Hop on over to Henderson for top-class product liability, health & safety and consumer law cases (and much more...)
“I couldn’t believe how friendly and welcoming everyone was. I was really taken aback by the open environment,” beamed a representative pupil interviewee. While this humble 50-memberset may have created a homely environment it certainly means business when it comes to work. “We are very well known for our product liability and health & safety expertise,” says chambers director Jason Housden, who took the reins in May 2020. However, there’s a lot more going on at Henderson than just product liability, with Housden explaining that the set’s work can be broken down into the following percentages: 30% product liability, 25% commercial (spanning regulatory, European law, public law and procurement issues), 20% health and safety, 10% consumer and 5% apiece for environment, property and employment matters. An examination of the Chambers UK Bar rankings confirms that Henderson is top dog when it comes to product liability and health & safety work in London, but it also scores high marks for its IT, environment and consumer law expertise.
“The 100,000 claimants we’re managing on the Volkswagen deal is a prime example of just how big it is.”
“The theme that runs through many of these areas is group actions,” adds Housden. “We have appeared in most of the leading group actions over the past 20 years and developed the law in this area.” Pupils agreed that the set should shout louder about the standard of its work in the group litigation arena, with one telling us that they weren’t “aware of how specialist the group litigation work is at Henderson. The 100,000 claimants we’re managing on the Volkswagen deal is a prime example of just how big it is.” Another interviewee described the set as having hit “the sweet spot, as here you have the big group commercial litigation but also have the ability to go to court for advocacy [on smaller, discrete matters].”
A recent and widely publicised matter showcases the set’s group litigation prowess: members recently acted on the Post Office group litigation for over 550 claimants who suffered business losses caused by the introduction of a new IT system and the way in which business franchising practices were run. Over in product liability, members have recently acted for Johnson & Johnson UK over claims that one of its incontinence products caused long-term injuries, as well as GlaxoSmithKline in a group litigation against claims that its antidepressant Seroxat has higher withdrawal rates and is therefore a defective product. On the health and safety front, Oliver Campbell QC was involved in the inquest into the death of a 15-year-old girl following an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger product. Environment members, meanwhile, have been working on claims that have been brought following the collapse of a dam in Brazil.
The Pupillage Experience
The pupillage year is broken into four three-month stints. Each rotation is with a different supervisor and together they expose newbies to the majority of the set's practices. It's not completely compartmentalised, however, as we heard pupils “work exclusively with their pupil supervisor for the first three months” and subsequently end up doing work for other members of chambers with a view to building up the feedback forms for tenancy. “You’ll typically work with around 15 members of chambers outside of your pupil supervisors,” one source confirmed.
All pupils' work is live. Writing up advice and research notes are staple activities. Pupils also find themselves “drafting statements of cases, letters for action, opinions, orders and skeleton arguments.” Sources felt that the fact their work was live gave them an advantage as “you’re not just ticking things off the list and going through the motions. My supervisors have really integrated me into what they’ve been doing. They’ve taken me to conferences and court hearings, and I’ve been involved in calls from solicitors. You go through the experience with them.” Another pupil found that there is “real assistance from your supervisors. They show you off around chambers and say to senior members that you’re keen to work with them and ask if they have any work you can help with.” Pupils typically begin taking on their own cases during the second six, by appearing in court a few times a week on matters like landlord/tenant disputes and possession hearings. Covid-19 has impacted the pupil experience this year, with one explaining that lockdown meant that “there wasn’t much difference between the tasks [in the first and second sixes].” However, sources did praise their supervisors for “trying their best to get us involved in calls.” Barrister and director of pupillage trainingAdam Heppinstall also assures us that “supervisors take daily interest in their pupil and during lockdown have used everything from a text to telegram messaging to stay in touch.”
When it comes to assessment, Heppinstall explains how “supervisors express their assessment in prose, alongside a grade out of five on a mid-seat basis and end-of-seat basis. The seat grade together with the report is what goes towards the tenancy decision in July.” Pupils undergo around two to three formal advocacy assessments, starting off with an exercise in front of a junior member and working their way up to presenting to a judge. One pupil told us that their judge was “a former member of this chambers. It was exactly how you would expect an advocacy assessment to be done, but what was interesting about it was that it was a real case with real papers. The case presents the real difficulties that you would encounter if you got a set of papers.” Henderson conducts no formal written assessments, though all work completed throughout the pupillage is considered in a dossier of reports, which is supplemented by feedback from supervisors.
