Get stuck into a range of common law cases at Farrar's Building, where a love of advocacy is a must.
Farrar's Building is named after a 17th century Temple treasurer. Its imposing doorway bears the coats of arms of two other treasurers from the 19th century. The 12th century Temple Church is just feet away. On first impressions, Farrar's embodies all the Bar's clichés of tradition and grandeur. But the barristers we spoke to insisted this isn't a stuffy place: “I remember leaving my pupillage interview and noticing just how friendly everyone was,” one junior tenant recalled. It probably helps that this is a smaller to medium-sized set, not aiming for major growth. Senior clerk Alan Kilbey says: “There will be some growth, but we don't see ourselves becoming a mega set.”
This set's work is “heavily dominated by personal injury” with practices such as insurance, product liability, health and safety, clinical negligence and employment also present. These common law areas make up around 75% of the set's work while crime makes up the remaining 25%. Sources were drawn to the “broad common law base of work that members have,” and the set aims to recruit “people who want to specialise in these areas.” There's a “mix of paper-based work but also a hefty amount of court activity” – expect to spend plenty of time on your feet in the second six.
“Heavily dominated by personal injury.”
What about the crime practice? “We've always had very strong connections to the Wales and Chester Circuit and those connections are where a lot of our criminal work still extends,” Alan Kilbey explains. Head of chambers Patrick Harrington QC and Paul Lewis QC earn top-tier rankings in Chambers UK for crime in the Wales and Chester Circuit, having participated in high-profile criminal trials like the prosecution of Matthew Scully-Hicks for the murder of his adopted daughter. However, director of pupillage Hannah Saxena warns anyone against applying (just) for the criminal practice: “We get a lot of applications from people interested in crime and white-collar crime because a few silks do that kind of work. However, at the junior end no one really does criminal work.” She adds: “Pupils might see some personal injury insurance-related crime, like death by dangerous driving cases, but most of us don't set foot inside the criminal courts.”
Farrar's and several of its members are ranked by Chambers UK for personal injury – the set reports that 37 of its tenants practise in this area. Barristers work on cases related to all kinds of nasty injuries, acting for both claimants and defendants. For example, Andrew Wille represented a bus driver who became tetraplegic after a five-a-side football injury and is claiming against the manager of the football pitch and the hospitals which treated him. Meanwhile, Lee Evans acted for the defendant insurer in a £5 million claim brought by a trainee City trader when a road accident allegedly led to fatigue, irritability and impaired social functioning affecting his City career. Other members have acted for a nurse with a nerve route disorder, a Romanian construction worker who lost his arm after a dumper truck overturned, for the insurer of a motorist who ran down an elderly pedestrian, and for another defendant in a case relating to a car which slid off an icy mountain road.
Three's a charm
Pupils sit with three supervisors for four months apiece, which means “the second four months bridges the non-practising and practising periods.” Usually pupils' first supervisor “will be the most senior because the focus will be on paperwork and getting to grips with the areas of law we do,” explains Hannah Saxena. This way pupils can also “see the high-end stuff.” Sources found they were “very quickly drafting defences and pleadings, which were then considered against the supervisor's own.” One observed: “You're given a good level of challenge, but you have the protection and comfort of knowing that if it's wrong, it's being checked by your supervisor.” Pupils also accompany their supervisor to court as and when. During pupillage the hours are “really quite pleasant,” said a source. “The advertised hours are 9am to 6pm, and I didn't have to stay beyond that routinely.”
“Nerve-racking of course.”
The second four months starts with two months of pupils regularly going to court with their supervisor and other junior members to “shadow them and see exactly the type of work they'll be starting with when they get on their feet.” There's also the chance to work for other members at this point. At the six-month mark pupils take on their own advocacy work. This usually starts with “one-day or entry-level trials,” leading on to small claims, credit claims, infant approvals and Stage 3 hearings. “Probably 50% of what I've done so far has been small claims liability,” one pupil reported. “You do both defendant and claimant cases,” acting for either the insurer or insured private individuals. Being on your feet can be “nerve-racking of course” but interviewees said: “There's a really good support structure, especially from the junior end. It's very easy to ask people things.” Pupils reckoned they were in court three to four times a week by this point. One said: “It's been fantastic to watch and prepare cases, but actually going out and experiencing it first-hand has been fantastic.”
