If you’re wedded to the idea of handling matrimonial finance matters, then there’s nowhere better than 1 Hare Court.
1 Hare Court pupillage review 2024
The old adage is that no one gets married with the intention of getting divorced, but life happens, people change, and things don’t always work out: in the UK, around one in three marriages end in divorce. When that happens, the task of navigating finances and/or childcare arrangements can be especially difficult. That's when family lawyers step in, and if it’s finances you’re concerned about, then the barristers at 1 Hare Court will know exactly what to do: this set puts matrimonial finance matters at the heart of its practice. “We’re pretty much the only set that doesn’t do public children law,” a junior told us. “You might do some private child law and domestic violence matters when you’re more junior,” our source continued, but the focus at the top is on sorting out a separating couple’s finances. “We’re probably the best in the field,” one pupil declared. “Everyone knows that!” Chambers UK Barcertainly thinks highly of 1 Hare Court’s capabilities in this area and awards the set a top accolade for matrimonial finance.
What this means in practice is some high-value and high-profile divorces: Nicholas Cusworth KC recently secured the highest ever divorce payout allocated in an English court on behalf of Princess Haya bint Al-Hussain, the former wife of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. The settlement figure was over £500 million and partly comprised a lump sum of £264 million for Princess Haya, plus a lifetime provision for their children’s security, which came in at £11.2 million per year. On top of the cases that appear in the press, the set also handles a lot of discrete work for its clients. “We’re very lucky,” says head clerk Steve McCrone, “as we still get instructed by the top firms at the top levels.” McCrone is also quick to point out that “we act for people from all walks of life: royal families, billionaires, and the man on the street – everyone is given the same level of service.”
“The financial matrimonial cases are so interesting, and the vast majority of the top ones are handled by us.”
For our interviewees, 1 Hare Court’s more specialist remit was the drawcard. “The financial matrimonial cases are so interesting, and the vast majority of the top ones are handled by us,” enthused one junior. “Given that my focus as a student was on financial remedies and some children work, 1 Hare Court was always my first choice.” With all those figures and lump sums flying around, we wondered how much of a maths whizz you may need to be. “Being good at mental maths helps!” quipped our source. “Some basic Excel skills are helpful, as is understanding percentages and being able to add up quickly!” Another interviewee explained that while you might need to “suddenly calculate interest, you don’t need a maths A level. The financial element comes in when you’re analysing disclosure and going through bank statements to see if anything doesn’t look right. You might identify things that are missing or instances where an expert is needed to provide evidence.’”
With the introduction of no-fault divorces as a result of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (which came into effect on April 6, 2022), we wondered if there would be any impact on the work conducted at 1 Hare Court? McCrone tells us that the number of cases worked on by the set continues to “go up phenomenally year on year – it is supposedly easier to get a divorce now, but it’s still too soon to tell how it will affect the market.”
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils sit with three supervisors for four months each and primarily work for them. “It’s all live work,” a pupil told us, “so you’re working on the cases that your supervisors are currently doing. My first supervisor would get me to do parallel work alongside them, so I'd help them by doing research on discrete matters, for example.” Compiling a schedule of assets held by the parties in a divorce is another common task for pupils. Phillip Blatchly, a member of the set’s pupillage committee, describes the first six as “very hands on. All three supervisors are ranked as leading juniors, so pupils will be shadowing them and getting to understand the job quite quickly.” Blatchly adds that “there’s lots of reading to start with, as pupils get to know the facts and understand the considerations surrounding areas such as property, tax, insolvency, and inheritance. We’re busy, so it’s all live work, but no one will be asked to draft a skeleton argument on their first day!”
“The most important thing is that the quality of the work is unparalleled.”
In the second six, “it’s quite an adjustment, as you start taking on your own work,” a pupil told us. “You don’t do as many of your own cases as you might at some other sets, but I would have found it overwhelming to do three cases a week! Here it’s more like you have a hearing and then two weeks before the next one comes up.” This junior agreed: “They don’t overload pupils in the second six, as the priority is learning. There are infrequent court appearances, then you get the tenancy decision in July and after that your own cases start to pick up.” Our pupil source was surprised by the value of the matters they were working on: “One had around £900,000 involved because of a big pension, while another involved over a million. I was expecting to start on cases worth around £20,000!” However, a junior highlighted that incoming pupils shouldn’t “expect to representing billionaires straight away! There is no typical client here. Sometimes it’s normal working people who are in a difficult situation and using their life savings to see their children, while on bigger cases you’re working for middle class professionals. The most important thing is that the quality of the work is unparalleled.”
The route to gaining tenancy involves completing three exercises. “The first two are kind of practice ones and give you a chance to develop your advocacy skills,” a pupil informed us. “You get mock court experience,” a junior added, “and they’re not looking to mark you down or penalise you – they're looking to see growth.” The final assessment involves a mock court hearing; pupils get a full brief and bundle and are expected to treat it as if it was a real instruction. The matter is then heard by the chair of the committee, who is a deputy High Court judge. An interview with the tenancy committee follows: “They ask you similar questions to those used when you apply for pupillage, but I used it as an opportunity to show what I had learnt and that I was ready to make that next step,” a junior recalled. Blatchly explains that “we then make a recommendation to chambers, based on the assessments, supervisors’ references, and discussions with other member of chambers and solicitors.”
