Welcome to Quadrant Chambers, a set that derives its name from an ancient navigational tool and its premises, which consists of four older buildings knocked into one.
The Quad squad
Quadrant Chambers is very good at what it does. It's top-ranked by Chambers UK for shipping, aviation and travel regulatory work and rates as one of the top two sets in London in all three of these fields. Other areas of strength include general commercial and insurance work and members also work on energy, international arbitration and finance matters.
Senior clerk Simon Slatterly says that around 50% of Quadrant's work is shipping, though we note that the set also reports to Chambers UK that nearly all its members have a shipping practice. In 2016 head of chambers Luke Parsons QC was involved in Shagang Shipping v HNA Airlines related to accusations of bribery to secure a $120 million charter party contract; the case arose as a consequence of the reduced value of ships after the financial crisis and involved allegations of torture on the part of the Chinese police. More recently, three Quadrant silks acted for the three parties in a Supreme Court case which arose after the 'Ocean Victory' ran aground in a Japanese harbour because of high waves, losing all its cargo.
“I knew nothing about shipping or international trade before I started.”
Now, if you're starting to think that to work at Quadrant you have to have been obsessed with shipping since you first played with toy boats in the bath, you'd be wrong. “I knew nothing about shipping or international trade before I started,” a pupil told us. “That's quite common among everyone here. It would be unusual for someone to start pupillage here who had a background in shipping or shipping law.” Head of pupillage Rob Thomas QC says that a key quality the set looks for in pupillage is “commercial understanding and pragmatism that will allow them to thrive on top-level commercial work.”
As you can tell from that last quote, Quadrant profiles itself strongly as a commercial set, rather than a shipping one, and does a significant amount of chiefly commercial work. For example, one silk was instructed by a magic circle firm to act for a hedge fund in a €100 million dispute with various Irish investors over alleged fraud.
“I felt the pressure really start to ramp up in the second seat."
There are other types of cases too. “One area where we've seen a real upturn recently is oil and gas-related work both domestically and internationally,” says Simon Slattery. “A large number of termination of contract issues have arisen from the recent drop in oil prices and quite a few of the resultant disputes are still in their infancy, which potentially means some major cases on the horizon.” A lot of the set's recent energy instructions have been confidential arbitrations but we can tell you that one silk recently acted for Transocean Drilling, owners of drilling rig 'Arctic III', in a dispute over the failure of a valve used to seal oil wells.
Aviation cases are another significant area of work, with a baby junior telling us they often take on Regulation 261 cases related to flight delays and cancellations. One larger case saw a QC appear in the Commercial Court in a multimillion-pound dispute between British Airways and Air France over payments made by the latter for passengers being put on BA flights during a strike by the French airline's pilots.
Pupils get to see a range of work, usually by sitting with members who themselves have a varied practice. For instance, a baby junior had sat with two supervisors who had a mixed commercial/shipping practice and one with an aviation practice. “In my first seat I did a mixture of some 'dead' work on cases my supervisor had previously worked on and current work,” a pupil told us. “I started out drafting pleadings and opinions – which was a big step up from Bar School – and then moved on to writing skeleton arguments. I wrote research notes too.”
The seat/supervisor system has been a little up in the air in recent years, but generally pupils switch supervisors every three months. A baby junior told us how pupillage develops: “I felt the pressure really start to ramp up in the second seat. I drafted pleadings and advices which were then red-lined by my supervisor and reworked before being used on his cases.”
Pupils follow their supervisors to court too, but how much this happens varies – one interviewee told us they had been to court “quite a lot,” while another said there was “not much shadowing.” Pupils do not spend any time on their feet in the second six. This doesn't mean life is dull though. “I was involved in a two-week arbitration,” a pupil reported. “It was a huge 50-bundle dispute.”
Assessment is continuous. “You are graded at the end of each seat and told whether you are meeting the standard and what areas you need to improve on.” There are also three written advocacy exercises throughout the year and three oral ones. The latter are “normally an application for summary judgment or a jurisdictional application, so you are not fighting against your co-pupil,” a baby junior told us. “I really enjoyed them!”
Supervisors fill out a report on each pupil, as do other members who you work for after Christmas (maybe four or five in total). All the reports and exercises are taken into account when the tenancy decision is made, although “the views of the pupil supervisors carry most weight.” In 2016, two of the three pupils were not granted tenancy, while the decision on the third was deferred for three months.
The Stig QC
Quadrant has recently overhauled its recruitment process (and be aware that the exact structure may change again in the near future). As the Pupillage Gateway deadline has been brought forward, the set now recruits through the Gateway, having previously been outside. It's also added a new first interview round to which 80 applicants were invited in 2016; this “very informal” interview lasts just ten minutes and is with a silk and a junior. “You're given a topic to discuss – in 2016 it was the proposed 'sugar tax',” Saira Paruk of the pupillage committee told us. The second round consists not of an interview but of a 'test set' – a written test given to 40 of those interviewed and which in 2016 was on the topic of contractual construction.
"They want to see the style in which you think.”
In 2017 around 20 candidates were invited to the 45 to 60-minute final interview, where they are quizzed on the test set and placed on “shifting sands,” which is to say “the interviewers start from the initial premise of the test set and then change certain facts to see if you can adjust your arguments. They want to see the style in which you think.” Also expect to be asked ethical questions and some chatty questions about your CV in order to get you to “show your personality.” A baby junior told us that they had talked about their time “running the boxing club at Durham University.” Speaking of which, of the ten most junior members at Quadrant at the time of our research, four did their undergrad degrees at Cambridge, three at KCL, and one each at Oxford, Durham and the University of Westminster.
Quadrant is a pretty sociable set of chambers. “Members like going out for drinks after work – emails often go round asking who wants to come along to Daly's Wine Bar or the Temple Brew House.” There's also a Christmas party held in the stucco-ceilinged library – members were serenaded by a specially hired choir during the 2016 festivities. Day to day, a pupil told us, “everyone is encouraged to leave their doors open,” and a baby junior said they “often go to see eminent silks to ask questions about work.” Making friends with the silks may have other benefits too. We hear that head of pupillage Rob Thomas is a keen amateur track racer and has been known to offer other members the chance to race one of the many sports cars in his collection.
Quadrant interviews nearly half of its applicants and rigorously blind-marks initial applications by removing names, university background, age, ethnicity and gender from the form.
10 Fleet Street,
- No of silks 22
- No of juniors 41
- Contact Pupillage secretary
- Email [email protected]
- Method of application Chambers’ application form
- Pupillages (p.a.)
- First six months 3
- Second six months 3
- Required degree 1st or high 2:1
- First six months £32,500
- Second six months £32,500
- Earnings not included
- Current tenants who served pupillage in chambers 34
- Junior tenancies offered in last three years 5
- No of tenants of five years call or under 5
Type of work undertaken