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 47 QCs, including such heavyweight silks as Lord Grabiner, the head of chambers, Laurence Rabinowitz QC, David Wolfson QC (also Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice), former Court of Appeal judge Dame Elizabeth Gloster QC (who has returned to chambers as an arbitrator) and former President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger.
This top-notch commercial set has thriving practices domestically and in foreign jurisdictions in banking, civil fraud, company and commercial, EU law, employment, insurance, intellectual property, media, public law, sports and tax, among others. International arbitration is also a section of the set’s work, with the set having its own office in Singapore as its members work there so often.
Recent successes include three members representing Mr Yaroslavsky in a claim for alleged fraud brought by the fifth largest oil company in Russia against four Ukrainian businessmen; Laurence Rabinowitz QC and others acting for Russian Federation resisting applications by shareholders of Yukos in proceedings to enforce $50 billion arbitration awards; and three members defending Mr Oleg Mkrtchan against claims for over $2 billion following an eight-week trial regarding the division of a global portfolio of assets once controlled by three businessmen.
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. To see how happy members are here, check out their super smiley headshots on the website.
One Essex Court offers up to five pupillages each year, four across the set’s specialisms and a fifth solely intellectual property based. Each pupil receives an almighty award of £75,000 as well as any earnings from second six. Pupils typically 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 with 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. At the end of first six, progress is reviewed and pupils are provided with a preliminary indication as to the prospects of tenancy. When into the second six, they will be dispatched off to court to present their own cases, usually small county court claims and trials. The tenancy decision is made by a whole chambers vote, considering reports written by supervisors and other members pupils have performed work for. Over the past ten years, 75% of pupils have been offered tenancy. All of those who make it through receive their own room in chambers.
One Essex has put in substantial effort into encouraging more women to consider, and pursue, a career at the commercial bar. It runs female only events to “provide potential applicants for pupillage with an insight into working life at the commercial bar for women” and created its own ‘Women at the Commercial Bar Mentoring Scheme’, alongside the mentoring programme ran in conjunction with several other chambers for those belonging to groups underrepresented at the bar.
For those proposing to submit an application to One Essex Court, intellectual excellence is key, although a first-class degree by no means guarantees you an interview. Other selection criteria include practicality, maturity, common sense, motivation, courage, independence of mind, an ability to get on with others, and an ability to build a successful practice at the commercial bar, among others. One Essex Court also uses RARE recruitment which puts the academic results of applicants into context looking at background and personal disadvantage.
The set’s application includes a mini essay and it receives roughly 170 to 200 applications. Around 40 applicants are then invited to first round interview, knocking down to ten for second round. Those who are not successful for either stage are all contacted. For the intellectual property specific pupillage, there is only one round of interviews and normally seven candidates are invited to attend. A mini-pupillage here is not a prerequisite for a pupillage application, but they are obviously encouraged.