Emma Healiss, Keating Chambers

Name: Emma Healiss

Chambers: Keating

Position: Tenant

Degree: Law

University: University of Cambridge

Studied BPTC at: Manchester Metropolitan University

Hobbies: Netball, running, skiing, baking

How many rounds of applications did it take to get pupillage? Two

Number of interviews attended: 15

Emma Healiss, Keating
Why did you decide to train as a barrister?

I did quite a few mini-pupillages both before and during my degree. I think these are the best way to understand exactly what barristers do on a day-to-day basis and what the demands of the profession are. I was particularly attracted to the combination of advocacy and paperwork, and the fact that each case raises different issues and offers the opportunity to work with different clients.

What was the toughest pupillage interview question you were asked (at any chambers) and how did you answer?

I always found the “Why do you want pupillage at this Chambers?” question to be particularly difficult because it is very easy, when applying to so many places, to allow them to merge into one another and to forget that each set has a different identity and ethos.

I think answering this question well not only demonstrates to chambers that you have done your homework and know something specifically about them, but preparing for it also gives you a good opportunity to think about what kind of set you see yourself in.

It was always easiest to answer this question if I had done a mini-pupillage at the chambers, but if I hadn’t then I would read their website thoroughly, have a look through some recent cases that members had been involved in, and look at the profiles of the junior members to see the sort of work they did at an early stage of their practice. All of these things generally make good talking points and will help you pinpoint what makes a set different.

Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment…

The majority of my work is in construction, engineering and professional negligence, in line with Keating Chambers’ practice. Since I started my second sixth, I have been instructed in my own right on an increasingly regular basis on smaller cases (usually with a value below £200k). These range from construction disputes between neighbours to claims against architects, contractors and surveyors.

I have also been instructed as a junior on a larger case with two other members of Chambers. The opportunity to work on both smaller and larger cases means that my work differs every day and also that I get to work with a diverse range of clients.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

Before I started at Keating, I had no experience in construction or engineering and I was therefore worried that I might struggle with the technical side of the cases. However, it is actually the aspect of the job that I enjoy the most. Working with experts in order to get to grips with specific technical issues makes the work very interesting!

What aspect of the job have you found most difficult to get to grips with?

I always think advising a client that they do not have good prospects in a case is difficult, as I always feel like I ought to be able to come up with an ingenious legal argument which will mean that they will succeed. However, it really just is sometimes the case that your client is on the losing side, and it is important to have the confidence to advise them of that as and when necessary.

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

Most chambers say that they have an “open door” policy, which means that members are always free to knock on one another’s doors to chat through a problem or ask a legal question. What I didn’t anticipate was the extent to which that would actually be the case. Throughout pupillage and now in the early days as a tenant I have found it incredibly useful to be able to get the viewpoint of others on a problem or question. Even if people are extremely busy, it’s usually the case that they can spare you five minutes. Even if they can’t, there’s always someone in the next room who can.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

An email from another junior member of Chambers asking a group of us whether we want to have lunch together today. Another great thing that I’ve found is that, whilst the job of being a barrister often means working on your own on a case, everyone is keen to catch up when possible, usually over lunch or a drink after work.

What’s your best ‘in court’ anecdote so far?

I was instructed for the defendant in an application to set aside default judgment against a litigant-in-person. At the hearing, I made various submissions in support of our application then sat down.

The claimant got to his feet and within five minutes had told the judge that he had calculated quantum by putting a “finger in the air” and that the majority of his claim was for losses that were expressly stated to be irrecoverable by a contractual term.

When asked by the judge if I wished to give any submissions in reply, I declined. The application was successful; I definitely learnt that sometimes your opponent will do much of your work for you and it is important to know when nothing else needs to be said!

Which member of chambers would you want to be on the run with in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and why?

I think it’s more likely that, rather than going on the run, everyone in Chambers would barricade themselves in their rooms and live off the constant supply of chocolate biscuits and tea for as long as possible!

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • During my pupillage I knocked a coffee all over the electrics in my pupil supervisor’s room.
  • I am a keen member of the Keating Chambers netball team.
  • I perform in an a capella singing group at the weekends.

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer when I was very young, so I can’t really remember ever properly considering an alternative. One of my friends is a film producer, which seems incredibly interesting, so I like to think I would have done something like that.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career as a barrister?

The practice areas that you can go into at the Bar differ massively and therefore it’s really important to pick one that suits you. For instance, I have friends at the criminal Bar who are in court every day and have little time to prepare for each case. I, on the other hand, spend much more time advising clients and preparing for hearings, but I am in court less frequently.

The advice that I would give, therefore, would be to do as many mini-pupillages as possible, not just so you can recount them all on application forms but also to give you the best understanding of the profession that you are joining.

60-second interviews