Civil and commercial set Outer Temple Chambers takes on work across a wide variety of practice areas. Whether it be personal injury or pensions, commercial litigation or clinical negligence, tenants will have the expertise to get the job done. Made up of 89 barristers, including 26 KCs, the set is not only a big name domestically but also has a strong international reputation. With premises in Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well as London, tenants often take on work with an international element. Any aspiring barristers who wish to practice at a civil common-law chambers should strongly consider making an application to Outer Temple.
Whilst chambers has a wide range of expertise, the two areas in which it is most renowned are in the medical and business fields. As one junior puts it, they receive “top class work”. The set is highly experienced in clinical negligence and catastrophic personal injury cases, and takes on complex medical issues such as spinal and brain injuries. As one tenant tell us, this work involves “a great mix of law, interesting expert witnesses, and real human client contact”. Outer Temple members also frequently appear before the Court of Protection, especially in relation to health and welfare matters.
On the business side, chambers has developed a strong reputation for pensions work — the biggest area of expertise within its business practice — and is also known for its work in financial services and banking. Its employment barristers also tend to do very well — the set’s employment guru Daniel Barnett even has his own legal LBC radio show! Tenants have expertise in disciplinary and regulatory hearings as well as corporate manslaughter and health and safety work. “Every week I am in court or tribunal, dealing with serious allegations of discrimination against employers or cases which involve serious injury or even death,” one junior explains. “The stake could not be higher for our clients and the work is never dull.”
In addition to the above areas of practice, Outer takes on plenty of work with an international element. One tenant reveals they have “an international practice with trials in international tribunals in Washington DC, New York, Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Geneva and Vienna. And that’s just in the last few years.” Whether it be a case about personal injury that happens abroad or an arbitration concerning international corporates, Outer members will likely have worked on something similar before. All in all, there is certainly plenty on offer for any budding civil or commercial barristers!
“The calibre of the work at Outer Temple Chambers is very high. Members are routinely instructed in high-profile and high-value work,” one insider tells us, while another explains: “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”.
Over the past year, there have been many exciting cases worked on by tenants at the set. Alex Haines and Courtney Step-Marsden secured a win in the first ever hearing before the Islamic Development Bank Group’s newly established Administrative Tribunal; Paul Livingston and Joshua Cainer were appointed as junior counsel to the legal team for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry; Michael Bowes KC led the successful prosecution of the chairman of the Harlequin Group who defrauded investors of £226 million in relation to overseas property investments; and Alex Haines was instructed to provide expert advice on the sale of Chelsea Football Club. These are just a few examples of the complex and varied cases tackled by tenants.
Of course, it’s not always high-profile cases involving multinationals. During the second six and as a baby junior, it is very common to earn your stripes working on cases such as road traffic accidents or low value contractual disputes – not always the most exciting work. The fact that the second six of pupillage is practising does, however, put you at an advantage over those who don’t get on their feet until they are into tenancy! There are often also opportunities to be led on bigger cases, meaning you can learn from senior juniors and KC even beyond pupillage.
Being at a set with so much high-quality work means that barristers sometimes find it tricky to turn work down. As one junior confides: “given the level that Outer Temple operates at, and the client base it keeps, it is never going to be possible to achieve the perfect work/life balance but the clerks certainly try and respect holidays etc.”
The clerks are praised by many of the insiders that we spoke to. “They understand that we are real people with real lives,” one insider tells us. Another member goes so far as to say that the support around achieving work-life balance is “probably the best thing about chambers — the constitution specifies that members can basically choose how much work they want to do”. This has meant one barrister was able to take three days off to go sailing one week and to finish early every Tuesday to play rugby. Of course, it will never be perfect as a barrister, as this tenant explains: “the problem with the bar is you can have more balance but you inevitably earn less”. Ultimately though, where you strike that balance seems to be a personal choice at Outer Temple.
