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Meet the lawyer

Jacob Haddad

Jacob Haddad

University: University of Cambridge
Degree: English
Year of call: 2021
Position: Barrister
Pronouns: He/him

What attracted you to a career in law?

I’ve been interested in problem solving and in pursuing a career that provides opportunities for intellectual challenge and stimulation since as early as secondary school. I’ve also always enjoyed reading and writing, particularly the process of trying to put together a persuasive argument on paper. Law therefore seemed a natural fit.

How did you decide which chambers to apply to?

First and foremost, I wanted a chambers that specialised in commercial law and offered top calibre work. I also wanted a chambers with a mix of different work, falling under the ‘commercial’ umbrella so I could decide later whether to specialise in one area or have a broad practice. I also wanted to apply somewhere that was collegiate, friendly and supportive. Having spent time at 4 Pump Court during a two-day mini-pupillage before applying for pupillage, I could tell almost straight away that it was a set that met my criteria.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I’d completed a number of mini-pupillages at both commercial sets and common law ‘mixed’ sets before applying for pupillage (the latter mostly so that I could rule out an interest in other, non-commercial areas!). I think mini-pupillages are crucial because they’re probably the only way you can learn about the day-to-day life of a barrister. Gaining this insight provides useful fodder for application forms and interviews (eg, you can tailor your answer to the “why do you want to become a barrister?” question in an evidence-based and more convincing way than might otherwise be possible). They also help to give you a sense as an applicant of which sets are likely to be a good fit for you as a person and practitioner.

What sort of work did you get involved with during pupillage?

I was exposed to a good cross-section of chambers’ areas of expertise, including IT, construction, shipping and general commercial. I helped my supervisors with legal research and completed first drafts of advices, pleadings and skeleton arguments/written submissions. I also did lots of my own work in my second six, including both written work and hearings.

What’s the biggest lesson you learnt as a pupil?

I learnt that the simplest answer is often the one that’s most likely to persuade a tribunal. I also discovered the importance of trying to present arguments in a streamlined way, with as few moving parts or logical steps as possible. That also often means keeping citation of authorities to the necessary minimum, and (relatedly) not bogging down advices with ‘show your working’ type expositions on the law.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I practise in all of chambers’ core areas, including general commercial, IT, shipping and construction. A typical day of paperwork involves starting (if possible) before 9:00am, and working on an advice, pleading or skeleton argument while responding to emails on other ongoing cases, some of which might require substantive responses. My day is punctuated by chats with colleagues to discuss particularly knotty problems or points of strategy (and to have a break, when I can, for lunch and a walk around Inner Temple gardens). I try to finish at a reasonable time in the evening to have dinner with my partner, and to debrief and decompress. A typical day in court involves travelling, holding ‘conferences’ (or meetings) with clients or witnesses, making submissions to a judge or cross-examining witnesses (or both), trying to squeeze lunch in where and when I can, and a post-adrenaline rush crash on the train home!

What do you most/least enjoy about your career as a barrister and why?

I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of trying to get on top of large volumes of material in short spaces of time and thinking hard about difficult problems. The aspect I enjoy the least is probably the unpredictability: it can be difficult to make midweek plans! However, the flipside of this is that you can sometimes make up for having to a work during evenings and weekends by taking a midweek day off to do as you please. Being self-employed means nobody is keeping tabs on where you are and what you’re doing at any given time!

What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful barrister?

I think curiosity is important: you have to be determined to get to the bottom of seemingly intractable points, whether factual or legal. You must have the capacity to work long hours, long weeks and long months. Crucially, I think you have to be somebody who speaks and writes fluently, and with impact.

What is the wider culture like at chambers?

Chambers is a diverse and interesting place to work. There are people from all sorts of places and all sorts of backgrounds. There’s also a genuine collegiality in that fellow members of chambers (no matter how senior) make themselves available to you to help with questions or to talk through problems, whether legal, ethical or personal.

What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since being called to the Bar?

I’m currently involved with a high-profile, fast-paced IT case in the Technology and Construction Court (a division of the High Court), which has involved working with many talented lawyers from whom I’ve learnt a lot.

What’s the biggest/most important lesson you’ve learnt since being called to the Bar?

At the self-employed Bar, you’re the person who’s ultimately in control of your work/life balance (however much your work streams and diary seem to be in the control of solicitors and clerks!). You have to make decisions about which cases to take on and which cases to say no to, and crucially when to take holiday, so as to prioritise wellbeing as far as possible within all of the constraints that barristers work within, including the cab rank rule and the demands of the cases you’ve committed to. Otherwise, you risk burnout and you’re in the long run likely to provide an inferior service to clients.

What are you reading at the moment?

Unfinished Business by Michael Bracewell.