Get down to business at 4 New Square, a modern, friendly chambers with a focus on all things insurance.
Since the 1990s this common law set has been honing its specialist skills in a number of areas. Professional negligence makes up about 30% of 4 New Square's work, while international arbitration, construction, commercial disputes and insurance all account for 10% each; the remainder is a cocktail of areas including costs, public law, fraud, offshore, product liability and sports law. The set picks up Chambers UK rankings for all its main areas of practice including professional negligence, professional discipline, insurance, construction and product liability.
The allegedly negligent professionals this set helps sue and represents, tend to be those operating in the financial and commercial sectors, rather than those of the medical variety. One of the juicier claims handled recently had junior Thomas Ogden representing football manager Rafael Benitez in a claim against his tax advisers who had counselled him to invest in a controversial 'film finance' tax avoidance scheme that turned out to be illegal. In addition, 4NS's Pippa Manby recently defended law firm Watson Farley & Williams against a claim for lost profits arising out of a client's investment in Greek solar farms.
On the professional discipline front, Simon Monty QC acted for controversial Italian law firm Giambrone in disciplinary action brought by the SRA, while Patrick Lawrence QC was recently lead counsel in disciplinary proceedings against Ernst & Young arising out of the collapse of the Farepak savings scheme. On the sports side, junior Daniel Saoul recently helped former darts world champion Richie Burnett get his ban reduced after he tested positive for cocaine, and Graeme McPherson QC represented the Qatari royal family in an appeal against a decision to demote their racehorse, preventing it from winning the St Leger Stakes (the world's oldest classic flat race).
“The clerks aim to get you in court at least once every two weeks and ideally once a week.”
Pupils sit with two supervisors for three months each during their first six, then with a third supervisor throughout their second six. In their first two seats pupils mainly work on cases which have previously been completed by their supervisor with some “choice pieces of live work” thrown in. Pupillage is “structured to mirror the set's core areas,” so expect a “professional negligence and insurance-heavy” 12 months. Pupils get most of their work from their supervisors, but take on other assignments too with supervisors acting as gatekeepers. “They do a really good job of making sure that you don't get inundated with requests from everyone,” opined one source.
A pupil at 4 New Square can expect to be on their feet in court from the first week of the second six. Our sources praised the efforts of the clerks to make sure pupils get plenty of experience on their own cases. “Most professional negligence claims are too high-value to put a pupil in charge of,” an interviewee informed us, “so the clerks have links with law firms that specialise in personal injury and road traffic claims in order to be able to give us experience on those kinds of cases.” This, we're informed, allows pupils to have a go at “arguing from facts and cross-examining” on cases which “aren't too legally complicated.” Assuming there's time, “the clerks aim to get you in court at least once every two weeks and ideally once a week.”
All pieces of work receive a grade between A (the expected standard) and B minus, as well as feedback “so that if you get below an A you know what you're doing wrong.” Also graded are three pieces of panel work and three moots. Pupils are given 24 hours in which to complete the panel work. When we suggested that this tight deadline sounded rather stressful, our sources demurred. “There are only six assessments,” one reflected, “and it's much less stressful than having an assignment that drags out over a long period of time.”
When it comes to the tenancy decision, our sources told us that “transparency” and “objective standards” are 4 New Square's watchwords, and pupillage committee head Neil Hext QC agrees: “We want to avoid a situation where people toddle through pupillage thinking they're doing fine, only to be told by the tenancy committee at the end that they haven't made the cut.” Chambers makes the tenancy decision en masse following a recommendation by the recruitment committee. In 2017 4NS took on both its pupils as tenants.
Not so square
At 4 New Square, the early bird gets the pupillage. The application window opens in December, the deadline to apply is 3 January in 2018 and interviews take place in January. First-round interviews are a short, 20-minute competency-based chat. Those who impress at this stage are invited back for round two, during which candidates are given a topic to prepare an hour beforehand to debate with the interview panel. There's also a five-minute presentation on a topic of the candidate's choice – we hear in recent years one candidate presented on how to make the perfect spaghetti carbonara. Interview candidates must also complete a formal written assessment as part of the second round.
“Fairly diverse for a commercial set.”
Lizzie Stewart is one of the most commercially minded senior clerks we've encountered during our annual visits to the Bar. And 4NS pupils are expected to have the same outlook. Stewart tells us that pupils should “not only be excellent at what they do, but also be business-minded in the way they run their practices.” A head for business is something that runs through the set like a common thread. “We see ourselves as service providers,” says Stewart. “We're a business and we're competing in an industry.” Sources told us that, perhaps as a result of this attitude, the set is “a bit more modern” than some others at the Bar, while also still being a friendly place where pupils are “involved in all chambers events from day one.”
While 4 New Square's barristers need to put in the hours "and stay until the work is done," pupils are not expected to work outside 9am to 6.30pm.
4 New Square
4 New Square,
- No of silks 22
- No of juniors 56
- No of pupils 2
- Contact Ella Igbiaye, 020 7822 2000, email@example.com
- Method of application online www.4newsquare.com (from December each year)
Type of work undertaken
• Evidence of the requisite intellectual ability, as distinct from pure legal knowledge. At this stage intellectual ability is usually measured by performance in university and school examinations and at interview and other experience. We may also require applicants to complete a piece of written work during the course of the selection process.
• Potential as an advocate both in oral and written advocacy.
• Personal qualities such as self-reliance, independence, integrity, reliability and the capacity to work effectively with clients, colleagues and Chambers’ staff.
• Motivation to succeed in a career at the Bar, including the steps taken to acquire the personal qualities required of a barrister.
The second six months: During your second six months, as well as continuing with work for your pupil supervisor, you will take on an increasing amount of your own court work. Chambers places a strong emphasis on advocacy and supports its pupils in gaining valuable practical experience. You can expect to be in court on your own about once a week up to the tenancy decision and potentially on a more regular basis thereafter. You will be expected to complete three assessed pieces of work for members of Chambers who are not your pupil supervisors. Mini-pupillage Mini-pupillages generally last for two days and, save in exceptional circumstances, take place in specific weeks in April, July, November and December of each year. We aim to take 10 mini-pupils per week.
Mini-pupillages are not a pre-requisite for a pupillage application. However, we encourage applicants to do a mini-pupillage in Chambers. We believe they provide a fantastic opportunity to get an understanding of the work we do here and, perhaps even more importantly, an opportunity to meet members of Chambers and get a feel for the working environment.
Applications must be made on Chambers’ own mini-pupillage application form, which is available to download from our website.