One of the great things about life as a junior tenant at 39 Essex Chambers is that you never really know what kind of work is going to come your way from one day to the next.
I tend to appear in court three or four times a week, usually in fast-track or low value multi-track personal injury or commercial disputes in county courts around the country. While that means some early starts, these are more than made up for by the regular advocacy practise these cases afford (as well as the fun of cross examining witnesses three or four times a week!)
Aside from county court work I appear regularly in the High Court, usually applications in the QBD and in the Companies Court and, as a result of my planning and environmental law work, in front of Planning Inspectors and in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts. I have also acted in inquests (once in front of a jury which was not something I ever thought I’d do) and in the Superior Courts Costs Office.
The rest of my time is spent in Chambers or at home working on papers – work which has covered everything from pleadings and advices to questions to experts and drafting witness statements. Over the last few weeks, for example, I have advised on the prospects of successfully suing an art dealer for the conversion of ancient maps, written a report on how the Code for Sustainable Homes is likely to affect property developers, drafted particulars of claim and a schedule of special damages in a fatal accident claim, and advised in conference on registration of charges provisions in the Companies Act 2006.
Aside from my usual cases, being at 39 Essex Chambers has given me some wonderful opportunities to get involved in more high profile work – most of which comes through senior members of chambers who work very hard to ensure that juniors are included. Very soon after being taken on I was involved in a multi-million pound solicitor’s negligence case. I recently assisted in advising a local authority on the legal implications of the potential collapse of several hundred houses into abandoned mines. Perhaps most excitingly I was instructed as sole advocate for SAVE Britain’s Heritage to object to a £150m development being proposed in Lancaster.
Making the step from pupil to tenant can be challenging. Junior tenants are therefore formally assigned a mentor to offer ethical advice and practical guidance over the first few years of practice. I have frequently been surprised at how often code of conduct issues arise and have been very grateful for the clear headed advice I have received. Just as useful to me has been the generally supportive nature of Chambers as a whole. Everyone’s door (including the Head of Chambers’) is open. I often bounce ideas off other barristers or ask advice on tricky points of law. The help and advice I have received has been invaluable, saved me weeks of pointless work and, I’m sure, made me a better barrister.
The first two years of my tenancy at 39 Essex Chambers have been both challenging and stimulating. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities, and, perhaps most importantly, have managed to have some fun along the way!
By Andrew Deakin.