4 New Square's core professional negligence and insurance practices are complemented by areas like international arbitration, sports and public law.
Who you gonna call?
Whether you're a lawyer or bean counter staring down the barrel of a professional negligence claim, or a big bank or disgraced footballer suing your professional advisers, 4 New Square has got you covered. “We used to be a set that was just focused on professional negligence and insurance work,” senior clerk Lizzy Stewart notes, “but we've broadened out and are now a much wider commercial set." Professional negligence still forms a large part of 4 New Square's foundation (around 35% of the practice), while international arbitration, insurance and construction account for 10% each; costs litigation, public international law, regulatory work and sports law account for the remainder. In addition, says Stewart, "the main change in our work recently is how international it is. We're doing work in the Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Caribbean now.”
The set scoops up several Chambers UK rankings, including top-tier recognition for costs and professional negligence, as well as rankings for insurance and related practices like property damage and product liability as well as sports, construction and general commercial litigation.
Tenants dealing with professional negligence matters act for both claimants and defendants, tending to focus on professions like accountancy, finance, law and insurance rather than medical malpractice. A recent highlight saw Graeme McPherson QC called on by Barclays to recover an eight-figure sum from City law firm Dentons after it lost money funding the purchase of aircraft by various offshore entities. Meanwhile Ben Elkington QC acted for a firm of insurance brokers who were sued for alleged negligence in arranging insurance for a hotel, which then burnt down. And Ben Patten QC represented footballer Ched Evans when he sued his former solicitors Brabners for unsuccessfully defending him when he was prosecuted for rape.
On the insurance side, Jamie Smith QC defended RSA Insurance against a $280 million-plus fraud claim brought against one of its policyholders, while Clare Dixon appeared in the Supreme Court on behalf of AIG Europe in relation to a professional indemnity policy matter. Sports is another area where 4 New Square is one of the leading sets. “We're increasingly doing more sports law, both for sporting bodies and high-profile individuals," a chipper pupil piped up. A dozen members currently do at least some work in this area. Daniel Saoul QC was recently instructed by the British Equestrian Federation in its successful appeal against the International Federation for Equestrian Sports' attempt to prevent a British Paralympic athlete from competing. And finally, Matthieu Gregoire was instructed by Linklaters as junior counsel when the firm was representing a holding company in an arbitration related to the takeover of an Eastern European bank, which led to a €150 million award against the Polish government. Other instructing firms include DLA Piper, Ashurst, Clyde & Co and Pinsent Masons.
Pupils sit with three supervisors during their pupillage – the first two for three months each, and the third for the remaining six months. “I work predominantly for my supervisor," one pupil reported. "I don't get farmed out to other people regularly.” There is some work for other members, but “each supervisor is a guardian who always makes sure the work you're doing is helpful for your training. I did a huge variety of work which was carefully chosen to ensure I wasn't going through bundles for days on end.” This can include 'dead' work during the first six, and we heard “this is actually the most interesting work because of all the different issues that come up... one day I'll be working on a hefty professional negligence case and the next a big arbitration matter.” And what are the hours like? “There's strong pressure from supervisors to work really hard 9am to 6pm, and then go home,” shared one pupil.
“In your second six, your written work has improved to such a standard that your supervisor is able to incorporate it into their own live work,” one insider declared. Pupils also notice hearings appearing in their diaries, as they get up on their feet for the first time. “The clerks try to get us in court at least once a week. So far, I've been to court for applications to set aside default judgments regarding road traffic accidents,” one source reported. This is a typical second-six case, “because it's low-value and the law isn't hugely complicated. But it does mean I get to do a cross-examination by myself in the County Court. It's perfect for cutting your teeth because in principle it's no different to other commercial issues you have to deal with as a barrister.” Before second-sixers get their day in court, however, they have the chance to sit down with a deputy district judge (and ex-member of chambers), “which really helped me to prepare by seeing things from the other side of the bench.”
“The clerks try to get us in court at least once a week."
On top of this, second-sixers are set a number of panel pieces to complete: four written assessments – pleadings or advices – and three moots, all of which are seen and marked by members other than your supervisor. For each piece of work, “you have 24 hours to turn it around. For the moot, it's 24 hours to submit the skeleton argument.” These assessments typically happen between January and May, with moots organised in front of a judge who is a former member of chambers. Each assessment is marked and pupils have a feedback session to discuss areas for improvement.
Interviewees noted the “transparency” that characterises pupil assessment, “so it shouldn't come as a horrible surprise whether or not you're offered tenancy at the end.” The tenancy decision goes a bit like this: “Each supervisor compiles a report of your performance throughout pupillage, which combined with the written assessments and moots you’ve done will be judged by the pupillage committee. Supervisors carry the dominant weight with their reports.” The tenancy decision is then communicated in June or early July. In 2019, 4NS took on both of its pupils as tenants.
4NS will be recruiting within the Gateway for 2021. Successful applicants are invited for a first-round 15-minute “quick fire” interview with Lizzy Stewart and one member. One pupil advised: “I was really frank in my interview about what my reasons were for wanting to join. I didn't sex it up, and I think they were really receptive of that.” Those who pass this initial meeting are invited for a second (and final) interview, which includes a series of panel discussions and written exercises.
As well as this, pupils “are told to prepare in advance a five-minute presentation on a topic of your choice." This can literally be anything. "I was at a complete loss over what to talk about!” one interviewee admitted. Previous successful applicants have discussed how to make the perfect steak, taking a train journey to Scotland and calypso music. “Don't go overboard though,” one insider warned. “Use it as an opportunity to get your personality across – make them remember you for the right reasons!” Head of recruitment Miles Harris advises: “The good candidates use it as an opportunity to say something fresh, interesting and memorable, and to demonstrate they are good advocates and can say something in a structured way and entertain you.”
"We’re very keen to attract a wider audience of people to join us."
At the time of our research, all juniors at the set under five years' call had been to Oxford or Cambridge at some point in their academic career. So naturally we asked if this is a prerequisite. One pupil candidly reflected: “The answer is no, but I appreciate that our stats don't match that answer.” Another opined: “You're not at any disadvantage if you haven't. I hope some of us can be used as an example of when you don't need to follow that well-trodden path...” Lizzy Stewart adds: “We’re very keen to attract a wider audience of people to join us, and we don’t have any preferences over whether you did law or non-law either.”
One junior tenant said they'd picked this set because of “a slight aversion to working at an old-fashioned set." 4NS has always struck us as a modern and businesslike place: for instance, it organises a lot of marketing and networking events. "The pupils probably say far too many!" jokes Lizzy Stewart. Newbies looking to hang up their wigs and gowns for a more sociable affair will be pleased to hear this: “We'll occasionally have a drink after work – the Seven Stars pub is literally next door. And there are also regular chambers drinks.”
4 New Square recruited three pupils for 2019/20 rather than the usual two.
4 New Square
4 New Square,
- No of silks 27
- No of juniors 54
- No of pupils 3
- Contact Ella Igbiaye, 020 7822 2000, [email protected]
- Method of application Online at www.pupillagegateway.com
Type of work undertaken
In considering prospective candidates for pupillage or mini-pupillage, we concentrate on four criteria:
• 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: 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 other members of Chambers.
Applications must be made on Chambers’ own mini-pupillage application form, from our website.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2019
- Costs Litigation (Band 1)
- Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 2)
- Product Liability (Band 3)
- Professional Discipline (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
- Property Damage (Band 2)
- Sport (Band 2)