Stuffed full of matrimonial finance experts, 1 Hare Court is the place to be for those looking to work on high-profile, complex divorce cases.
Good Hare day
Let's be honest, if you've been on 1 Hare Court's website, you've watched the hare video at least twice. “Believe it or not, that hare has an agent who we had to get in touch with,” senior clerk Steve McCrone tells us. “It was part of a recent revamp of our website and it's gone down a storm. We tried to book the hare to make an appearance at our annual conference... but unfortunately it was making an advert in Scotland!” Who knew hares were in such high demand? What's less surprising is the demand for this set's members. 24 of its 40 tenants are ranked by Chambers UK;three as star individuals. Collectively they form the only set in London to be top ranked for matrimonial finance.
"We have taken cases to the Supreme Court three or four times in the past two years."
“We are pretty much financial remedy specialists,” McCrone explains. “That represents in excess of 80% of what we do. The remaining 20% can be anything from children's work to domestic abuse cases, mostly tackled by the junior end.” When McCrone talks of financial remedies he's not talking about who gets the Mondeo or granny's silverware – though there is that work too. “Where the complexity lies is if one of the parties happens to be a major shareholder in a company, or if there is a huge pension involved, or if there's a complicated trust relating to an aristocratic family,” McCrone explains. A pupil reflected: “Matrimonial finance is an area of law that requires a good understanding of other areas such as tax, trusts and company law.” It's a point worth emphasising as McCrone reasons that “the public perception of family law is probably that it is quite simplistic. But we have taken cases to the Supreme Court three or four times in the past two years, so clearly there are plenty of complex points of family law still to be explored.”
One such big case was Owens v Owens, in which Nigel Dyer QC acted for a husband resisting his wife's appeal against the dismissal of her divorce petition, which was based on her being trapped in a 'loveless and desperately unhappy' marriage. The appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court in summer 2018, meaning the couple must stay married. The whole sorry saga has led to calls for the introduction of no-fault divorce. McCrone says the Owens case “was brilliant experience for our pupils, both of whom were able to attend the hearing.”
Another big case back in 2015 saw Martin Pointer QC successfully represent the wife in the precedent-setting Supreme Court Sharland case, concerning the impact of fraudulent non-disclosure of financial settlement agreements. All kinds of (wealthy) people come knocking at 1 Hare Court's doors, as is demonstrated by the work of just one silk, Justin Warshaw QC. He's worked on divorce cases for the leader of an international church, a football club manager, a football club owner, a film producer, a string of heiresses and a line-up of captains of industry.
All is Hare in love and war
Daily divorce dealings means “being intelligent is not enough” if you want to work here, pupillage committee member Thomas Harvey tells us. “If you walk into a room and somebody is crying, you have to be able to win their trust, so soft skills are very important.” That said, family law also demands “a level of professional detachment. If a surgeon was worried about leaving a bit of gauze in every patient, they'd never get out of bed!” Pupils also highlighted the attraction of working in an area of law that allows frequent trips to court – “typically three to four times a week during your second six.”
People skills aside, what else can help you secure a pupillage here? “Keep your cover letter short,” Harvey insists – “two pages at most. A key part of our job is to be able to condense large amounts of information into a digestible format.” Good academics are required too. 1 Hare Court's most junior tenants went to a mix of top unis – Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol, Durham, LSE. When it comes to academic performance, Harvey says, “we bear in mind that A levels aren't always indicative of current ability.” He goes on: “While you need to show an interest in family law, we don't expect you to have wanted to be a divorce lawyer since you were five years old – that would be weird. And don't panic if you haven't racked up five family minis – it's important you experience other areas of law too.”
"Soft skills are very important.”
Around 20 to 25 candidates are invited in for the set's first round of interviews, which typically last 15 minutes and involve some advocacy and a CV discussion. “The interviews force you to think on your feet and form powerful arguments in a short amount of time,” a pupil recalled. Around ten people advance to the second interview, where they will be sent a problem question a week in advance to be discussed in the interview. “We don't expect a week's worth of preparation or any family law knowledge outside of what we send them,” Harvey makes clear. “What we want to see is how they apply what they have read to the problem in front of them.”
Pupils sit with three supervisors over the course of pupillage. The first two are more senior barristers, and the last is a more junior member so pupils can see the type of work they'll be doing as a baby junior. Harvey says that “though some members have specialities such as child maintenance or jurisdictional stuff, the area of law is broadly the same over the three seats.” An immediate benefit of not having to dip into multiple practice areas is that “you're not starting afresh every seat and you feel like you're getting exponentially better throughout pupillage,” Harvey says.
In the first six pupils shadow their supervisor in court up to five times a week and spend their time drafting chronologies, asset schedules and research notes. One pupil recalled having to research “the impact of a bankruptcy on a financial remedy proceeding,” reaffirming “the need to be comfortable in more commercial areas of law besides family.” Pupils begin getting up on their feet during the second six, by which point “you feel totally prepared and ready to do so.”
Pupils only have one formal assessment, which comes at the end of the pupillage and is a financial remedy advocacy exercise. There's also an interview “discussing recent cases and trends in family law.” Pupils complete two unassessed advocacy exercises earlier in pupillage: one before the second six – “to help give them an idea of how a hearing runs”– and a second at the start of the second six “designed as a practice run and an opportunity to get feedback” before the assessed exercise. One of the set's two pupils gained tenancy in 2018.
“I have a very good relationship with all the clerks,” a pupil told us, going on to describe the team as “incredibly efficient, committed, accommodating and user-friendly” – they know which side their bread is buttered. Thomas Harvey tells us that “at the junior end there's an an even playing field between the clerks and barristers. We all use first names and frequently go out for drinks together.” Further up the scale and things are a little more formal. “I deal with the QCs more and don’t often address them by their given names,” McCrone reflects – he has been senior clerk for nearly 30 years so it's no surprise he prefers things a tad more trad.
However, a pupil rejected the label of “old-fashioned” for 1 Hare Court, pointing out that “there are always people popping their head around doors, inviting you out to things, and all the barristers have very sociable personalities.” Things must be pretty chummy, as McCrone told us: “Just last week lots of members attended a colleague's wedding.” Hopefully no divorce lawyers will be required for that one!
Pupils have the chance to work at a law firm for two months before starting – “a great chance to see how things work on the other side.”
1 Hare Court
1 Hare Court,
- No of silks 13
- No of juniors 29
- No of pupils 2 (current)
- Contact Sarah Hardwicke, Chambers Administrator
- Method of application Curriculum Vitae with handwritten covering letter
- Pupillages (pa) Two 12-month pupillages
- Tenancies offered Seven in the last five years
Type of work undertaken
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2018
- Family: Matrimonial Finance (Band 1)