted on a number of public inquiries into planning appeals, ranging from housing developments to listed buildings and planning criminal proceedings. It’s the “real life impact” of her work that Foster finds rewarding.

The work hours vary. When she’s not in court, Foster will usually arrive in chambers at 9am and leave around 7pm. Being self-employed means there is a lot of flexibility, and barristers are able to work from home. “The practice managers are accommodating when you’re tied up and aren’t able to come into chambers,” explains Foster.

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 — last year’s summer party was held at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. “This was a great way to network with our solicitor clients,” says Foster. 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.

There’s no sense of hierarchy within chambers, says Foster. “We’re all friends at the junior end, and I also have a lot of friends who are more senior.” There’s also plenty of interaction between barristers and staff. “Your practice manager will usually be of a similar age to you,” explains Foster, who has a good relationship with hers, not least because the staff room is located next to the best coffee machine in chambers!

Deadlines

Pupillage

To start October 2023
Applications open 05/01/2022
Applications close 09/02/2022

Mini-Pupillage

February and March 2022 Intake
Applications open 01/08/2021
Applications close 30/11/2021

Mini-Pupillage

May and June 2022 Intake
Applications open 01/12/2021
Applications close 28/02/2022

Mini-Pupillage

October and November 2022 Intake
Applications open 01/03/2022
Applications close 31/07/2022

Insider Scorecard

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

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2021-22 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 58
QCs 34
Pupillages 3
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 5/5

*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 29%
Female QCs 18%
BME juniors 12%
BME QCs 6%

The Chambers In Its Own Words