Headline-hitting employment and personal injury cases keep pupils happy at a set standing up for the little guy.
The word ‘law’ invokes notions of justice and rightness, of truth and accuracy, or simply of a fair and equitable society for anyone who happens to be listening – hopefully anyway. Perhaps that’s just the case for the Atticus Finches among us. But according to some members of Cloisters Chambers, their day-to-day is indeed determined by such notions: “Its ethos is very much about using law to amount in positive and effective social change,” noted one source, with another finding that “Cloisters has always strived to be a force for good, to coin a horrible cliché.” As one example, a minimum of five days’ pro bono work is required from all tenants at Cloisters: “No one I know has done less than that,” sources said.
“Its ethos is very much about using law to amount in positive and effective social change.”
With over 30 years at Cloisters under his belt, head clerk Glenn Hudson says: “It’s ultimately a relationship-driven business, and my goal is to make it like an extended family where we all look out for each other.” As lovely as that is, there’s more to Cloisters than a supportive atmosphere. Namely, the “stellar” and “premier league” quality of work they do. Its employment practice has a top-notch ranking from Chambers UK Bar, and the set also gets strong commendations for personal injury. Several members are also highly ranked in clinical negligence.
Hudson tells us that employment work makes up about 60% of chambers’ workload, with the rest split between clinical negligence, personal injury, sports, “and a little bit of human rights.” Our sources were appreciative of the “enormous range” of work on offer and the names that come with it – whether that means opposing some of “the largest companies in the UK” (such as Tesco and Merlin Attractions), or acting for “vulnerable pro bono individuals who can’t afford to represent themselves.”
Hudson tells us: “We do some absolutely cutting-edge work in the employment field, along with clinical negligence and PI.” And that employment work is regularly in the headlines. Jacques Algazy QC has led many high-profile cases, including dismissals such as that of theatre critic Mark Shenton by the Sunday Express after pictures of him appeared on a pornography website. Algazy also handled Angela Gibbins’ dismissal from the British Council after she made comments about Prince George on Facebook. On another notable case, Schona Jolly QC acted for Deliveroo riders arguing that they were entitled to employment rights and payments such as minimum wage and holiday pay. In another high-profile example, Jason Galbraith-Marten QC successfully defended a decision holding that Uber drivers are workers for the purposes of statutory rights.
On the personal injury side, William Latimer Sayer QC represented two victims of the highly publicised rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers, when the Smiler ride collided with a test car. Leah Washington and Vicky Balch had to undergo above-knee amputations following injuries they sustained from sitting in the front row. Latimer-Sayer also represented PC Kristopher Aves in a claim against the Motor Insurers Bureau after he was left paralysed from injuries sustained in the Westminster Bridge attack. Daniel Lawson secured a £1.5 million settlement for a roofer who suffered a serious back injury after falling through a skylight. In a clinical negligence case, Sarah Fraser Butlin settled claims of between £20,000 and £200,000 for negligent treatment by a urogynaecologist.
The Pupillage Experience
Four three-month seats allow pupils a chance to spend time in both the employment and personal injury/clinical negligence spheres. “Your supervisors will set you work,” sources explained, “and they’ll give you feedback on it with areas for improvement,” especially in the first six. Pupils also made it clear that work can be sourced from other members. And thankfully, “work is never dumped on you. Your supervisor is like your guardian and makes sure you’re not burdened.”
“I was ultimately successful and have been subsequently reinstructed by the client – that’s one of the most rewarding things about my second six.”
The second six sees a change of pace, as pupils are allowed on their feet. But we were assured that there’s “a gradual gearing up” for pupils, with support from supervisors available at every turn. For one pupil, one notable case concerning unpaid invoices gave them the chance to “do the opinion, assess the merits, prepare the case, and go to court to make submissions. I was ultimately successful and have been subsequently reinstructed by the client – that’s one of the most rewarding things about my second six.” Similarly, another pupil assisted in a “very exciting” and high-profile unfair dismissal case arising out of the Trojan Horse scandal, in which there were claims of an organised attempt to introduce an Islamist or Salafist ethos to several schools in Birmingham. Beyond that, legal research, drafting skeleton arguments, drafting particulars and attending conferences were all commonplace tasks for our sources.