“Not only do you have your own cases, but you have all the knowledge at the set available to you.”
For those who may fear that the high financial stakes of divorces could mean long stints in the office, “the hours have been excellent!” exclaimed a pupil. “It has been incredible – 9am to 5.30pm. I can count on one hand the number of times I needed to work late, and if I was working late, they’d ask why.” Of course, the moment you start taking on your own cases the hours do “change hugely depending on what you’ve got on – you can expect weekend work, but every barrister will tell you that! The flip side is that you can take time off when you have it and leave at 5pm if you can,” a junior confirmed. We heard that no one at the set minds the hours, as “everyone is very passionate about the job – no one is half-arsed about it!” This source told us that they’d “never asked for help and been told no. Not only do you have your own cases, but you have all the knowledge at the set available to you. People will say, ‘You must come to us for help!’” The level of support was very much appreciated, as the nature of cases “can be hard sometimes.”
The Application Process
If you’re haring to go, 1HC is a set that recruits outside of the Pupillage Gateway via a standardised application form.These applications are then reviewed on a blind basis. “We remove names, gender, and university information etc... We do this with a view to create equal opportunities,” says Blatchly. We're told that the application form includes set questions that focus on the prospective pupil’s motivation behind coming to the family bar and 1HC, specifically. Your answers should give those reviewing the application clear insight into both your interest in and suitability for a pupillage at 1HC. An initial sift brings the numbers down to around 20 candidates, who are invited in for an interview. “That first round is a get-to-know-you interview and lasts around 15 to 20 minutes,” says Blatchly. Sometimes an exercise is also thrown into the mix, and tends to revolve around a non-legal advocacy scenario where the candidate is required to be persuasive on a certain point.
“You have to be able to engage with people at some of the most vulnerable points in their lives.”
The candidate pool is reduced by half at this point, and the ones who have impressed are called in for a final interview. “They receive a problem question about a week before the interview,” Blatchly tells us. “The problem covers several different situations, which we focus on. We want to know what candidates have found interesting and how their view might differ if we make subtle changes to the facts. Ultimately, it’s an advocacy assessment, and as a panel we score individually and compare. We'll then make two offers and keep two other candidates as reserves.” A junior told us that “the second interview was in front of a large panel of around seven people. It was more focused on the law, and afterwards there’s a drinks get-together where you get introduced to members of chambers more informally.”
Head clerk Steve McCrone tells us that “we’re looking for people who’ve got an awareness of what’s going on in the world. Personality-wise, we’re looking for people who are confident. As a clerk, I want people I can sell (not like second-hard cars!) but they must have something about them.” For those concerned about cookie-cutter approaches in recruitment, McCrone assures us that “the pupils coming in are completely different, but they have the attributes that convinced the pupillage committee they were good enough to get over the line. When they’re in court, I want people thinking, ‘I don’t want to be against them!’” Blatchly agrees that candidates need to have something that makes them stand out: “If you take academic ability and a good explanation of why family law as a given, then it’s about the person. No one wants a robotic presentation, especially in family law. You have to be able to engage with people at some of the most vulnerable points in their lives.”
Family connections: McCrone tells us that firms often approach 1 Hare Court with requests to take on incoming pupils as paralegals before they start their pupillage.
1 Hare Court
1 Hare Court,
We expect that applicants will have a strong academic record. 1 Hare Court has a long-standing tradition of contributing to legal works. Rayden on Divorce, the principal practitioners’ textbook, was renamed Rayden & Jackson as a tribute to the former head of chambers Joseph Jackson QC, who edited the work for many years. Members of chambers continue to edit Rayden & Jackson, as well as many other leading books, and we regularly contribute articles to the specialist press. Candidates who demonstrate the potential to carry on this strong intellectual tradition will impress.
A pupillage at 1 Hare Court offers training in advocacy, advice and drafting in every aspect of family work, particularly matrimonial finance. Our strong reputation and the quality of training available means that those pupils who are not taken on stand a good prospect of finding a professional opportunity elsewhere, frequently in other specialist chambers or firms.
Who should apply: Candidates should be able to show that they have a flair for advocacy, presentational and analytical skills and the ability to develop sound judgment, as well as having a strong academic record. Given the emphasis on financial work, some aptitude and interest in commercial/ financial matters is desirable. However, chambers’ work remains rooted in human problems and a sympathetic but perceptive response to those problems is essential.
When and how to apply: We recruit pupils once a year. Applications for pupillages commencing in October 2022 open and close in accordance with the Pupillage Gateway timetable. Applications should be sent with a full CV and typed covering letter (marked pupillage application) to the chambers’ administrator. References may be helpful. Those invited for an interview are likely to be interviewed on a Saturday in April 2021. Chambers is not a member of Pupillage Gateway but keeps to the timetable for the communication and acceptance of offers. For more information see the chambers’ website.
Applications for mini-pupillages are usually assessed twice per year. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we will not be accepting applications for mini-pupillages until January 2021. For mini-pupillages between February and July 2021, applications should be submitted between 1-31 January 2021. For mini pupillages between October 2021 and January 2022, applications should be submitted between 1-31 July 2021. Please note that ordinarily applications will not be considered outside these application periods.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Family: Matrimonial Finance (Band 1)