Becoming a Barrister: Practising Housing Law and Starting ‘On My Feet’
Below Lawyer Monthly recently heard from Ahmed Osman, a barrister in pupillage at One Pump Court, as he delves into the complexities of housing law and the trivialities of his first case in court.
In the second half of my first six months of pupillage I have been shadowing an experienced Housing barrister. I had no prior experience of Housing law, but had an interest in learning about the area because of my own personal experiences as a child.
When I was young, my family and I were evicted from our house because the landlord fell into arrears with the mortgage. We were completely unprepared, but through the kindness of strangers, we were able to find another property at very short notice. Since then, I have developed a keen interest in helping others who find themselves in a similar position. Most of the clients represented by One Pump Court are tenants who were very vulnerable.
Observing a Housing practice has been an intense but brilliant learning experience. Having had no prior experience in the area I had to quickly get up to speed with the fundamentals of Housing law. The hearings that I shadowed were varied: my first hearing with my supervisor was an application for relief from sanctions. The other hearings that I saw ranged from last minute applications to stop evictions, first hearings in a claim by a landlord for possession of a property and appeals to the county court against decisions of the local authority regarding their duties to homeless people.
I have found the environment in Housing to be less hostile than immigration. Those representing landlord were more likely to agree to a reasonable way forward before the hearing and the judges at the hearings were much more open and receptive to the arguments of tenants and in the case of last minute eviction hearings would generally grant a stay to delay the eviction. Housing law is an interesting area with quite a bit of technicality and interesting case law. I also feel from seeing my supervisor’s practice that you can make a real noticeable difference to the lives of vulnerable people by assisting them through the daunting process that involves keeping a roof over their head.
I have now started the second six months of my pupillage. This means that I am now able to start accepting instructions from solicitors in my own right. My first court hearing was a bail hearing in an Immigration case. I was nervous but felt ready to start to deal with my own cases. I prepared the day before and arrived at court very early along with my fellow pupil, Catherine. who also had her first case that day in the same court.
I was second on the list but because my client had not been brought to court from prison (because of resource issues) the court clerk placed my case last on the list. The solicitor and I agreed because the client’s address would expire on the day of the hearing to proceed with the case being heard in his absence. After what transpired to be 3-hour wait, my case was finally called by the judge and was over very quickly. After asking me a few questions the judge granted bail without hearing much in the way of argument from both representatives. After all those nerves leading up to the hearing, it was surprisingly straightforward.