1 Crown Office Row is best known for its work in inquiries, human rights and public law, but the set also offers a range of specialisms across the entirety of civil law – clinical negligence is a particular area of expertise. The set has two premises: one in London opposite Inner Temple Gardens, and an annex in Brighton.
In its 70 year history, the set has been a stepping stone to senior roles in the judiciary. 16 former members have been appointed as High Court judges and above. Among its previous tenants, 1COR counts three former chairmen of the bar, four Lord Justices of Appeal, and the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Wolf. Today, the set is known for running the award-winning UK Human Rights Blog and the popular podcast Law Pod UK. Though the blog was set up and ran by Adam Wagner, who has since moved chambers, it remains a recommended bookmark for anyone interested in the practice.
The Brighton chambers has a hefty 58 juniors who practise mostly civil, criminal and family law, and has “doubled in size and turnover in just five years”. 1COR barristers have been based in Brighton for over 40 years with several members also having gone onto the judiciary. The last time the chambers counted its diversity data, nearly 50% of the juniors in Brighton were women.
1 Crown Office Row (London) has over 70 barristers, of whom 27 are QCs. Many members have been involved in high profile cases including the Undercover Policing Inquiry, the Infected Blood Inquiry, Shamima Begum’s widely reported Supreme Court battle and the Fishmongers’ Hall Terror Attack Inquests. Martin Forde QC has recently handed over his role as Independent Advisor to the Windrush Compensation Scheme. Silk Angus McCullough was amicus curiae in the Rebekah Brooks phone hacking trial and also acted for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) which sought to block arms sales from the UK to Saudi Arabia.
On the medical side, Shaheen Rahman QC is chair of Birthrights Inquiry which is investigating disparities in maternal outcomes for ethnic minorities, three members were involved in what is thought to be among the “largest clinical negligence claims against the NHS” in which a young boy was awarded £37 million in compensation, and two members acted for the claimants in the landmark ruling on whether children can consent to puberty blocker treatment for gender dysphoria. 1 Crown Office Row’s expertise is so highly sought after that members are often instructed on either side of the same cases.
Tenants in the junior ranks have similarly been involved in high profile litigation. One recent pupillage graduate sums up the work on offer like this: “Since taking tenancy I have enjoyed a diverse spectrum of public inquiry, inquest and clinical negligence work, representing a range of parties. The cases I’m working on are often featured in the news the next day. Happy to say I am never bored at work!”. Other members also look forward to opening new briefs with there being a “human element to every case”. With members normally spending between 50-59 hours working a week, some comment their work/life balance could be improved, but several say this falls on their own shoulders but is also helped by the fact “work rarely feels like a grind” so, as one member puts it, “I don’t mind working the occasional evening or weekend”.
1COR offers two pupillages a year, and also frequently offers third six pupillages. Pupils have four different supervisors throughout the year (who they will have met before when invited to chambers on acceptance of pupillage) each specialising in a range of different work – clinical negligence, regulatory and public. In the first six rookies develop their written skills of advices and pleadings, while in the second six the focus is on advocacy. Pupils also compete in a mock Crown Court trial against pupils from another set of chambers, with the event having previously been held at the Old Bailey! One insider describes the A-rated training like this:
“Pupillage was challenging but well structured. Receiving written feedback on each piece of work I did made it easier to understand how one was doing compared with expectations, and was instructive and encouraging. Our mock trial, performed in front of a large number of members of chambers, was hair-raising, but a helpful way to demonstrate advocacy skills. I felt supported and never in competition with my co-pupil, (also taken on) who has become a good friend”.
The approach to pupillage “promotes learning and development and is done in a way that instills chambers’ collegiate values from an early stage in members’ careers”, one member tells the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Junior Barristers Survey. The set says pupils should expect to “be prepared to hit the ground running” as “you will be expected to contribute meaningfully – so please don’t expect a quiet life in the shadows”. However, it also makes clear it does not want pupils to work evenings or weekends, and provides 20 days holiday in total. Training is also not just for the pupils, chambers organise internal seminars and masterclasses run by senior members of chambers on legal issues as well as experts explaining technical medical points and other in-house seminars are made available based on practical matters of cyber awareness and workload management.
1COR’s social life is described as “really strong in ordinary times” with plenty of informal drinks and opportunities to catch up with fellow members, “often on the third floor for some reason”. Although the pandemic limited social activity, the set’s baby juniors still organised a weekly virtual lunch with one member commenting that “it says a lot that among the first people I wanted to have dinner with after lockdown were several colleagues”. One member who lives outside of London says: “I still manage to feel involved in Chambers’ social life. Members and staff have made a real effort to keep in touch and still have fun even during lockdown”. 1COR runs a traditional weekly tea for all members in chambers, which it describes as “not (as you might imagine) a stuffy formal ceremonial” but rather, “a “chance for everyone to flop down on sofas together for a while and chat about both important matters and trivia”.
The vibe among the “very special” colleagues is excellent. “We keep each other sane,” one tells us, with another adding the “collegiality of the chambers is one of the reasons I was so keen to join”. One equally happy member says: “The support and encouragement provided by other members of chambers and everyone’s willingness to give you their time if you need help with something is one of the standout features of 1COR.” The junior end has multiple whatsapp groups including “a mixture of high and low brow chat”, where “you can always ask if anyone has a moment for a sense check on an issue”.
With the “subtly impressive” building having had a refurbishment in recent times, barristers at 1COR enjoy pleasant views overlooking Temple Gardens. “I literally have to walk through (and smell) the roses to get to work,” one member with a desk view over the Thames says. The inside however “may need a little updating” we’re told. Technology provision is “excellent” with a dedicated IT manager on hand, a luxury not all chambers have, “who is always available to sort IT crises no matter the time”.
Out of 18 pupils and juniors with fewer than ten years call, seven have not attended either Oxford or Cambridge at some point. Most have an impressive suite of academic awards and a top record of professional experience before commencing pupillage. For example, Emma-Louise Fenelon interned at the International Criminal Tribunal and worked on the Radovan Karadzic trial, while Charlotte Gilmartin was a judicial assistant to Lord Neuberger at the UK Supreme Court. Selection criteria for pupils includes “intellectual and analytical ability”, “oral communication and advocacy skills”, “temperament”, “interpersonal skills” and motivation for a career at the bar and pupillage at 1COR.
In an effort to help the bar become more diverse and representative, the set also runs a separate assessed mini-pupillage for over ten aspiring barristers who come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The set also asserts its “efforts to address the issue of the large drop-out rate at the bar of women of ten to 15+ years’ call” having put in place policies to ensure it retains members who return from maternity or paternity leave. To help out the newbies too, 1COR also subsidises the rents of all tenants during the first four years of tenancy.