The supportive culture at the set extends beyond the clerks. There is an “open door policy” and “real collegiate feel,” one junior tells us. “We are lucky to have such helpful, supportive colleagues, who are happy to chat through questions, big and small”. A lateral recruit from another chambers says they chose Outer “precisely because of its more supportive ethos” and another newbie to the set spoke similarly regarding their colleagues. “[They’re] amazing – my old chambers were just awful in comparison,” they told us. Another insider, who recently had a personal bereavement, confided that their colleagues supported them through the difficult time and continue to do so. Even with remote and hybrid working, colleagues make an effort to keep in touch and continue to provide a supportive network. The “strong sense of team” continues virtually through WhatsApp groups where tenants “pick each others’ brains and share updates”.
Of course, it’s not all work. There is also a strong social side to chambers. A tenant explains that “afternoon tea every Wednesday is a real highlight of the week. It is also commonplace for members to have lunch together in Hall and to descend on Daly’s [a nearby wine bar] on a Friday for a beer or two”. We are also told that there are regular marketing events for clients, which are great for networking. “More importantly, we also have many less formal occasions for us to let our hair down”, one junior tells us. There is one grumble, however, that the set “needs to do more dinners/drinks etc. for members only (as opposed to marketing)” adding that “Covid hasn’t helped”.
In terms of premises, Outer is the only chambers which overlooks the Royal Courts of Justice, bridging the Strand and Temple. We’re told the Mission Impossible movies and Mary Poppins remake had scenes right next to Outer Temple’s building — a good claim to fame! The building is described as “beautiful”, with client areas, including nine conference rooms, being “very smart” and “client friendly”. One junior tells us that there is a huge model of a giraffe in the entrance area which they personally find “a bit weird” — we think it sounds pretty fun! Tenant rooms are said to vary, “but all are of at least a good standard in terms of space and facilities”. Apparently some refurb work is pending. In terms of IT provision, IT manager Hugh Willoughby is praised as being “endlessly patient and helpful”. We are told that Outer has just moved to a new IT provider, which has meant that the provision has “really stepped up its game” and is “hugely better than before”. One tenant does complain, however, that the WiFi can be a bit “dodgy”.
Those interested in applying for pupillage at Outer should make their application through the Pupillage Gateway. Applications will be assessed against the following criteria: intellectual ability, potential as an advocate, motivation/drive/commitment, and professional compatibility with Outer Temple. The approximately 35-45 highest-scoring candidates will be invited to a first-round interview which will take place in front of a panel of three barristers. The interview will consist of an exercise as well as some legal questions. Around eight candidates will then be invited to a more extensive final round interview, before which they will complete a written exercise. The final round interview will take place in front of a panel of five barristers and will discuss the exercise as well as general competency-based questions. Pupillages offered come with a generous award of £80,000.
Outer encourages applications from women, members of ethnic minority groups, and those with disabilities. The set is involved with several diversity and inclusion initiatives including Bridging the Bar, Inner Temple’s Pegasus Access and Support Scheme, and the Bar Council’s Race Working Group.
Those who are successful in their quest for pupillage at Outer can expect to receive four different pupil supervisors over the course of the year, each specialising in one of the four core areas of practice: clinical negligence, personal injury, employment, and then either commercial, public, or crime/regulatory work. During the first six, pupils will complete legal research for their supervisors and other members, attend conferences and court, and assist supervisors in preparation of their cases. Moving into the second six, pupils can accept instructions and will appear in their own cases. Throughout the pupillage, 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.
Training at Outer Temple comes highly-rated by current and past pupils. One tells us: “throughout pupillage I was supported to achieve my full potential as an advocate. Since then, Chambers has continued to arrange training for all members of Chambers in different practice areas to give us the opportunity to branch out”. Others comment that there are some great supervisors within chambers – Elliot Woolf KC is described as “a living legend” – and the mentorship programme for junior tenants is also commended. There are some areas where pupils feel a little “thrown in the deep end” (particularly with pensions) but overall the training is said to perfectly set up pupils for tenancy.