Master Andrew Hochhauser is honorary Counsel to Westminster Abbey, a former Trustee of the V&A, Governor of the University of the Arts London, a Vice-Chairman of the Inns of Court College of Advocacy, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a Deputy High Court Judge and the Chairman of Paintings in Hospitals. He is the 2020 Deputy Treasurer.
On Tuesday 14 April 2020, Master Treasurer wrote to all members of the Inn. The opening paragraph of that letter stated ‘The speed and severity with which the Covid-19 outbreak has struck this country and so many others around the world has been truly traumatic – none of us could ever have foreseen such dramatic consequences in our personal and working lives’.
The Inn closed its doors after lunch service on Monday 16 March 2020. All Domus and non-Domus events ceased. The Library remained open until Monday 23 March 2020, but after the Government announced a lockdown, that too closed.
Since then we have become used to working remotely. Words like ‘Zoom’, ‘StarLeaf’, ‘Blue Jeans’, ‘Skype for Business’ and ‘Microsoft Teams’, hitherto unknown, have become part of our daily vocabulary. Chambers are unoccupied. A ghostly atmosphere pervades the Temple.
In such circumstances, how can the Inn help its members? The Middle Temple is a community of practitioners, pupils, students, members (including judges) and our staff. In these troubling times, we want to make sure that we preserve that special ethos, and that all still feel part of that community.
We have been determined to remain in close contact through our activities, providing updates and communication channels, as well as through many other initiatives. On Thursday 14 May 2020, we held a ‘virtual’ extraordinary meeting of Parliament by Microsoft Teams. 132 Benchers attended from many parts of the world. That attendance is a record. Whilst some staff have been put ‘on furlough’, many others have worked extremely hard to ensure that ‘the show goes on’. I would like to pay tribute to all that they have done, which has been far above and beyond the call of duty.
Here is a description of the various activities to date.
Education and Training
The core activity of the Inn has been, and remains, providing education and CPD to our students, pupils, and new and established practitioners. Despite the fact that we cannot provide face-to-face activities, our Education & Training team, led by the brilliant Christa Richmond, has developed a series of ‘virtual’ distance learning initiatives that will ensure that our members do not suffer unduly as a result of the lockdown. We continue to provide a full complement of Qualifying Sessions (QS) for students. Following the Parliament meeting on Thursday 14 May 2020, we have had many offers of help from Benchers, including Master Nick Critelli in Iowa and Master Adrian Jack in the BVI! This programme now contains well over 2,500 slots, which is the number needed to give all students the opportunity to attend the required number of QS in time for Call to the Bar. These include advocacy days, designed for those who had signed up to Cumberland Lodge, 10 Sherrard Conversations, five mock trials, four MTSA events, four MTYBA events, the continuation of the Rosamund Smith Mooting Competition and two wellbeing sessions.
In addition, there are courses for pupils and new practitioners including the Pupils’ Course, the New Practitioners’ Programme, the Advocacy and the Vulnerable course and counselling sessions. There are plans for a CPD day on the topic of handling expert witnesses, which will be held later in the year. I will be running it with Master Paul Stanley and once again it will take place remotely.
Scholarships and Prizes
Despite the lockdown, it has been ‘business as usual’, as arrangements have been made to conduct all our interviews remotely, beginning with the Access to the Bar interviews, which were held in April. Eight interviewers awarded 36 Awards to second and third-year students, who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, often the first in their family to go to university. These Awards will enable them to have one week’s marshalling with a judge and one week shadowing a senior barrister in chambers, together with the provision of the necessary funding.
Arranging the interviews for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) scholarships is a challenge, even in normal circumstances. There are so many of them, because of the Inn’s policy of interviewing every single applicant. It is usually a three-day event held just after Easter with eight panels, each consisting of three members. This year we were determined that we should stick to that policy – and we did. Some 350 interviews were scheduled remotely by StarLeaf with 24 interviewers between Thursday 21 and Friday 29 May 2020. Similar arrangements were put in place for the GDL interviews in June 2020.
