Winning the race to the top of the matrimonial finance world, this is 1 Hare you don’t want to bet against, especially in a divorce…
1 Hare Court pupillage review 2022
Senior clerk Steve McCrone “started here 30 years ago, when 1HC was a full-service family law set.” Things changed once “legal aid provision changed and most of our instructing solicitors decided not to continue with legal aid. That’s when our specialisation in the financial side of family law started.” As anyone who’s ever got married knows full well, matrimonial finance is a thorny subject, and you should leave any preconceptions of ‘simple’ family law at the door. While the set “still does children work, it’s more at the junior end, or where children issues run hand-in-hand with financial affairs,” McCrone tells us.
1 Hare Court’s website summarises the set’s scope as “acting for people from all walks of life, from international multimillionaires and celebrities, to the man and woman on the street.” It’s also got a wonderful video of a hare scampering around chambers’ surroundings, which we could watch all day. The more disciplined folks at Chambers UK Bar instead took the time to rank 1HC top in London for matrimonial finance. Recent high-profile cases include Richard Todd QC acting as lead counsel on a Supreme Court case which has become a go-to on prenuptial agreement issues; Nicholas Cusworth QC representing a wife in the successful adjournment of English proceedings in favour of an ongoing Italian Court case; and Nigel Dyer QC advising on a Chancery Division appeal to determine if a wife occupying a house pending post-divorce sale should be considered a trespasser.
“We want people to join us because they’ve got passion for family law.”
Looking to the junior end, a recently qualified tenant described “cases where divorced clients can’t buy two houses, so how will they both have a home? Interesting in a different way!” As for value, we’re looking at “a couple of hundred grand to a couple of million,” a pupil told us. Looking to the future, McCrone tells us the priority for 1HC is to “maintain chambers’ position in the market” with a focus on “organic growth.” Pupillage is a big part of that, so it’s good news that 1HC granted tenancy to both pupils in 2020. “It’s an encouraging sign for now and the future – chambers has reduced the number of pupils it takes but increased the pupillage award to compete with some of the commercial sets who offer larger packages.” McCrone concludes: “We want people to join us because they’ve got a passion for family law.”
Juniors described 1HC’s culture as “ambitious but supportive. We do hard work and appreciating the balance that’s required for everyone. Looking at chambers as a whole, including members who are married or have children, it seems you can balance those commitments.” Steve McCrone summarised the set: “If you’ve got a passion for family law – especially the financial side – and dealing with high net worth individuals, trust cases and complicated financial remedies matters, there’s nowhere better to go.”
The Pupillage Experience
Pupillage’s structure is straightforward: pupils sit with three different supervisors for four months each. The arrangement is an open marriage: “You can go and see other people. If your supervisor has a quiet week they’ll find out who else is doing something interesting.” Pupillage committee member Tom Harvey explains that in the first six, “you’re in your supervisor’s shadow, watching and learning. You can’t do your own work yet, so you learn by osmosis.” Rather than setting them prescribed tasks, “it’s up to the supervisor to decide what works best for their pupil, albeit with committee oversight.” Harvey confirms that “because of the volume of cases at chambers, pupils do almost exclusively live work. The only time you won’t is if your supervisor is on holiday and there are no cases you can assist on.”
The second six typically comes with opportunities for pupils to “run their own cases and go to court,” which was certainly true of 2019. The following year, Covid-19 scuppered those plans, but it was likely a one-off. A junior member warned that even in normal circumstances they had “some court appearances in the second six, but not many. Once I’d got my tenancy offer, my work rate started to go up.” Fledgling barristers tend to juggle financial, private children and domestic violence cases. One reflected on how their practice developed over time: “In the beginning, I was probably doing 60% children and domestic violence cases. Nowadays around 70% are financial.”
“You’ve got to be able to win the trust of your client, who for the first 10 to 15 years of your career is likely to be significantly older than you.”
During pupillage, 1HC sets three non-assessed advocacy exercises, aimed at generating feedback for pupils. Harvey explains that for the tenancy assessment itself, pupils “put together a body of work they’ve done during the year, including opinions they’ve written. Pupils gather references from their supervisors, and solicitors who’ve instructed them in the second six.” All these references “come straight to the committee, so we get an unvarnished view of the candidate.” There’s also an interview round in the form of a mock trial: “We put pupils in a courtroom situation and ask them to deal with a sample case. That lasts roughly 20 minutes; the second half is questions from the committee about the work they’ve done and anything they’ve found challenging.” Harvey confirms pupils aren’t kept in the lurch, and the committee “tries to reach a decision within a week.”
Throughout pupillage “there are soft skills that you need to demonstrate. You’ve got to be able to win the trust of your client, who for the first ten to fifteen years of your career is likely to be significantly older than you.” Harvey lays out the tightrope that members need to tiptoe: “You have to able to inspire trust and empathise to inspire confidence, but also maintain a professional distance. You’re not a counsellor or a friend.”
The Application Process
Sat outside the pupillage gateway, 1 Hare Court asks simply for a CV and cover letter. “It’s changed from a handwritten submission to a typed letter, which is useful,” a junior chuckled. Pupils preferred the non-Gateway application route as “you aren’t constrained by word count. In a cover letter you can address what you’d like to, rather than answer generic questions.” Once the applications are in, “about half of the committee does a first sift,” Tom Harvey reveals. 20 to 25 candidates progress to a first-round interview “that’s all about you as a candidate,” previously successful applicants said. The panel invites eight or so standouts to a “more rigorous” second session. “You’re given cases to read about a week beforehand and have to set out how you’d deal with those issues,” they explained.
“If you’ve never studied family law before,” you won’t be at a disadvantage during interviews. Juniors assured us the aim is to “see how applicants do with knowledge provided to them, rather than looking for advance specialism in family law.” Harvey confirms the committee isn’t looking to “trip you up,” and there’s “not one particular characteristic” the set is looking for. “If you join here, you’ll be in court two to three times a week – so you’ve got to have a desire to do advocacy.” It also helps “to be self-assured and clear about what you want from practice.” A pupil added that it helps to “have a relatively strong and personable character.”
“If you join here, you’ll be in court two to three times a week – so you’ve got to have a desire to do advocacy.”
1HC doesn’t subscribe to every hare-brained Bar tradition, but pupils noted “there is tea on Thursday afternoon and we’re sometimes lucky enough to have champagne, which goes down well.” Bubbly teas can spill into after work drinks. “My co-pupil and I go about once a fortnight,” a source laughed. Chambers also hosts drinks events with solicitors and two Christmas parties – one for juniors and solicitors, and another’s that’s just for 1HC members and staff. We heard that while “there’s a lot of formality at court, relations in chambers are fairly informal.” How you address your colleagues, one pupil said, “depends on the barrister’s age. I’m called by my first name, and most younger people are. Some very senior people prefer Mr or Mrs…” The clerks encourage pupils to “pop into their rooms and say hello, they come to chambers tea and drinks.”
Good Hare day
The pupillage committee aims to grant tenancy to all its pupils, and did so in 2021. That was welcome news for our interviewees: “My co-pupil and I aren’t in competition. We’ve been friends, rather than competitors, so we can help each other out.”
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2021
- Family: Matrimonial Finance (Band 1)