Hailsham Chambers - True Picture

All hail clinical and professional negligence powerhouse Hailsham for its medical law and costs litigation prowess.


Hailsham Chambers pupillage review 2024

The Chambers

To be sure not get left behind by the dramatic changes the Bar has seen over the years, chambers have often had to branch out from what can be perceived as their traditional roots. This is confirmed by Hailsham senior clerk, Stephen Smith: “Chambers have had to specialise, otherwise they’d be in freefall.” Hailsham started out as a general common law set doing “a bit of everything,” Smith states, including civil, criminal, and family law. Though it later dropped the last of those two to focus on civil work. Smith noted that since making this specialist change, Hailsham “started to get a strong reputation for medical law and professional negligence,” and “we’ve been able to recruit successfully and make ourselves attractive by strengthening in these core areas.” The Chambers UK Bar guide tells a similar story, as Hailsham scores top marks for clinical and professional negligence work, as well as costs litigation.

“We cover the whole range of professional liability, professional negligence, and medical law.”

Giving a breakdown of the work the set undertakes, Stephen Smith articulates that clinical negligence and professional negligence each make up about 40%: “we cover the whole range of professional liability, professional negligence, and medical law.” But Smith also notes that “we do a lot of specialist cost work as well, which breaks down into things like commercial work and personal injury – though we are not a personal injury set.”“We do some multi-million pound injuries at work cases, like if someone’s fallen off a ladder and that sort of thing!But those are the main three.”

Within the realm of clinical negligence, David Pittaway KC was instructed by paramedics’ insurers in a case brought by a professional boxer who sustained a head injury in a tournament. On the professional negligence side of things, Jamie Carpenter KC acted for defendants in an £18 million claim arising out of failed property developments. In costs litigation, Andrew Hutton KC leads the funding/costs side of a group action brought by students and ex-students seeking compensation for lost learning due to strikes and Covid-19.

The Pupillage Experience

Pupillage consists of three seats in total, with the first two lasting three months apiece, and the final one lasting six months. Pupils are given different supervisors to sit with on each seat, so that they are able to gain experience under supervisors with expertise in both professional negligence and clinical negligence. Head of pupillage, Nicola Rushton KC, tells us that “we want to ensure our pupils see both sides of the work we do!” To explain the structure of the pupillage more practically, one current pupil noted that their “first supervisor typically engaged in a mixture of professional and clinical negligence,” whilst the latter two have “maintained a purely professional negligence focus.” While the supervisors attributed to the pupils are understandably dependent on who’s available at the time, Hailsham makes and effort to tailor pupils’ third and final supervisor to the specific kind of work they are interested in and would like to see.

Pupils can expect to do a mixture of live and dead work, like drafting particulars of claim and advice, in addition to around ten formally assessed written pieces involving advice notes, pleadings, or something end-product focussed instead of just pure research. Rushton describes it as a “very structured process,” and the pupillage “gives pupils lots of practice doing the things they’d expect to see as a second six and junior tenant, whilst they are also provided with lots of feedback throughout the duration of their pupillage.” Rushton also tells us that supervision is “very hands on,” as the idea is that pupils are constantly sat with their supervisors and working on their supervisor’s current papers. Pupils then get to see supervisors work on the same papers relating to their live cases, in order to discover whether or not they are on the right track by comparing, discussing, and then improving their work. In the run up to tenancy, pupils will then take on two formal advocacy assessments, with one an application type piece, whilst the other relates more to witness handling.

“Once you get into second six you begin taking on your own cases. You have two or three a week in your diary, whilst you’re also doing the required assessed pieces of work – that’s the stressful part!”

Once on their feet, pupils got involved with County Court work relating to things like “road traffic accidents, credit hires, and other smaller claims.” One pupil mentioned that “you tend to start the assessed work at about the same time you’re starting the second six,” whilst the work traditionally combines “general advice, defence, and schedule of loss cases.” This was echoed by others, who told us that “once you get into second six you begin taking on your own cases. You have two or three a week in your diary, whilst you’re also doing the required assessed pieces of work – that’s the stressful part!” In order to prepare pupils for their second six, Hailsham runs advocacy sessions run by one of the junior barristers, one of whom explained that: “I run these sessions once a month in order to prepare pupils to go out on their feet.” This gives pupils the chance to prepare themselves accordingly for cases, as “it’s better to make the mistakes during these sessions than it is in front of a court when on your feet!”

