Fountain Court is a long established and substantial set of commercial barristers, based in the Temple, London, but also with new offices in Singapore’s financial district. Members of chambers are recognised as leaders in the field of commercial disputes, for clients both in the UK and overseas, offering expertise in a wide range of practice areas and modes of dispute resolution.
Before becoming a clerk you both held very different, yet equally interesting positions. What did you do previously and how did you transition to the role of a junior clerk?
Dominic: I was a parliamentary assistant in the House of Commons before becoming a clerk. There was actually a surprising amount of similarities between that position and clerking, with lots of comparisons to be drawn between MPs and barristers. A senior MP can be just as meticulous as a senior QC and I am lucky enough to have had the experience of working with both.
Alfie: Before becoming a junior clerk I had many weekend jobs throughout my time at school and college. My first role was assisting in setting up and closing a stall in Romford Market, followed by selling suitcases for a concession in a department store. My time working on the stall certainly gave me a good head start for the heavy lifting and pushing that is often affiliated with junior clerking and lugging papers to court. I would also say that the independence I gained from working for the concession gave me the skills required for an efficient, organised, and well run junior clerks team.
You’ve both recently joined Fountain Court having worked at other leading sets. How has the move been for you personally and what’s different?
Alfie: The move from 11KBW, which provided me with the best possible start to my career, to Fountain Court has been a great one and extremely interesting. The clerking team here is fantastic. They have really made me feel welcome and have been very supportive while I get to grips with the new areas of law.
The most obvious difference has been moving from a predominantly employment and public law set to a chambers which has long been regarded as a premier set within the ‘magic circle’ of leading commercial sets.
It is a very exciting time to be joining chambers with 11 new recruits, the launch of our ground-breaking commercial crime team, the expansion of our membership and Chambers & Partners set of the year and commercial litigation set of the year.
Dominic: Coming from a specialist construction set, the biggest change has to be the wide-ranging areas of law that Fountain Court’s practice covers. It’s a bigger clerks room and a larger membership which presents different challenges. As Alfie says, getting to know your members and their practices is paramount and so when any clerk moves that is always going to be the most important thing to get to grips with.
What advice would you give to any junior clerks reading this?
Alfie: The main piece of advice that was drummed into me from day one in clerking was – ‘to never assume’ and ‘to keep good notes’. I feel that these actions would stand any junior clerk in a strong position to progress in their career.
What are the most challenging aspects to your new roles?
Alfie: The most challenging aspect of my new role, with which I am sure Dominic will agree, is not knowing each and every barrister’s personal preferences. However, at the same time, it is also the most interesting part of the job having so many varieties of characters and getting to know them.
Dominic: At Fountain Court I clerk the junior members of chambers, which is a change from my previous set. One of the biggest challenges this brings is managing the increase in the volume of new instructions I’m taking each day. The phones don’t stop ringing, so my multi-tasking skills have very much been put to the test.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given so far in your career?
Dominic: The MP I worked for always said that if you want something, you have to make it happen for yourself. I think that’s something that can really apply as a clerk.
How do you like to relax outside of chambers?
Alfie: I have the pleasure of watching West Ham United playing. However, it is hardly relaxing given the way we have been performing in recent times.
Dominic: I like to play golf when time allows and am also a keen runner, having completed two marathons in the past two years.
Alfie Harper and Dominic Woodbridge were interviewed by Guy Hewetson and Tony Stephenson of Hewetson Shah LLP