Back to overview

Meet the lawyer

Antonia Eklund

Antonia Eklund

University: University of Cambridge
Degree: BA Modern and Medieval Languages (Spanish and Portuguese)
Year of call: 2021
Position: Barrister

What attracted you to a career in law?

I previously worked as a journalist for Reuters and as a political risk analyst in South America. In these roles, I touched on topics relating to transitional justice, commercial law and international arbitration, and started to feel that I wanted to do what the lawyers were doing! My previous roles gave me incredible exposure to all sorts of issues and people, but I was increasingly attracted to the detailed analysis involved in legal work and the potential to have a direct impact for a client. I was also attracted to the idea of specialising in a set of technical skills that could be applied across a range of factual areas, and the variety and interest that this provides.  

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I came to the Bar relatively late, after several years of non-legal work experience and having studied a master’s degree that wasn’t in law. Each person’s route to a legal career is different, and I’d encourage those considering applying to the Bar not to be put off if they don’t have extensive legal professional or academic experience. I’d spent many years interviewing all sorts of people in different contexts, as well as working with clients. I feel that this has helped me at the Bar, and other aspiring barristers will likely have developed their own transferable skills in different professional contexts.

Did you do a mini-pupillage? Would you advise other aspiring barristers to try to do one of these?

Many chambers, including Blackstone, require you to carry out an assessed mini-pupillage as part of the recruitment process. I did several of these and several non-assessed mini-pupillages. These were a valuable way to get a sense of different practice areas, chambers and court environments, and begin to develop certain legal skills, which helped me in the pupillage recruitment process. Mini-pupillages are a useful way to demonstrate your commitment to a career at the Bar in applications. Perhaps more importantly, however, they’re a way for you to consider what type of work you may and may not like to do.

What sort of work did you get involved with during pupillage?

Blackstone’s pupillage is divided into four seats, which is broadly intended to give pupils exposure to work across chambers’ main practice areas – in particular, public, commercial and employment law. I also gained experience in public international law, immigration, human rights, arbitration, and company law, and dealt with topics such as music, sport and art. Broadly, I was involved in drafting statements of case, skeleton arguments, opinions, conducting legal research and supporting supervisors in hearings. In my first seat, I was involved in a six-week trial in the Employment Tribunal and got to see a lot of cross-examination. Later in the year, I was involved in a hearing in the Privy Council, which was fantastic to see a different style of advocacy.

What do you wish you’d known about being a pupil before you started that you now do?

You’re not expected to be the finished product. The learning curve throughout pupillage is exponential, particularly if you’re fortunate, as I was, to have supervisors who are willing to give you detailed feedback. The important thing is to reflect on the feedback you’re given and the strategic reasons behind it, so you can continue improving and soaking up different styles and approaches.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

I’m involved in proceedings against BHP on behalf of more than 700,000 claimants in respect of the environmental damage caused by the collapse of a tailings dam at a mine in Brazil in 2015. Learning about the technical aspects of the dam has been fascinating. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Brazil a couple of times and to use my Portuguese in conferences and analysing documents. I received mixed views when I was applying to the Bar as to whether I’d end up using my languages, and I have been happy to see that it’s possible to do so, even at an early stage.

What do you most enjoy about your career as a barrister and why?

You’re constantly learning, particularly when you work across a range of practice areas as most barristers at Blackstone do. You learn every week about different areas of law, industries and experiences. You also learn a great deal from working with a range of leaders and watching advocates with different styles.  

What advice do you have for budding barristers who are contemplating a career in law?

I was advised when applying for pupillage to keep an open mind regarding practice areas I might work in, and I'd repeat that advice. While some areas of law may appeal to you from a theoretical perspective, they may offer very different styles of working, which you might not know if you like until you’ve tried them.

I’ve really enjoyed working with big teams on large cases, but also on the not-so-glamorous smaller cases, which allow you to play a larger role in driving forward the strategy and advocacy. Some areas of law will get you on your feet or involved with witness handling more than others, and some will have either a more academic or a more practical, fact-heavy focus. Blackstone encourages juniors to try a bit of everything for several years and so far I’ve really enjoyed that approach.

What's the work/life balance like at your chambers? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

Members of chambers definitely work hard and you can’t always predict when work will be required on respective cases you’re involved in. However, I’ve seen members of chambers from all levels of seniority adopt very different approaches to their work, and each have very successful and interesting practices.  

What's the wider culture like at chambers?

Very collaborative. Members of chambers frequently put themselves forward to help each other out when it’s needed and are very supportive in discussing any queries that arise. It’s also a friendly chambers – I’ve made some very close friends, and enjoy the open and lively environment.

What’s been the highlight of the last month at the chambers?

I feel obliged to mention the success of the chambers’ netball team! The roof terrace and gardens in Middle and Inner Temple are also pretty spectacular during the summer.

Where's your dream holiday destination?

Rio de Janeiro – I lived there for three years and still love it.