Life of a Civil Pupil – Eleanor Guildford
I am a first six pupil at St Pauls Chambers under the supervision of Sophie Mitchell, specialising in defamation, harassment and data/privacy law. I usually start the day by checking in with my pupil supervisor. We plan my day and prioritise outstanding tasks which complement Sophie’s current caseload, pleadings I am drafting for members in other areas of civil law and attending Court hearings relevant to my future practice.
Every day is different. Today I am shadowing Sophie at the County Court on an application for an emergency injunction. Due to the urgent nature of this application to prevent the misuse of private information, our skeleton arguments drafted over the past three days include requests for a private hearing and anonymity order. The Clerks are brilliant at identifying when priority work comes into the diary and moving other matters around to accommodate, which has allowed us to meet the tight deadline alongside our other work.
At Court, I observe how Sophie interacts with opposing counsel, the Judge and our client to further my understanding of Court procedure and ethical practice in anticipation of the forthcoming ethics exam and being ‘on my feet’ in five weeks time. Following the successful hearing, I have an opportunity to compare my skeleton with Sophie’s and receive feedback to help me improve future written work. I find this to be a useful learning exercise and am reassured by the (mostly!) decreasing number of corrections compared to my previous effort.
After lunch, we head back to Chambers with a large slice of Biscoff cake to fuel our afternoon harassment conference. In preparation, I have researched relevant rules of civil procedure, identified gaps in the evidence and annotated the bundle. Our four-hour conference started by distilling the evidence into discrete incidents of ‘conduct’, before explaining the relevant law and giving advice. Because the offensive material has been sent to our clients’ shared home address, the principle in Levi v Bates , a case in which Simon Myerson KC of Chambers appeared, is likely relevant. In specific circumstances, it enables Claimants to hold a Defendant liable for alarm and distress caused by a Defendant to a Second Claimant, in this case the girlfriend of the intended recipient. The test per section 1(1)(b) Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA) is an objective one, that a reasonable person in the Defendant’s position should know or ought to know their conduct is harassment. The next step is to draft a skeleton argument for the upcoming multi track trial of the case, which will be incredibly useful as I have just received my first brief for second six; a harassment small claim.
Inevitably I feel a mixture of nerves and excitement but am reassured by my growing confidence in this area of law due to my experience to date. I was fortunate to shadow Simon Myerson KC defending at a three-day Magistrates Court trial on the criminal offence of harassment which augmented my knowledge of the relevant caselaw and legislation. Simon defended an ex-member of a religious cult charged with harassment of current members pursuant to s.1(1A) PHA. Amongst other things, the court had to decide whether the defendant’s conduct caused alarm and distress that was oppressive and unacceptable rather than merely unreasonable following the judgment in Scottow . Civil harassment is governed by the same legislation, thereby my learning will be directly relevant to my first brief.
I leave Chambers at around 6.30pm after talking to Helen and Matthew about Circuit Mess tomorrow evening. This will be my second mess, which consists of a gathering of the North Eastern Bar for drinks, supper and revels. The evening is really enjoyable and a great opportunity to meet colleagues in a less formal setting and catch up with fellow pupils at other Chambers.
Once home, I write a brief summary of the day into my diary to keep track of my experience for my own record and to submit to the Bar Standards Board when the time comes to apply for my full practicing certificate in September. Tonight, I plan to go for a swim and get an early night before another exciting day tomorrow.