Pupils Megan Crowther and Emily Chipchase share their experiences of their first week “on their feet”
Megan Crowther - Civil
My first week on my feet saw me in court Tuesday to Thursday, with time being left for preparation and papers on Monday and Friday. I had an afternoon start on Tuesday with an MOJ Stage 3 in Hull involving PSLA, physiotherapy and credit hire in dispute. I was acting for the Defendant. Fortunately for me, my opponent turned out to be a good friend of mine from bar school. This made for a lovely first appearance in court with a pleasant opponent; and to make the day even better, we beat our own offer and were awarded our costs. A tip I would share with other pupils starting out, and prospective pupils too, is that I had done the maths on quantum and costs before the hearing so it was all ready to go in a handy spreadsheet. This made things easier for me and hopefully for the Judge too since my opponent and I had the figures ready.
My second day in court was in Leeds for a small claim RTA involving a part 20 counterclaimant. This saw me against an opponent who I didn’t know but who was equally pleasant. After my first court room cross examination, we had a reasonable result of split liability. Again, I had the figures and costs ready which made calculations on split liability easier. So a new tip for day 2, however, would be to write your opponent’s name down. It may be that those with a few months or years experience are able to remember, but within the first few weeks there’s more on your mind than names unfortunately. Make a quick note and save yourself any embarrassment!
Finally, my third day in court was in Sheffield. I had another small claim RTA with a counterclaim. Like all diligent pupils I arrived at court bright and early, treat myself to a peppermint tea at a wonderfully quirky coffee shop and headed over to court to find that my client was calling me by name already. Day 3’s tip: be prepared for clients to check out your website profile and know your face. It’s a big day for them and it makes it easier if they know who to look for. After a short conference and realistic advice on the papers and dashcam footage, we were able to settle the case before going into court, beating the previous offer that had been put on the table by the other side.
All in all, I had a great first week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to doing it all again next week, starting in Peterborough on Monday!
I am taking instructions in civil matters, particularly personal injury, clinical negligence and employment. My supervisors are Andrew Sugarman, Hylton Armstrong and as of June 2019 will be Nicola Twine and Lucy Bairstow.
Emily Chipchase - Family
Be reactive. Just as every pupil past has done, and every future pupil will do, it is obligatory to overprepare for your first hearing. However, it would be impossible to foresee every eventuality of what may happen on the day. Be ready to consider unanticipated changes to your case. Have the contact details of a member of chambers handy just in case you need to get a second opinion on how to proceed.
Enjoy it. You only get to do your first day on your feet once.
Know who is in the room. In family law cases there can be a number of people in court on any one occasion (the judge, advocates, solicitors, parents, social workers, the children’s guardian, intervenors, the list goes on). Taking a note of everyone who is present before the hearing is of great assistance when you are standing up in court and thinking about a whole host of other matters at once.
Make the most of your days out of court. A day in chambers is a rare occurrence and a great opportunity to catch up on your cases and drafting. Your diary can change at any moment so use your time wisely.
Always factor in time to respond to the sometimes unpredictable nature of the North-Eastern transport systems. It is worth being the first person on the platform in the early hours of the morning safe in the knowledge that you will be at court in good time irrespective of unforeseen delays.
Chronology is key. Drafting a comprehensive chronology in preparation for proceedings is a great way to digest information and organise the narrative of your case. Many cases can take months, sometimes years to conclude and a chronology is a useful tool to assist you in understanding the journey that your client has been on so far.
Make sure you take some time to yourself to relax and recharge over the weekend. Next week there will be more lessons to learn and challenges to face.
I practice in family law and am now accepting instruction in this area. My pupil supervisors are Sara Anning and Alex Taylor.