A day in the life
Property Team – called to the Bar July 2014 (qualified as a solicitor 2008)
My alarm goes off at 6am, and I’m of to Chichester for the morning. Catching the 7:09am train south from London the ticket machines are broken and the station staff helpfully point me in the direction of an adjacent station. Fortunately, I’m early enough to absorb the delays at my end and the train arrives late. Over ten years’ experience of travelling across the country to attend hearings has taught me to aim to catch the train before the last train I could get to still arrive on time, and to expect the unexpected at the station!
On the train, I boot up my laptop and make sure there’s no one behind me. The privacy screen on the laptop means that I can work. I have learned from the mistakes of others. On one occasion I was travelling from Brighton to Manchester and overheard a man in the same carriage having a conversation about a procurement contract that his firm was bidding on. At the time, as a solicitor I was involved in the same procurement exercise with the same company that he was talking about. He revealed their entire strategy including their pricing. Suffice to say, we won the tender.
I’m in court for three hearings today, starting at 10am a return hearing for an injunction to curb anti-social behaviour. These cases are mini-dramas in real life. In this case a tenant in a high rise flat has fallen out with his neighbours after they started to complain about his all night partying and unreasonable volume of visitors, allegedly bringing Class A drugs into the building. He has knocked onto a number of neighbours’ doors and has been seen through their peep holes wielding a machete and shouting threats of violence. There are photographs of marks in the wood of two peoples’ front doors where he has hacked away at the timber with the blade. He has pleaded guilty to a s.4 public order offence and criminal damage, but the neighbours need long term protection and ultimately the landlord wants to take possession. The defendant does not attend. The Judge grants an amendment to the without notice injunction to exclude him from his home. I advise my client to serve him with a notice to seek possession of the property as soon as possible.
Next. At 12:35pm I deal with a possession claim for a social landlord relying on a mandatory Ground for possession based on the fact that a tenant’s home has been made subject to a Closure Order. The mini-dramas continue – he has locked a woman in his home for three days against her will and abused her, set fire to the building in which he is living, and is known to the police as a Class A drug dealer. On the occasion of my hearing he’s just been released from police custody having been found in a car with a boot full of firearms. He doesn’t turn up to the hearing. The judge asks a few questions about our compliance with additional legal requirements brought in during the pandemic, and is content to grant a possession order.
Next. It’s 2pm and I’m dealing with the next possession claim of the day. The tenant does not attend, and the Judge again asks some technical questions about our legal right to possession before granting an order for possession.
I go back to the court office and enquire against the amended injunction order I obtained this morning. I need it to be typed up, sealed and then to scan it using some helpful software on my phone (which turns a photo or series of photos into a .pdf for emailing) to enable my solicitor to instruct a process server to personally serve the Defendant. The injunction order is typed – I check it and approve it in my mind, scan it over and liaise with the solicitor with practical arrangements for collection of the original order.
It’s now 3pm and I’m heading back to the railway station. On arrival there is a long queue by the bus stop and my alarm bells are ringing. The station staff are hurrying about – there has been an electrical failure on the line and there are no trains for the next 3 hours. Great. I’m directed to a bus replacement service to Brighton. An hour and a quarter later on a crowded bus I’m back on a train to London. I check around that it’s safe to work – and open the next paperwork due.
This is a Defence for a social landlord who has a vexatious litigant of a tenant who has issued a claim in harassment and ‘malicious prosecution’ after they obtained an injunction against him to curb his anti-social behaviour. The injunction had been granted two years ago. There are in fact three claims all issued the day after the other, ranging from Equality Act discrimination claims to fraud. I suggest that the client also applies for a civil restraint order.
Tomorrow I have a paperwork day so there is no imperative to consider the next days’ instructions. Time to relax and start again in the morning.
Commercial Team / Property Team – called to the Bar in 2015
Since completing pupillage and becoming a tenant in October 2018, I have enjoyed a busy court practice. That, however, is the only thing I have found typical about life as a junior at Five Paper.
My day normally starts with a journey to one of the many London county courts for a morning hearing. My cases regularly take me further afield, however. I arrive about 30 minutes prior to the time my hearing is listed for. Those minutes provide a useful buffer against unexpected delays in my journey. They also allow me to catch my breath once I get to court, which I often find necessary whenever I have travelled during rush hour.
I find the robing room, if the court has one, drop off my coat, and go hunting for the court usher – who can sometimes prove elusive – to sign in. Once signed in, I wait for my client to arrive. I use the time to review my papers for the hearing, which could relate to anything from a bankruptcy petition or a strike out application in a commercial dispute to possession of land or enforcement of a judgment or order. This variety is a benefit of being a member of two of chambers’ busiest practice teams.
When my client arrives, they provide relevant updates on the case, I raise any important issues, and explain the procedure the hearing will follow. Where possible and potentially beneficial, I will discuss the case with my opponent. At the end of the hearing, I have a debrief with the client and discuss next steps.
On my journey back to chambers, I pick up some lunch. I also use the travel time to answer emails. When I get back to chambers, I send a note of the outcome of the hearing to my instructing solicitors. I then begin to prepare my next cases. This could mean preparing submissions for my next hearing, drafting pleadings or researching an opinion.
Around 5:30pm, things wind down. Often, there are a few juniors going for drinks at a local bar. Occasionally, I tag along for one or two. When I do not, I continue working until about 7:30pm, when I call it quits. I spend these last hours dealing with any pressing emails that cannot wait until the morning, ensuring I have got everything I need for my hearings the next day, and planning my journey to the court.
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