Hailsham Chambers - True Picture

Hailsham is on hand to help in cases of clinical and professional negligence.

Halisham Chambers pupillage review 2022

The Chambers

A lot can change over 100 years. In the case of Hailsham Chambers, it started out as a generalist set, dabbling in both civil and criminal work, before developing a more specialised approach. Today, Hailsham is “now in a position where we’ve got a very strong foothold in the professional negligence market, the medical law market, and the costs market,” according to senior clerk Stephen Smith. Indeed, Hailsham is ranked among the best of the best for costs litigation in Chambers UK Bar, plus the set achieves high marks for professional negligence, clinical negligence, and professional discipline. Smith notes: “Those are the three main strands that developed, but it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a slow but measured and carefully thought through process.”

“We’ve got a very strong foothold in the professional negligence market, the medical law market, and the costs market.”

In the clinical negligence sphere, David Pittaway QC was recently instructed by paramedics’ insurers in a claim brought by a professional boxer who was injured in a tournament, claiming his brain injury would have been less severe if there hadn’t been a delay in obtaining treatment. Andrew Post QC recently acted for Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust as defendant in a claim that asserted it was liable for a stroke the claimant had suffered following an angiogram. On the professional negligence side, Michael Pooles QC acted for solicitors' firm Higgs in a claim against them alleging the firm lost the chance of a better outcome in a commercial/employment dispute, leading to failed litigation.

Stephen Smith estimates that clinical negligence and professional negligence work each make up around 40% of the set’s instructions. “We’ve picked up a fair bit of work on the medical side through Covid-19, as well as a lot of business disruption claims on the professional negligence side.” The final 20% is costs litigation, but Smith adds: “It will be interesting next year as we have a huge amount of costs work at the moment, which will have a bearing on our figures.” In the high-profile Volkswagen Noxious Emissions group litigation, Alexander Hutton QC has been instructed to work on the costs management side of the matter.

The Pupillage Experience

Pupillage consists of three seats: the first two for three months apiece, and the final seat for six months. During the first six months, the structure is “designed to have you sit with one supervisor where you see more clinical negligence, then the other where you see more professional negligence.” In these first two seats, pupils will usually experience a mix of live work and dead work: deputy head of chambers Nicola Rushton QC explains that “particularly in the earlier stages, supervisors might identify a set of dead papers with a relatively straightforward claim for pupils to start with.” One pupil recalled working on the papers “as if they were my instruction, with my supervisor next to me so I could ask questions.” Others highlighted “drafting particulars of claim and advice in a case where the supervisor had done the same not long ago.” Once completed, supervisors compare the pupil’s work to theirs and discuss “if anything differed or if anything could be improved.”

“You don’t just turn up not knowing what’s going on!”

Beyond working on these types of dead papers, pupils also attended calls, conferences and court for their supervisors’ live cases. “My supervisor would send the paperwork and instructions ahead of time, give an overview of the case, then ask me to prepare something ahead of the conference. For instance, I was asked to think about what questions I would ask our expert, to see if we had similar ideas.” Sources appreciated that “you don’t just turn up not knowing what’s going on!”

Pupils get on their feet and have their own instructions in their second six. Prior to this, pupils do regular advocacy training (around one a month) to ensure they go into their second six prepared. Sources estimated being in court “at least twice a week” at this point, while also continuing to work for their supervisors. “If my supervisor has something going on but I’m in court, the latter will take priority. You do what you’re instructed to do, then your supervisor’s work fills the gaps.” Pupils typically deal with “County Court work – things like road traffic accidents and infant approval matters.” A junior tenant warned: “You are really busy in your second six – you’re doing work for your supervisor, work for other members of chambers, then your own work on your feet. You get a sense of the pace of a junior barrister’s practice.”

At the end of each seat, pupils will have formal appraisals using the Bar Council’s criteria. These go towards the tenancy decision, alongside reports from each of the pupil’s three supervisors and any “feedback from solicitors who instructed pupils during their second six.” There are also two formal oral advocacy assessments, and around ten written assessments. “One of the advocacy assessments is a witness examination, and one is an application-type exercise,” Rushton says. The written assessments come from other members of chambers, including the other pupil’s supervisors and more senior members of chambers. Rushton clarifies that “it won’t be research exercises – it’ll be something that produces a work product at the end, like advice notes or pleadings.” Sources found them “good for both learning and being assessed – you’ll sit with the person who gave you the work to go through it and they’ll give you feedback.” Where possible, pupils will do the same exercises so that they are “both judged on the same thing,” but if not, they will do equivalent ones.

All of these factors are considered when members of chambers vote on whether the pupil gains tenancy. In 2021, the decision process was pushed back: “With Covid-19 and working from home, we wanted pupils to have as long as possible to demonstrate what they can do,” Rushton explains. At the time of publishing, Hailsham had yet to announce its tenancy decision for 2021.

The Application Process

Hailsham holds an open evening every January “to give students the opportunity to find out more about chambers.” Under normal circumstances, it is held face-to-face in a hotel near chambers, however this year it took place via Zoom. One source recalled having “the most interesting conversations” at this event, which encouraged them to apply for pupillage. Interested candidates can apply via the Pupillage Gateway. “We modify the Gateway application with a problem question every year, which is either professional negligence based, or clinical negligence based,” Nicola Rushton informs us. “We find we get fewer applicants, but get people who are genuinely interested in us.” One pupil recalled being given “a really interesting scenario to do with medical law issues. It was really topical – something I’d heard about.” But fret not, you don’t need to be a medical law whiz already to stand a chance of passing this stage. Sources appreciated that “it said ‘all the information you need to answer it is in A, B, and C’ – they wanted to put people on a level playing field.” It’s a pretty tight word count at around 750 words: “We’re not asking for a long essay – we want to see how they can reason,” Rushton clarifies.

“You can have conversations about the Tour de France or Love Island or anything!”

Hailsham only has one round of interviews as the problem question serves as the first sift. Those who impress in the problem question are invited for a “relatively in-depth interview” with a panel of about four or five members of chambers. “We usually pose them another angle on the problem question – for the last couple of years we’ve asked applicants to orally argue the case for the other side. It tests their advocacy ability and how flexible they can be,” Rushton notes. A current pupil described it as “quite intense, but it felt like a fair interview.”

The set takes on two pupils a year. With just over 50 members altogether, sources described the atmosphere as “easy-going, friendly, and really cheerful.” A pupil elaborated that the set fosters an atmosphere where “you can have conversations about the Tour de France or Love Island or anything! You’re not just sat there being really stuffy.” Of course, the social side of chambers was impacted by Covid-19, but chambers still “managed to have a Zoom cocktail party this year with drinks sent to everyone’s homes.” Nicola Rushton also highlighted that the set’s wellbeing committee “organised little walks around local sites of interest in London,” which gave folks the chance to get together even while working from home.

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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Costs Litigation (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence (Band 2)
    • Professional Discipline (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 2)