“I am a senior junior in Chambers and I am a ‘home grown’ tenant, by which I mean that I did my pupillage in Chambers and I have been here ever since getting tenancy, nearly 20 years ago now. My path to Chambers and law was not the usual one.
I went to a local comprehensive school in Wales. I did not study law at university but veterinary medicine, at Cambridge. After completing that course, though I knew I did not want to be a vet, I accepted a post at Bristol Vet School. I did not feel I was really a qualified vet without having practised at least for a time. I was a junior fellow at Bristol for two years, and passed further professional exams, and won a Wellcome PhD position. However I eventually realised the whole world of science and medicine was not for me. I took umpteen psychometric tests which kept coming up with ‘lawyer’, and I applied to City University for the law conversion course. I was offered pupillage in Chambers after an assessed mini-pupillage. I became a tenant in 1997.
I have deliberately kept my practice away from clinical negligence, and maintained a broad range of work areas. I do cases involving all professions’ negligence: lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, brokers, land agents, construction & planning consultants. I also do a lot of construction work and adjudications. I often act in regulatory matters before many different tribunals – an area of work that I targeted as I could see the scope for practice at handling witnesses and experts. I do commercial work, particularly involving supply chains of goods. I am qualified for Northern Ireland, Singapore and Dubai.
Besides my practice, I am also actively involved with Equality & Diversity issues via TECBAR’s committee, and I started this SBA (Specialist Bar Association)’s initiative for women’s networking events. I attend the TCC (Technology & Construction Court) Users’ committee, and women in arbitration events.
Throughout my time in Chambers, I have been able to direct my practice with guidance and support. I have had two children, and work almost entirely from home, with a Chambers-based ‘hot desk’. My clerks manage my work diary to fit around the school terms and school event diary so that I can be both parent and full time barrister effectively. Chambers has supported me through changes in my life and continues to do so. The support comes from my fellow members of Chambers too – particularly when taking maternity leave, and dealing with work load.
More than anything else, my fellow members of Chambers are an inspiring, varied, interesting and delightful group of people, as well as an exceptionally supportive, collegiate community.”
“Like many of my contemporaries in chambers I did not read law at university. Instead I converted to law after reading history at Oxford.
When it came to thinking about careers I had always been keen to become a barrister but my decision was sealed after an uninspiring summer internship at an investment bank (which coincided with the 2001 downturn) and a couple of fantastic mini-pupillages during university holidays.
My experiences during those mini-pupillages provided me with an insight into some of the best aspects of life at the Commercial Bar. First and foremost, it is a career which provides a unique level of variation in one’s working life from one day to the next – for example in recent months I have been led by a QC in a case which involved hearings in St Vincent and I have been involved in several cases before the Court of Appeal in London. Secondly, it is a constantly challenging and stimulating job, whether one is in court or working on a case in Chambers. Thirdly, there is a strong collegiate environment at the Bar, with a support network throughout chambers and across the Bar more broadly. Those features of the Bar remain constant.
It is also a job that you can mould to your own interests over time: for example, I was keen to work abroad and the work I have done at 4 New Square has already offered me the chance to work in a range of jurisdictions – whether the Caribbean, Middle East or Singapore. Therefore, whilst we work hard in chambers we do so in the context of fulfilling cases and above all in a friendly environment (something 4 New Square prides itself on).”
“I did not follow a traditional route to the Bar. I went to a French school in London before studying Philosophy and Economics at the University of Edinburgh, spending the third year of my degree at the University of California, Berkeley. Before I graduated I was successful in applying for a training contract at City solicitors’ firm Herbert Smith (now Herbert Smith Freehills) and with the firm’s blessing then went to the University of Oxford and studied for a second undergraduate degree, this time in Law. Throughout my studies I spent a significant amount of time on the river, as a rowing cox, having taken up the sport in my first year at Edinburgh.
After completing the Legal Practice Course in London (and “retiring” from rowing) I started as a trainee solicitor. I very much enjoyed the variety of the work and the steep learning curve, as well as the exposure to partners and associates who were outstanding practitioners. However after spending six months in the firm’s Advocacy Unit and also completing a judicial assistantship with two High Court Judges, on qualification I decided that I would prefer to be a barrister in the long-term.
The challenge of advocacy and the intellectual stimulation of being close to the law were what initially attracted me to the Bar. However there are many other aspects of the profession which I value very highly, not least the entrepreneurial nature of the job as well as the independence which it affords you, which has enabled me to build an international commercial practice (including a secondment to the British Virgin Islands just after I became a tenant) as well as pursuing other interests such as sports law and work for the UK Government through the Attorney-General’s Panel of Counsel. Combine all this with the informal and supportive environment at 4 New Square – which struck me from my first interview in Chambers and remains a distinctive feature today – and you have a flexible, exciting and rewarding career.”
“When I was 18, I wanted to be a doctor or a writer. I studied English Literature & Language at Oxford and then began to think about becoming a barrister. I came to chambers as a mini-pupil in 2004 and got a great insight into life at the Commercial Bar. I took the law conversion course, secured pupillage in chambers and took a year off to travel in Russia and China. I joined chambers as a pupil in 2008.
There is huge variety in what we do. In the last two years, I have defended a senior tax barrister against charges of professional misconduct and High Court proceedings; advised in a potential claim by investors for negligent mismanagement against an investment fund; worked on multiple very technical construction cases including long trials; acted in a £20m fraud claim against solicitors – and this is amongst many other cases. I am presently about to begin an LCIA arbitration, a shareholder dispute worth US$200m concerning real estate in the centre of Moscow, allegations of conspiracy, bribery and corporate raiding.
Some of the work is very difficult and there are late nights. It is also exciting and interesting and we work in an increasingly commercial and dynamic environment. Chambers is a friendly place, full of talented people.
I have just returned to work after maternity leave with my daughter. I have first-rate support and encouragement, from my mentors, from QCs and from our clerking team.”
“Prior to coming to the Bar, I undertook further postgraduate study. My undergraduate degree was in Law and French Law, following which I completed the BCL at Oxford and the LLM at Harvard. During this time, my studies spanned public law and human rights, private law and international law. On my return from Harvard, I continued exploring the academic side of law through teaching law as a part-time tutor at King’s College London and the London School of Economics.
I also spent a period of time working in the public sector, at the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, an oversight body for legal tribunals in England, Scotland and Wales. This involved monitoring various aspects of governmental decision making, including the effectiveness of the mechanisms available to the public for challenging such decisions.
The Bar is a profession in which there is no defined or typical route to either entry or success. It is a dynamic and ever-changing working environment, in which the issues that arise rarely fall squarely within a single, defined practice area or context. This is a job in which diversity in both intellectual and life experience can serve only as a positive.”