All of the work conducted by pupils throughout the pupillage is considered when contemplating whether or not the pupil gains tenancy. The three supervisors gather reports on the pupil, whilst their assessed work is also looked at. A secretary then gathers these documents, summarises and reports on them, before a chambers meeting is conducted to make a decision based off of that. A 75% majority is required for the pupil to gain tenancy.

The Application Process

Before the application process kicks off, Hailsham holds an open evening every January. Rushton tells us that here, “potential applicants have the chance to come along and chat with juniors and senior clerks, and to get a sense of what we’re about and what the chambers are actually like.” Interested candidates can then apply via the Pupillage Gateway, where they are required to complete personal information on the website. They also tackle a problem question, which forms the crux of Hailsham’s application process. Rushton further reveals that “in selecting who goes forward from interview, the answers to the problem question are blind marked, so all the markers have is their answer, candidate number, and nothing else!”

“The interview was very interesting! You have the problem question which you carry through to the interview. It’s ultimately quite a heavy application, but it’s one where you knew it was worth putting the effort in!”

Successful candidates are then invited for a formal interview, which will take place in front of a panel of five chambers members. The problem question is often taken forward to the interview stage, for those who make it, turning it into an advocacy exercise “where we may get them to argue one side of the problem question, to test their oral abilities when it comes to arguing a particular side,” as well as some unknown questions. One pupil recalled that “the interview was very interesting! You have the problem question which you carry through to the interview. It’s ultimately quite a heavy application, but it’s one where you knew it was worth putting the effort in!” Hailsham only has the one round of interviews, with the set aiming to interview 16-18 candidates in total, to work out who will take the two pupillage places up for grabs each year.

When asked to describe the culture, one junior described it a “very friendly”, as “you can go to any member of the chambers to ask them for advice and support, and they’d certainly make the time for you.” They emphasised that while “pupils are being assessed (and there’s no getting around that!) we are ultimately training you to get to the required standard. For that to take place, the door is very much open for people to speak.” To give a bit of an example, Rushton anecdotally tells us that “Michael Pooles KC loves it when people go and talk to him about their cases” – so “the doors really are open metaphorically or literally!” Things looked good on the social side of things too, with regular team lunches together as well as group outings. One pupil recalled “a walk to an art exhibition near Bloomsbury Arcade, in addition to hosting a wine club” – Cheers to that!

Hailsham Chambers

4 Paper Buildings (Ground Floor),
Website www.hailshamchambers.com

  • No of silks 8
  • No of juniors 47
  • No of pupils 2
  • Contact Clare Elliott Tel: 020 7643 5000
  • Email: pupillage@hailshamchambers. com
  • Method of application Pupilage Gateway
  • Pupillages (pa) 2
  • Tenancies offered 100%

Chambers profile

At Hailsham Chambers we excel in our key areas of professional negligence, medical law, costs, personal injury and commercial litigation. We win awards for our excellence and are recognised by the legal directories as a leading set for four of our main fields. Our work ethos is to provide the highest standards of advocacy, advice and service, which is complemented by the support given by members to each other across Chambers. We are proud of our history but we are a forward-thinking set.

Pupil profile

We want motivated, intellectually able candidates who are persuasive communicators and determined to succeed. Usually a minimum 2:1 degree is required but we focus on ability and potential.


We provide 12 months’ intensive, high-quality training in a relaxed atmosphere with two supervisors for three months each and a third for the final six. Candidates can expect supervision in two or more areas of Chambers’ specialisation. After six months, pupils accept instructions and attend court on their own account. Feedback is considered crucial for the learning process and a mentor is always available to discuss pupillage confidentially. Our pupils and junior tenants are busy and their billings compare well to solicitor equivalents.


give insight into Chambers’ areas of practice and life as a junior tenant, and are unassessed. Candidates submit a CV and covering letter to meet the criteria set out on Chambers’ website. Applications for Hailsham’s 2024 mini pupillage programme will open in early 2024. The exact format has yet to be finalised, but we hope to run two sessions. Please send a CV and covering letter to lisa.jenkins@hailshamchambers.com.

Sponsorship and awards

We offer a £70,000 award including £15,000 guaranteed earnings and excellent training and prospects, with the aim to invite successful pupils to become tenants. We also allow pupils to draw down up to £10,000 during the BPTC year.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Costs Litigation (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence (Band 2)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 2)