Financial support for our members
We are extremely aware of the financial hardship that many of our members are suffering as a result of this crisis. We want to provide financial support to these members and, along with the other three Inns, have supported a campaign by the Barristers’ Benevolent Association (BBA) to help those in urgent need. It seeks to raise emergency funds from those within the entire membership who can afford to donate. To start this fund, each Inn committed a substantial sum and the position is being kept under review to ensure that there are adequate funds. The current funds available for the emergency as a result of the recent appeal exceed £1m.
The BBA, however, only covers practising members of the Bar – that is to say, those who have held a brief. Its statutes do not permit it to provide assistance to students, those waiting for pupillage or pupils who have not held a brief. As a result, following the recommendations of a Working Group I chaired, the Inn has set up a Covid-19 Hardship Fund, which supplements its existing hardship fund for that cohort of its membership not covered by the Scheme. It has been allocated £100,000 from the Inn’s budget and through the generosity of its members over £80,000 has additionally been donated. The following members are eligible to apply for assistance (full details of which are on the Inn’s website):
Students who are currently:
- On the GDL or equivalentconversion course;
- On the BPTC;
- Between the BPTC and Call with an offer of pupillage;
- Those under 2 years’ Call who are actively seeking pupillage.
All pupils, save those who qualify for BBA funds. It has since been clarified by the Chair of the BBA that second six pupils will be eligible to participate in the BBA Hardship Fund, if they have held a brief or received instructions.
Unregistered Barristers, i.e. persons who have been Called but do not hold a Practising Certificate:
Those Unregistered Barristers who have a firm offer of pupillage from an AETO, where that pupillage has not yet started, either because it has been deferred or because it was scheduled to start at a later date in the first place. This category will be kept under review to see whether we can include more Unregistered Barristers. MYTBA also has its own small emergency support fund for all its members who are Unregistered Barristers.
Similarly, we are well aware that many of our tenants are experiencing real difficulties in meeting their rent obligations, as revenue streams evaporate. In appropriate cases, therefore, we have agreed to provide some financial respite to both our commercial and residential tenants in an effort to help them weather the current storm. We have written to every tenant outlining the assistance that is available, should the need arise as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Work on a new Members’ Lounge in the Ashley Building is proceeding as planned. It will open onto the Garden and should be ready when the first cohort of students on the ICCA Bar course commence their Part 2 course in March 2021.
The Inn continues to offer a free and confidential counselling service to all student and junior members of the Inn up to seven years’ Call. This service offers support from both personal and professional issues from a qualified and experienced counsellor. For more details please contact Christa Richmond email@example.com.
The Hall Committee have provided the following activities: on Thursday 20 May 2020, there was a virtual seminar dealing with remote hearings from both a practitioner and judicial perspective. That was followed by a second seminar on financial planning during the Covid-19 pandemic. On the social side, they have established a remote book club. The first meeting was hosted by Master Peter Murphy, the chosen book being his novel One Law for the Rest of Us. A virtual pub quiz is planned later in the year.
The LGBTQ+ Forum scheduled a series of film nights from 22 April to 27 May 2020 every Wednesday at 19:30, watching a film on Netflix Party, followed by a Zoom discussion with drinks. There was a remote ‘Taking Pride’ event on Friday 26 June 2020. The new date for its Michaelmas Dinner is Wednesday 18 November 2020.
The Library and Online Resources
As far as the library is concerned, collaboratively with the other Inns, we are providing a free documentary delivery service which can be accessed by the use of a simple form at: www.middletemple.org.uk/ distance-service-copyright- declaration. In addition, there is a list of free online resources that can be accessed which can be found at: www.middletemple.org.uk/ libraryarchive/library/library-services/ online-training-resources-and- webinars and there is a webinar archived which may be of interest at: www.middletemple.org.uk/ libraryarchive/library/legal-research- training/live-stream-navigating-free- legal-web together with an online video to be found at screencast-o- matic.com/watch/cYe0X5yq1z
There is also the ability to listen to both series of the excellent Pupillage Podcasts and access to recorded Treasurer’s Lectures as outlined in the April eNews all to ensure our members feel connected with the Inn and with each other.
As presently advised, the Inn will not reopen before October 2020, but as her Majesty the Queen said in her broadcast to the UK and the Commonwealth on Sunday 5 April 2020:
We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return; we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.
Rest assured, that until that happens, the Inn remains committed to doing what it can to ensure the personal and professional wellbeing of its members.