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Meet the lawyer

Harry Samuels

Harry Samuels

University: University of Oxford
Degree: Classics
Year of call: 2020
Position: Barrister
Pronouns: He/him

What attracted you to a career in law?

I knew from my degree that I enjoyed dealing with knotty, difficult problems and trying to pick them apart – particularly when that involved having to draw difficult conclusions from complex primary and secondary sources. As such, I thought law would be a natural fit. I also wanted something with variety, where I wouldn’t simply be doing the same thing all day every day, and my early mini-pupillages and internships showed me that a legal career would fit that category perfectly.

How did you decide which chambers to apply to?

I went through the legal directories for my preferred practice areas to work out which sets were out there, and then made a spreadsheet listing them all alongside their rankings and application dates (when I applied, there was no unified timetable for pupillage applications). I also researched the sets online and tried to do mini-pupillages at my preferred options. After all that, I was very fortunate to obtain pupillage at the set of chambers which was at the top of my list of preferences.

Did you do a mini-pupillage? Would you advise other aspiring barristers to try to do one of these?

I did a few mini-pupillages across a wide range of practice areas. I can’t overstate how useful they are. They're your first real glimpse into the day-to-day life of a barrister, and the only time before pupillage you get to sink your teeth into real papers and real problems in a particular practice area. They're also an excellent chance to ask barristers your burning questions about the job, and also to get a feel for the culture and environment of a particular set of chambers.

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

I did pretty much everything within the commercial chancery spectrum. That took me from probate litigation and disputes between trustees and beneficiaries, through to shareholder and director disputes, and ‘pure’ commercial and civil fraud cases, including aviation disputes, financial services, sports law and energy claims. I also did a huge amount of offshore work, assisting my supervisors with cases in the British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands and elsewhere.

What do you wish you’d known about being a pupil before you started that you now do?

Pupillage is, of course, a difficult and stressful year. But your pupil supervisors are genuinely trying to get the best out of you, and the process is designed to educate you. I spent so much energy being stressed and anxious all the time, which I could've spent enjoying the learning process (and getting more sleep!).

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

I have a commercial chancery practice, which means I deal with disputes about businesses and property (in its broad sense, so including trusts and wills as well as land and real estate). It's a fairly paper-based practice area so, in a typical day, the majority of my time is spent drafting documents like letters, skeleton arguments, pleadings or application materials. Often I'll go and speak to another member of chambers to check my thinking on a particularly knotty problem, and there are regular groups of us going to get lunch in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. I tend to be in court once or twice a fortnight and there are marketing events pretty much every week that happen in the evenings.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

I recently appeared in the Court of Appeal in the case of Humphrey v Bennett, led by Steven Reed. This is a shareholder dispute between two couples. I act for the defendant couple, who are alleged to have breached their duties as company directors. One defendant had summary judgment entered against him, and we appealed against that decision. My role was to produce first drafts of our appeal documents for consideration by my leader, and to generally assist with knocking around ideas and working out our strategy. At the hearing, I was also given the opportunity to give submissions in the Court of Appeal, which was nerve-wracking but very exciting!

What makes your chambers stand out from the rest?

Readers will already know that XXIV Old Buildings is top ranked in our core practice areas by the legal directories and that our members have been involved in some of the most significant cases before the Supreme Court and Privy Council in recent years. But what people might not know is what an incredible working environment we have. We're a slightly smaller set, so there's a real emphasis on collegiality. We have regular lunches together, regular socials (including for silks and junior juniors to get to know one another), and regular group trips to the pub. The result of this is that everyone knows each other, there's a genuine open-door policy for people to bounce ideas off one another, and people are always around for a chat, whether about cases or otherwise.

In addition to this, chambers has a real emphasis on getting juniors into court. So, right from the outset, there'll be ample opportunity for you to have your own cases which you're running and for which you're doing the advocacy. This is at the same time as being led on meatier cases by the silks in chambers (which happens very regularly) and allows you to get the best mix of experiences for building your practice.

What is the work/life balance like at your chambers? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

It entirely depends on what cases I’m working on. In general, I tend to finish work around 6:00/6:30pm, and try to keep weekends free. Inevitably that changes in busier periods, but the clerks keep an eye on this and are very good at checking in to make sure you’re not overwhelmed.

What diversity and inclusion initiatives is your chambers involved with?

Chambers is proud of its diversity and inclusion work. We participate in the 10,000 Black Interns programme, we take placement students from the Sutton Trust, we participate in various social mobility mentorship schemes (eg, through COMBAR) and we recently ran a joint event with other commercial chancery sets about diversity, inclusion and access to the Bar. We’re keen to attract the best candidates for pupillage, whatever their background, and warmly encourage those from historically underrepresented backgrounds to apply!

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

It’s fine to say no to things if you already have too much on!

What’s your favourite movie?

Arrival. I've always been fascinated by linguistics and Denis Villeneuve is a genius!