Whether it is EU-originated, domestic or a self-imposed industry code of conduct, regulation affects all aspects of civil life and commercial activity. Most often, lawyers will become involved in relation to the regulation of commercial activity within the context of a specific industry. At one end of the scale they might be asked to mitigate a market trader's liabilities for breaching food safety standards; at the other they might advise during negotiations for a multimillion-pound settlement by a company that has fallen foul of banking regulations. In fact, in the wake of the financial crash of 2008, the banking sector is under intense regulatory scrutiny. Given the international debate as to the most appropriate scale and scope of regulation, this is a good time for barristers specialising in this field.
As someone who attended a state secondary school and with no family background in law, David Juckes was first exposed to the idea of pursuing a career as a lawyer when attending various career talks offered at university. His interest sparked, he began researching both branches of the profession to further refine which path might suit him best: "I considered both barrister and solicitor, but having done my research, I felt that the Bar was a better fit. The independence you get from being self-employed - specifically, being able to manage your own time and set your own priorities - is very important to me.”
David recalls the "year-long interview" that was pupillage at Hailsham: "The pressure was definitely on. That said, everybody was very friendly and welcoming. If I was ever stuck on anything, the barristers in chambers were around to help. As such, I was delighted to be taken on as a tenant in 2010."
Now with a mixed practice of civil and regulatory work, David’s expertise in the regulatory field focuses heavily on representing healthcare professionals in front of their various regulators. He explains: "My clients are normally within the healthcare sector - many are nurses who have been brought before their regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council. I also represent clients before the General Medical Council, General Dental Council and Health and Care Professionals Council."
David runs through the way in which a typical case might be handled: "The first thing that happens is that you get a set of instructions from a solicitor or direct from the client. You look at the brief and set up a conference with the client to get their side of the story. You need to really test the evidence to see if there is a defence for whatever they are charged with, so that you can give advice on what you think his/her prospects will be and what evidence we would need to gather." Assuming that the matter proceeds to a hearing, that part of the process can take between one and two weeks "and relative to my civil work, there are many more regulatory hearings and many more that involve examining witnesses".
David’s professional satisfaction gained from standing up and successfully representing a client at a hearing is tempered by the fact that for the client, the stakes are incredibly high. "For my clients, their profession and their professional reputation are so important," he explains. "Many of them would rather go to prison than lose their licence to practice. But certainly the hearings are the part that I live for and are what I’ve trained for, and there is nothing more satisfying than getting a good outcome for a client."
Tied in with the high-stakes element is the ability to empathise with the client and his/her needs at a time of great stress: "You really need to be a people person and build up that relationship of trust, especially as it is likely to be one of the most challenging periods in their lives. You need to do everything you can to reassure them, as they are often very anxious. You also want to make the process go as smoothly as possible, as well as trying to secure the best outcome."
Constrained by the confidentiality aspect to disputes such as these, David cites as a highlight an example of a client presenting with "a list of 12 different charges that I managed to have completely dismissed; that’s when you feel like you are really able to make a difference".
Although not directly suffering from the well-documented legal aid cuts, David’s practice is nevertheless being affected: "The regulatory market is becoming increasingly competitive. As legal aid is squeezed in other areas, particularly immigration and crime, barristers are making the shift to regulatory. In a way, I welcome that because you have to give your best every time to make sure that you’re still competitive. It spurs you on to do your very best."
David has a few ideas on how to learn more about this practice area, over and above the usual mini-pupillages. "I think it would be excellent to do work experience with one of the defence organisations that represent doctors and dentists in front of their regulators, or one of the trade unions." he suggests. "Paralegalling is also a good idea; even if you’re not considering being a solicitor, experience in a firm that works in the practice area that you want to go into as a barrister is very helpful, as a way of starting to network and to learn what they want from their barristers."
And his final point is a salutary one about the sacrifices required when you sign up to this way of working: "You will have to make compromises within the rest of your life. For example, there will be occasions where friends are going out and you won’t be able to because of the pressures of work. Sometimes that will be frustrating, but it’s just the nature of the job."