University: University of Oxford
Year of call: 2018
What attracted you to a career in law?
I’d say I’m a creative at heart, but it’s taken becoming older (and possibly wiser, although the jury’s still out!) to realise that’s not mutually exclusive to the law. I think the law allows you scope for innovative reasoning. You’re just given parameters within which to exercise your imagination. Ultimately, that’s what sold me on this career. There’s a clear intersection between invention, problem-solving, and justice that appeals to my sense of purpose.
Did you do a mini-pupillage? Would you advise other aspiring barristers to try to do one of these?
I did. From an aspiring barrister’s perspective, a mini-pupillage is the most realistic way for you to determine how pupillage will be at your set of choice. However, from the perspective of Coram Chambers, you won’t be penalised for not having done lots of mini-pupillages provided you can evidence the skills you consider are needed for this job by other means.
You might consider whether not having done a mini-pupillage at a set you’re applying to is a disadvantage. One of the skills we consider very carefully is a candidate’s ability to seek out information and draw reasoned conclusions. There’s an abundance of other material on chambers’ websites, family law blogs, other organisations and even Twitter, as well as a lot of friendly individual barristers who are willing to talk to you about the job and their chambers so that you can gain insights in different ways. To sum it up, having done a mini-pupillage is useful, but not having done one isn’t an obstacle.
What do you think made your application successful?
Two things: concision and authenticity.
Now that I sit on my chambers’ pupillage committee, I think the best applications we read are:
We want to know how people reason, how they’ll import a bit of their unique experience into practice, and what really inspires them to want to be here. At the self-employed Bar, you’re effectively running your own small business. You’re the expert on it. Give us a map and compass to what we need to know.
Please discuss a specific case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.
My then-pupil supervisor, Michael Horton KC, was lead counsel in Villiers v Villiers  UKSC 30. I had the profound privilege of joining Mike and Alex Laing (junior counsel) for the hearing. In the run-up, I assisted with preparing documents like the bundle of authorities and got a sneak preview of the written case. My main role was to watch the experts at work and learn.
What’s the biggest lesson you learnt as a pupil?
My biggest lesson was learning to be discerning when I watched other people at work, to think about how what I was seeing could sharpen my judgement and translate it into my own practice. My colleague, Adrian, had a lovely exercise he’d take me through when I shadowed him as a pupil, which was to name three things I liked during the hearing (anything at all – be it the approach to the case, the written position, the advocacy, the response to judicial intervention, or more) and three that I’d do differently if this were my own case to run. I still use this to check myself regularly.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I specialise in family law. So, I do most things that fall under the umbrella of family law, with an emphasis on public law. This could be child protection work, within which I might be acting for a local authority, a parent, or a child by way of their children’s guardian; or private law, meaning the disputes between parents or relatives about the best arrangements for a child and matrimonial finances. My work ranges from short hearings and client conferences to multi-day trials.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career as a barrister and why?
Both my favourite and my least favourite part is how unpredictable it can be, I love meeting new people, seeing new places and being presented with new challenges every day. However, when you’re in the thick of it you find yourself wishing you could have a slower week, and when you do have a slower week, you find yourself getting bored really quickly and wanting to be back at it again!
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful barrister?
I believe a successful barrister needs two things: persuasive advocacy and good business sense. Barristers are responsible for interpreting the law; in particular, seeking to persuade the court to adjudicate where there’s no obvious answer. In addition, particularly at the self-employed Bar, you’re accountable for your own professional reputation, managing your own finances and building your own connections (although you have a lot of help from supportive colleagues and friends along the way).
What is the wider culture like at chambers?
What I love about chambers is that people are invested in each other’s successes and are right next to them during their difficult moments. I’ve never had a minute where I haven’t had someone to lean on or bounce an idea off, and I’ve never been made to feel too junior to be relevant, or to have something important to say. You need to feel like you’ve got people rooting for you, and at Coram that’s there in spades, from the most junior to the most senior members of chambers.
What diversity and inclusion initiatives is your chambers involved with?
We’re working on getting the full list up on our website because not only do chambers support a number of initiatives collectively, but we also have loads of members of chambers who mentor with valuable organisations, sit as school governors and provide frequent pro bono legal advice to vulnerable people supported by different resources. But a select few are Bridging the Bar (BTB) – for which I sit on the founding committee and for which we offer mini-pupillages as part of the BTB Academy – and 10KBI, and we also work with the SPITE clinic at Queen Mary University of London.
Describe the chambers in three words.
Down to earth. If I have more scope than that, then – progressive, self-aware and familial!
What’re you reading at the moment?
I just finished Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, recommended to me by my cousin. I couldn’t put it down. A story well told can walk the line between being meditative and utterly heart breaking, which is certainly true of this book.