One Essex Court is a member of the bar’s so-called ‘magic circle’. Its barristers are instructed in a broad range of often high-profile and mega-value business disputes. Based in London’s Middle Temple, the set has over 60 juniors and 41 QCs, including such heavyweight silks as Lord Grabiner, the head of chambers, Laurence Rabinowitz QC, Stephen Auld QC and former Court of Appeal judge Dame Elizabeth Gloster QC (who has returned to chambers as an arbitrator).
This top-notch commercial set has thriving practices in international arbitration (it has opened its own office in Singapore as its members work there so often), banking, civil fraud, company and commercial, EU law, employment, insurance, intellectual property, media, public law, sports and tax, among others. Its barristers appeared in a landmark competition law case in which Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets sued Visa and Mastercard for charging “multilateral interchange” fees on transactions, and have been instructed in the headline-hogging multi-million-pound dispute between property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz and accountants Grant Thornton.
Other recent successes include the discharge of a $3 billion (£2.3 billion) freezing order on an Angolan sovereign wealth fund, and the discharge of a third party debt order because of lack of jurisdiction where the debt was situated in India. Conflicting jurisdiction clauses also arose in a significant Court of Appeal case concerning a dispute between Deutsche Bank and an Italian municipality.
One Essex Court scores consistently well for work and colleagues in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey. “I love my job. I do fascinating and complex cases,” says one rookie. Of course, life at the self-employed bar is very different from working in a law firm or in the legal department of a company. According to a former pupil, everyone at One Essex Court is “generally supportive, but being a barrister is lonely”. On the other hand, this set’s members are fairly sociable, usually meeting for Friday night drinks as well as regular dinners throughout the year, and the working hours are the average 50-59 per week.
One Essex Court offers four pupillages each year, with a very respectable £70,000 award.
Pupils rotate between three supervisors, spending three months each with the first two and six months with the third. Work is assessed on an ongoing basis but there is no formal assessment. Instead, pupils work closely with their supervisors, attending client conferences and court, as well as completing work for other members of chambers. The work consists of legal research and drafting opinions, pleadings and skeleton arguments. In the second six, they will be dispatched off to court to present their own cases, usually small county court claims and trials.
One Essex Court offers an additional pupillage in intellectual property, an area in which seven of its members specialise. It has developed a strong reputation in this field. All applications must be made through the Pupillage Gateway.