Getting real advocacy experience means that when the assessed advocacy exercise rolls around, pupils are mostly unfazed: “I'd been on my feet for a couple of months by then, so it didn't seem like that big of a deal.” There's also a written exercise that is formally assessed. The tenancy committee, which makes the final decision, looks at supervisors' reports and the results of the assessments. “Comments are welcomed from all members, but the exercises and reports are the important bits,” Hannah Saxena says. The decision is announced in (early) July and in 2018 both pupils gained tenancy.
It's not over till the QC sings
Applications go through the Pupillage Gateway. The set does an initial paper sift, then invites approximately 30 to 40 candidates for a first-round interview. “It's difficult to get through our paper sift without having any advocacy experience,” Hannah Saxena explains. “Advocacy is very important to us. If people haven't been bothered to do mooting, you wonder how keen they actually are on advocacy.” The first-round interview is in front of a panel of three and is “more about getting to know you” and “testing general interpersonal skills.” There might be some “advocacy on the spot – like asking someone to argue for or against a proposition.”
Eight to ten candidates are invited to a second-round interview which is more in depth. “It's usually a half-hour interview, with half an hour beforehand where the candidate is asked to consider a legal problem,” Hannah Saxena explains. “The first ten minutes of the interview is an advocacy exercise based on the problem.” A junior tenant recalled: “There were some slightly obscure regulations and a factual scenario. I had to go in and present some thoughts on the problem, then the panel asked questions.”
“We go to the pub or play five-a-side.”
Current pupils who successfully navigated the application process described the atmosphere at Farrar's as “incredibly welcoming, supportive and friendly.” This was immediately apparent when we witnessed jovial exchanges between clerks and barristers in the busy clerks' room. “One of the nicest things about being here is the clerks,” one junior tenant beamed. “They're really good at what they do, and really good fun as well.” Between juniors, there's a WhatsApp group where new members and pupils can share queries, or bring up any problems like “if a client hasn't turned up to court or something!”
The social side of chambers is alive and well. Afternoon tea has no place here – this bunch prefer to “go to the pub or play five-a-side, especially when it's sunny.” (Beware of injuries on the pitch, folks!) There are also yoga classes and something called 'wine club' – “it's essentially drinking wine in the conference room on a Friday night and moaning about our week!” Other traditions include Christmas curry and karaoke – apparently it's not unheard of to see QCs getting in front of the mic!
Farrar's juniors under ten years' call attended a pleasing mix of universities: St Andrews, Durham, Queen Mary, Edinburgh, Cambridge, King's, Nottingham, Manchester, Oxford and Exeter.
- No of silks 7
- No of juniors 36
- No of pupils 2
- Hannah Saxena, pupillage director [email protected]
- Joshua Hedgman, mini-pupillages [email protected]
- Diversity officer: David Roderick, [email protected]
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) Two 12-month pupilages
- Mini-pupillages (pa) 15 anticipated in 2018
- Pupillage award Award: £27,500; Guaranteed earnings £27,500
- Tenancies Over the last 5 years, 100% pupils have been offered tenancy
Members of chambers also specialise in insurance, product liability; commercial and serious and white-collar crime.
Chambers has an established reputation for excellence, with members acting for a variety of corporate bodies, insurance companies, prosecuting authorities, sporting bodies and players, disciplinary, regulatory and professional bodies, as well as individuals.
We are a friendly and reliable set of chambers, which prides itself on the way it is efficiently clerked and administered, by an experienced team.
We offer a breadth of experience across over 20 practice areas. Our talented and approachable members are ranked highly within both Chambers and Partners UK and the Legal 500.
Mini-pupils will shadow barristers at court and in chambers. In past years the experience gained from a mini-pupillage with us has typically enhanced a candidate’s application for pupillage at Farrar’s Building.
Applications are considered from those that have started higher education. Good academic ability and an interest in the law and specifically our areas of practice should be demonstrated.
We recruit pupils via the Pupillage Gateway.
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2018
- Personal Injury (Band 3)
Wales & Chester (Bar)
- Crime (Band 1)