Gaining tenancy at Cloisters is “heavily weighted” on three assessments: legal research, advocacy, drafting – all of which are weighted at 20%. Another 30% comes from a final interview, which apparently isn’t too dissimilar to the second-round interview of the application process, where pupils “crunch a legal problem” in front of four or five barristers. The remaining 10% of the tenancy decision is based on feedback from supervisors, clerks and staff members. As tough as the flurry of assessments may sound, sources felt that this structure alleviated a constant sense of scrutiny throughout the pupillage: “You’re not worrying about whether every little mistake you make will be monumental, whether it’s a social faux pas or work not being good enough.” The overall scores are out of 100, with any pupil achieving 80 or above being recommended for tenancy. Those with a score between 70 and 80 can be also recommended by discretion. In 2020 both pupils gained tenancy.
The Application Process
If there were TripAdvisor reviews for application processes, it sounds like Cloisters would do pretty well. “I loved it,” said one extremely enthusiastic source. “It was by far the best application process I did!” Initial applications from Gateway are scored on academic achievements, excellence beyond academia, and a candidate’s general ethos and fit. “All applications are marked blind,” sources told us, “and your university is removed” from the form. Roughly 40 to 50 people make it to a first round of interviews, where a panel of interviewers seek to test candidates’ “ability to analyse rules, think clearly and argue a petition” by way of a “fun and challenging” back and forth. But there’s no need to swot up on the intricacies of the Equality Act just yet. Instead, candidates are faced with a made-up problem. For one source, this concerned pirates: “I was asked about children who sailed to an island and declared themselves to be pirates. On the basis of a fictional piracy statute, they probe you and question you to see your legal agility.”
“There aren’t big egos, nor are there people who love the sound of their own voice.”
The savvy few who make it to the second and final interview face a “much more detailed legal problem,” which usually contains an employment or personal injury element. Questions are sent to candidates a week prior, so hopefuls have plenty of time to squirrel away with research. At the interview, “three members of chambers ask questions to test the depth of your thinking,” before posing a topical question at the end. It could be anything from diversity quotas in the judiciary to the implementation of the sugar tax, but sources said that ultimately the question is an opportunity for applicants to “present a cogent case when pressed – they don’t expect you to have exhaustive knowledge. It’s simply about taking a side, and explaining why.”
Sources felt that the whole process was about “trying to judge people objectively on face value,” which they felt was emblematic of the wider culture pervading the set. “At other sets, people might not go in because of a place’s politics,” says Glenn Hudson. “Here, it’s about making sure people want to come to work.” Whether it was the ability “to talk to anyone,” the fact that “people are genuinely friends,” or the regularity of being “at each other’s for dinner and drinks,” our junior sources told us: “There aren’t big egos, nor are there people who love the sound of their own voice.”
Top up your Cloister card
Cloisters is situated at Elm Court, a picturesque courtyard straddling Inner Temple and Middle Temple.
1 Pump Court,
- No of silks 15
- No of juniors 38
- No of pupils 2 in October 2021
- Contact [email protected]
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) 2 for 12 months
Type of work undertaken
Personal injury and clinical negligence: Cloisters is consistently a top-ranked clinical negligence and personal injury set in Chambers and Partners. We continue to be at the forefront of high-value litigation involving catastrophic brain and spinal injury. Cloisters barristers appeared in the Supreme Court in Cox v MOJ. Recent clinical negligence High Court trial successes include Pringle v Nestor Prime Care Services (amputation following negligent triage of septicaemia) and Coakley v Dr Rosie (GP failure to suspect bacterial meningitis); leading clinical negligence cases in the Court of Appeal include for example, Iqbal v Whipps Cross University Hospitals (lost years’ earnings for children), Crofton v NHSLA (local authority payments and double recovery). Recent High Court PI trial successes include Farrugia v Burtenshaw (future care PPO), Collins v Serco (vicarious liability, attack on custody officer by detainee), Malvicini v Ealing PCT (disabling psychological injury, accident at work). Seminal Court of Appeal appearances include Connor v Surrey County Council (interplay of public and private law), Stanton v Collinson (seatbelts, contributory negligence), Noble v Owens (fraud/video surveillance). Members of chambers are also consistently instructed in the leading workplace stress cases.