Life as a New Tenant

My first year as a tenant at 39 Essex Chambers has been extremely enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. 39 Essex has been a supportive and encouraging environment in which to start tenancy, and begin to build a practice. I have been involved a wide variety of stimulating work, both independently as sole counsel, and led as junior counsel.

Since starting my second six, I have appeared in court regularly in an array of hearings in personal injury, commercial, construction and property disputes, gaining valuable advocacy experience. For example, I have had the opportunity, in civil liability trials, to experience the thrill of cross-examining witnesses, as well as making legal submissions in application hearings. A particularly interesting case was acting, on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority, in a strike out application of a claim brought in relation to a decision to provisionally suspend a pilot’s medical certificate. Appearing in county courts, and before High Court Masters, has enabled me to become comfortable on my feet.

I have also had the opportunity to undertake drafting work from all of Chambers’ practice areas, such as pleadings, written advice, and questions to experts. Chambers’ breadth of expertise means I have worked on a stimulating range of cases. For example, I drafted a defence in respect of a breach of contract claim in the High Court in which £2 million had been claimed, advised a developer as to the prospects of successfully appealing a refusal of planning permission to build within the Green Belt and advised a local authority on electoral and information law issues, concerning data held pursuant to the electoral register. Recently, I was instructed to draft a quality assurance report in relation the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.

Senior members of 39 Essex Chambers strive to involve junior members in high profile work, and I have had fantastic opportunities to be led in fascinating cases. I am currently instructed as junior counsel on behalf of a core participant to the Infected Blood Inquiry, and I recently attended hearings in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Leeds and Belfast. I was also led in a four-week environmental inquiry concerning conservation of salmon and sea trout stocks in Welsh rivers, which I found immensely interesting and rewarding. I have also been instructed as a ‘junior junior’ as part of counsel teams in larger judicial reviews on behalf of the Government Legal Department, such as in the challenge to the Heathrow third runway.

39 Essex’s breadth of expertise has enabled me to begin to build a broad and rewarding practice. There is a clerking team for each of 39 Essex’s four main areas of practice: (1) civil liability, (2) commercial and construction, (3) planning and environment and (4) public. The clerks across all four teams ensure that junior tenants practices develop at an exciting pace, and they have been very supportive in helping me to establish my practice.

Starting tenancy can be a challenging experience, but 39 Essex has been a wonderful environment in which to transition from being a pupil to a new tenant. There is a huge amount of support and guidance: junior members of Chambers are formally assigned a mentor, former pupillage supervisors are always very generous with their time, and colleagues are warm, friendly and happy to answer questions. There is a genuine ‘open door’ policy. I also frequently ask my roommate for advice on the practical matters involved in being a new tenant, as well as tricky points of law and procedure. I have also continued to enjoy 39 Essex’s social life, and have looked forward to the fortnightly chambers’ lunches and Friday drinks. Very recently, a new ‘games’ area has been established with a pool table, darts board and ping pong table – which I have enjoyed making use of this past week!

By Gethin Thomas

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