Civil, commercial and common-law set, Outer Temple Chambers is headquartered in London but takes on a large amount of work in foreign jurisdictions. With offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and representatives in Australia, Far East, US and Caribbean, several barristers are able to provide services in different languages. The set is also increasingly involved in the New York State Bar Association. Outer Temple has 65 juniors and 25 QCs, and takes on up to two pupils each year, awarding £70,000 to each. Outer takes an additional pupil every alternate year through a scheme set up with the Free Representation Unit (FRU), a pro bono charity. The 18-month “FRUpillage” scheme begins with a six-month placement at the FRU on employment cases, moves onto an official first six at Outer Temple, and concludes with a second six working on a mix of casework for chambers and the FRU.
Medical and business expertise are the two mainstays of this chambers. It is highly experienced in clinical negligence and catastrophic personal injury, and takes on complex medical issues such as spinal and brain injuries. Outer has also developed a strong reputation for pensions work, and is known for its work in financial services and banking. Its employment barristers tend to do very well, including in disciplinary and regulatory hearings and corporate manslaughter and health and safety work. Other strengths include public law, inquiries and sports related law. The set’s barristers also do alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration.
Recent member appearances include Oliver Powell in the Croydon tram crash inquests, newbie Joshua Hitchens successfully representing appellants against the against Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago who wrongly served additional time in prison, and duo Sarah Crowther QC (joint head of chambers) and Chloe Bell securing a £14.5 million settlement in a catastrophic injury case, thought to be one of the highest ever French awards approved by an English court.
The set also has niche expertise in acting in historic sex abuse cases, with head honcho James Counsell QC instructed in a number of high profile cases brought against Premisership football clubs alongside Ben Bradley, and Paul Livingston appearing at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s investigation into Child Sexual Exploitation. On the employment side, collectively seven members acted in widely publicised equal pay cases against Tesco and Asda. The set’s employment guru Daniel Barnett even has his own legal LBC radio show, he also chairing a discussion with bar students regarding the exam fiasco. In terms of crime, an Outer Temple silk successfully prosecuted a husband who tried to murder his wife by sabotaging her parachute, a case which received widespread media coverage. However, business crime such as insider dealing, cartels and corruption is a more natural habitat for chambers members.
Commenting on the reach of the chambers’ work, one member tells the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Barristers Survey: “My practice is international organisations law. I have cases at the UN, World Bank, IMF, UNICEF, IMO, EBRD, EIB, African Union and dozens of others. It also involves travel to DC and New York and Geneva” – not too shabby. Another member tells us: “I do a great mix of High Court judicial review work, employment tribunal work involving complex claims and lengthy hearings and interesting commercial litigation. I am only three years call and my practice compares very favourably to those of a similar call at comparable sets”. The commercial and trusts work is said to be “rapidly developing” filled with “interesting law” qne “plenty of litigation”. Due to there being “some real industry leaders in chambers”, the standard of work is said to trickle down to those more junior.
Clerks are said to be “great at understanding that we are people as well as barristers – and not battery chickens (unlike City law firms!)” when it comes to work/life balance. One junior says they feel able to tell clerks when they have reached capacity and reallocate or stop taking on work. This has meant one member was able to take three days off to go sailing one week and finish early every Tuesday to play rugby. The bar, being a self-employed profession, means such balance is usually dictated by each individual. One member shares this: “I work hard during the week (often working late), but I try to keep weekends free…I do work quite long hours, but I’d rather have too much than too little work, so I am reasonably happy with the balance”.
“They are my brothers and sisters”, says one member describing the support of colleagues at the set. Several tenants say colleagues are approachable, very supportive and “always willing to assist” meaning members feel “comfortable calling anyone in chambers for help or advice” or as another member says, just fancying a chat. Within practice areas, there are said to be designated whatsapp groups to fire questions through. One lateral recruit from another chambers says they chose Outer Temple “precisely because of its more supportive ethos” and another newbie to the set said similar regarding the colleagues: “Amazing – my old chambers were just awful in comparison”. One junior we heard from makes a curious reference to “indoor snowball fights”.
Outer Temple are the only chambers which overlooks the Royal Courts of Justice, bridging the Strand and Temple, and apparently witnesses start behaving when warned they’ll be across the road in the RCJ when cases start. The building is “beautiful” with client accessible areas, including nine conference rooms, being “very smart” and “client friendly”. Tenant rooms are said to vary, “but all are of at least a good standard in terms of space and facilities”. The set provides full access to all of the major legal databases and provides a good remote desktop system, but is currently restructuring its IT systems. One member says members “survived and thrived working from home”, helped by the fact the IT manager is “enthusiastic and helpful”.
Pupils here receive four different supervisors who specialise in the four core areas of employment, clinical negligence, personal injury and then a final stint in public or crime/regulatory or commercial. During the first six, pupils complete legal research for their supervisors and other members, attend conferences and court, and assist supervisors in preparation of their cases. Moving through into second six, pupils are able to accept instructions and appear in their own cases. During the training year, candidates maintain a portfolio of work, complete advocacy training and undertake a practice management course, and are expected to take on FRU casework. Five pupil advocacy exercises are completed and, alarmingly, an open invitation is extended to members of chambers to watch pupils tackle the fifth of these. Regular feedback is provided and progress is discussed with the Head of Pupillage. The set says it tries to send pupils to marshal former members and junior tenants have also been known to go out on secondment with solicitors, to the FCA or with Supreme Court judges.
There is also formal and informal training, including regular internal and external events. Senior practitioners have led training sessions on topics including “Animal Act Claims, Top Advocacy Tips, and breaking into Sports Law”. One former pupil tells us they had “really good supervision” while also “being allowed to express my own views”, meaning they felt “valued, supported and protected” with “chambers generally having my back”. Apparently the medical supervisors are “living legends”.
On the social side, afternoon tea is served daily, giving rookies a good opportunity to impress members with their small-talk and enthusiasm. During the pandemic, “everyone made an effort to keep in touch remotely” with zoom socials and quizzes. When in chambers, there is a “good mix of formal/client events and impromptu invitations for lunch or drinks”.
Outer Temple encourages applications from women, members of ethnic minorities and those with disabilities. Shortlisting criteria includes “intellectual ability”, “potential as an advocate”, “motivation, drive and commitment” and “professional compatibility with chambers”. It interviews around 38 candidates for first round interview and, unlike many other sets, provides feedback to those who request it. Offers of tenancy have been provided to “virtually every pupil” since 2003.