Pupillage hours are stated as 9am to 6pm but the nature of working on live cases means “you can’t cling on to the 9 to 5 five days a week,” one pupil explained. Another informed us that “there have been times when, for example, I’ve been given a particular of claim to draft on a Friday and have ended up working the bank holiday weekend.” Overall, the set “encourages you to manage your time, and if there isn’t any work to do you’re expected to leave no later than 6pm.” This leaves enough time for pupils to collectively enjoy the occasional “wine and beer in the hall, replacing the formal tea!” (Although we’re sure that tea would still be available if that’s your tipple.) We also heard that “Friday lunches are a big thing: an email is sent around asking if anyone wants to pop along to the hall for lunch.” Heppinstall adds that “pupils really do become part of the life in chambers. We don’t send them down to the basement and tell them to come up at 4pm for a chat!”
The Application Process
Before even contemplating Henderson’s basement, you need to head on over to the set’s pupil portal and fill out an application form. “Working with the organisation Rare to run a contextualised recruitment process is one of the big innovations we brought online this year,” explains Heppinstall. Candidates fill out an application form on the Rare system, which “takes into account various socio-economic factors. It identifies their school and measures their grades against the average. Marks are then brought together from the application form, they are marginally adjusted using the Rare system, and the top 30 candidates are invited to a first-round interview.”
At interview, three junior members of chambers and a senior chair will ask a mix of legal and non-legal questions to whittle down the final interview candidates to between 12 and 15 successful candidates. This final round “includes all members of the recruitment committee and covers questions about certain cases in chambers,” Heppinstall explains. Although academic excellence may have been on the set’s radar for a long time, Heppinstall reveals that this is now put into context “once the sift is done (using the Rare system alongside). We also now use the STAR [situation, task, action, result] interview technique to see how candidates work as a team, what their time management skills are like and how they would relay advice to clients. These changes have created a much better interviewing environment.”
Henderson's Heterogeneous Hall of Practices
All of our interviewees were keen to highlight the "broad church" of Henderson’s practices. Heppinstall comments: "We market ourselves as a product liability/health and safety specialist set but in reality the practice offering is way more diverse."
2 Harcourt Buildings (Ground Floor),
- No of silks 14
- No of juniors 36
- No of pupils 2
- Contact [email protected]
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) Up to 2 12 month pupillages offered
- Remuneration Up to £70,000 for 12 months (£70,000 award, plus additional earnings)
- Tenancies Seven in the last three years
Type of work undertaken
Over the last few decades Chambers has been involved in many of the major commercial and landmark International Group Actions.
In addition, members are noted for their expertise and experience in areas including: banking and finance, consumer credit, employment law, regulatory and disciplinary proceedings, public law and judicial review, personal injury, property law, and technology and construction. Several members of Chambers are Treasury Counsel (Civil). Many of them are currently engaged in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the VW Emissions Litigation and in the recently concluded Post Office Group Action.
We offer up to 15 bursaries every year of £200 each to candidates who are likely to have difficulty meeting the costs of attending a mini-pupillage with us.
Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing
Equality and Diversity
Henderson Chambers is committed to Equality and Diversity. We regard it as essential to our standing as a leading set of chambers that we should seek to excel in this. We have two equal opportunities officers both of whom are Members of Chambers.
We recognise the obligation not to discriminate against clients, members, pupils or staff on grounds of gender, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), sexual orientation, age, disability, marriage and civil partnership and religion or belief is a fundamental and legal obligation imposed on us by legislation and the Bar Code of Conduct.
So as to comply with both Data Protection legislation and the recommendations of the Bar Standards Board members of Chambers, publication of data is made in accordance with the requirements of Part 2, paragraph D.1.2 r.C110.3.s of the Bar Standards Board Handbook.
Friendship and mutual support are at the heart of Henderson Chambers’ ethos. Members value above all the camaraderie that has existed for many years. It is with these factors in mind that Chambers has developed several formal and informal policies and schemes with the specific aim of supporting staff, pupils and members through any difficulties that they may face in their professional life. In recent years, Chambers has focussed on what it can do to preserve and enhance the supportive environment which is so valued. This has led to many discussions about the importance of wellbeing and to the formal polices, practices and schemes that are currently in place.
Henderson Chambers are delighted to have been one of the first chambers to be awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the Bar Council in November 2017, for the work of chambers to promote wellbeing across the Bar.
The Henderson Chambers case study is published here on the Wellbeing at the Bar website.
‘Henderson Chambers deserves recognition for its focus on pupil and new tenant wellbeing (including financial support and investing in mentoring) and its general approach to members’ wellbeing, including the provision of counselling and flexible work arrangements /return to work support. We particularly like its ethos – that members look out for each other’.