This set does healthcare and commercial work in London, but international work is also pushing Outer Temple's barristers outta their comfort zone.
“Four seats. Four supervisors. Four very different practice areas.” As if announcing a summer blockbuster, this pupil neatly summarises the Outer Temple experience. In reality Outer Temple's approach is less explosions and car chases and more “like rainfall," senior clerk Steve Graham says – "a steady drizzle with the occasional downpour. We’re growing carefully.” Quite a bit of that expansion has come from international work (more on that below).
Pupillage is divided into four three-month seats: the first is usually in personal injury and clinical negligence; the second is in employment; the third focuses on commercial work (mainly pensions); and finally pupils spend time doing public law or criminal regulatory work. Steve Graham identifies the last of these as "an exciting area" since it combines professional negligence with some financial crime work and is "the place where crime and commerce mix." The set is ranked by Chambers UK for professional discipline and financial services work, handling both civil and criminal matters and equipped to work on fraud, insider dealing, mis-selling and money laundering matters. In one case Oliver Powell defended a former director of Drive Assist against allegations that he allowed the fudging of financial reports so that the company’s assets were overstated by £61 million.
Outer Temple’s history is in healthcare-related work and this is still “a major part of our practice.” The set wins a top Chambers UK ranking for personal injury plus recognition for clinical negligence, international personal injury, and health and safety. Gordon Bebb QC recently helped a claimant settle a dispute with a hospital over its failure to treat chronic hypotonia (known as 'floppy baby syndrome') that resulted in quadriplegia and locked-in syndrome. The set's international personal injury work mostly sees it representing Brits injured in road traffic accidents while travelling abroad, though the facts sometimes get a bit more unusual: Gerard McDermott recently acted for a parachutist who was injured on an officer cadets trip to California, which raised questions about the liability of the MoD. The set also gets its hands on the occasional piece of defence work – Daniel Clark represented Thomas Cook in a group food poisoning action.
Doing travel-related PI work is not the only way Outer Temple sets foot on foreign shores. “Our international work has grown over the past decade,” Steve Graham tells us. “It started with a ‘name on the door’ office in Abu Dhabi, but since then it’s led us to places we’d never have expected!” As well as now having a permanent base in Abu Dhabi, Outer Temple has offices in Dubai and New York. US expansion has been on hold due to the focus on the Middle East, but the set is looking to “integrate itself into the New York legal community," says Graham. "We might be sending half a dozen people out to our office in the Rockefeller Center at some point.”
Another region where members have been active is Central Asia – Tim Aron is currently acting as general counsel to the newly formed Astana Financial Services Authority regulator. Most international work is financial, though the set is also “slowly getting into construction arbitration work in Abu Dhabi.” Graham tells us that as a pupil you do get to see some international work, “but you'll be working on the cases here in the UK – not getting on a plane to Dubai!”
Outer Temple receives 200 to 300 applications a year, of which three will be chosen for pupillage. “We have something called an X-factor process,” head of pupillage James Counsell QC tells us, which acts a bit like Britain’s Got Talent’s golden buzzer: “If a candidate looks to be really brilliant but doesn’t fit the set criteria, someone can put down ‘X factor’ to automatically get them through.” Out of the 40 candidates shortlisted, two or three might be people who received an 'X factor'. The 30-minute first-round interview takes place on a Friday or Saturday and includes legal and non-legal questions. Candidates are also asked to do a short written exercise. The second round comes in at 45 minutes, and the remaining eight potential pupils are quizzed by five members on academic and CV-related questions; they're also asked to give a pre-prepared presentation.
An alternative route into Outer Temple is through its 'FRUpillage'. Launched in 2013, this 18-month scheme runs every two years and combines a six-month placement at the Free Representation Unit, with an official first six at Outer Temple, and then a practising second six doing casework for both chambers and FRU. The application process for this is CV-blind: recruiters only see applicants’ pro bono experience and answers to a short online legal exercise. “It’s for people who might not otherwise get a pupillage," says James Counsell, "and it’s a good model of how one might go about avoiding unconscious bias.” The second person through the scheme is now a tenant.
As mentioned above pupils do four seats: PI and clin neg; employment; commercial (including pensions); and public law/regulatory. Interviewees said that even on gaining tenancy there’s still “no pressure to choose a practice area” – new members are given a few years of support and careers advice on their “journey to specialisation.”
A stint in clinical negligence sees pupils drafting agendas and researching “not necessarily legal points, but maybe medical evidence.” Employment work involves a lot of breach of contract claims, and pupils attend client meetings, draft skeleton argument and pleadings, and carry out case law research. A pensions seat also offers up a lot of research into “very technical complex points.” Interviewees found public law work to have a more “pragmatic, problem-solving” vibe, with more research into technical legal points and “lots of appeals to the Supreme Court.” We heard that a uniting theme of the work is “the direct effect it has on people's lives – every area of practice is people-focused.”
Work comes to pupils both from supervisors and other members, but supervisors tend to be “really good at turning down work on your behalf if you don’t have capacity.” Overall, pupils found themselves working an average 9am to 6pm day to start with. In seats three and four, pupils balance cases of their own alongside work for their supervisor, so the hours increase slightly to a typical 7pm or 8pm finish.
All work pupils do receives feedback from supervisors and each seat ends with a formal meeting with James Counsell and a written report. Pupils were satisfied with the “rigorous” feedback and training – “we have lots of advocacy training and client skills workshops throughout the year. Practical sessions really help hone your skills.”
As well as this, pupils rated their support network as “top notch – I can knock on any door or call anyone and they will pick up!” A junior tenant agreed that there’s a distinct feel in chambers of “camaraderie – the job is stressful, but people are always there to comfort you and share their experiences with you.” We heard that “the culture here is a bit off-piste, a bit quirky.” Though aside from the mosaic giraffe sculpture greeting you at the entrance, conventionality is rife: “There are significant number of Oxbridge people and/or men here.” A look at the set's juniors under five years' call shows that around half are women; while the group is pretty Oxbridgy it also contains graduates of Bristol, Nottingham and Durham.
Pupils are assessed through five advocacy exercises over the course of the year that “escalate in terms of exposure – the first is kind of casual, just the pupil and a few people running the session. By the time you get to the final one, it’s open for all members to come and watch!” The exercises are on “typical baby junior court stuff: summary judgment applications and things like statute of limitations issues.” As well as this, there’s a written assessment that’s anonymously marked; reports written by each supervisor are also taken into account. The tenancy decision is made in June or July and in 2018 both pupils gained tenancy.
Pro bono work is available at all levels: barristers do work for the Bar Pro Bono Unit, medical accidents charity AvMA and special educational needs charity IPSEA.
Outer Temple Chambers
The Outer Temple,
- No of silks 2
- No of juniors 764
- No of pupils Up to 4
- Contact Shiraz Oshidar [email protected]
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages offered Up to three 12-month pupillage and one 18-month OTC/FRU extended pupillage
- No of tenancies offered Up to 4
- Annexes Manchester, New York, Abu Dhabi, Dubai
Type of work undertaken
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2018
- Court of Protection: Health & Welfare (Band 3)
- Clinical Negligence (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Financial Services (Band 3)
- Health & Safety (Band 2)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Personal Injury (Band 2)
- Professional Discipline (Band 3)
- Travel: International Personal Injury (Band 2)