University: Durham University
Degree: Law LLB
Year of call: 2020
What attracted you to a career in law?
There are fewer things more satisfying than winning an argument – and that is, ultimately, all barristers are for.
When representing a client, you’re sent in to be their advocate based on the facts as they’re given to you. The law is just the vector for that advocacy; I thought a career in the law would allow me to act on behalf of others in a professional setting, make arguments and get to the bottom of problems. All of this has proved true at the Bar.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
The vast majority of my work experience was legal in nature. Growing up in Gibraltar, I’d completed work experience in nearly every firm there; after university, I took some time out to do several different internships in areas of law and places of the world that interested me. I worked in the Supreme Court of India, a representative office in Brussels, and the Court of Justice in Luxembourg. None of these opportunities were down to dumb luck; I applied to hundreds of different opportunities to come out with just three internships in that year. I also worked as a governor to a Russian family, which taught me a lot about the world.
I think experience in a professional setting is critical for your early law career, for two reasons:
These are two things you can’t learn at university alone.
What do you think made your application successful?
I always advise applicants the same thing: honesty. This means being honest about your motivations and strengths. People often think that to be a barrister they need to fit a certain ‘mould’. You don’t. You need to convince people that you’re reliable – to the court, your client and your opponent – and that you can therefore represent a client’s best interests at all times, and do so with integrity. There’s more than one way to crack an egg, and a million different ways in which you can become a barrister. So, I tried to tell all chambers the same thing: I enjoy taking on responsibility, I like representing others, I enjoy making arguments and I want to do it for my career. It was the truth, so they believed me.
What sort of work did you get involved with during pupillage?
Pupillage was a healthy mix of different areas of law and roles of a barrister. I worked on public and private law, and even some criminal; in conference and in court; with lay clients and with solicitors. One long-running case I was involved with was a sentencing exercise in a health and safety prosecution, in which a school had pleaded guilty to various offences. I also assisted on procurement disputes, sometimes for the government and sometimes for private parties. One of those procurement disputes settled on the day of trial. In addition, from my second six, I began to go into court on my own, until my own diary completely took over towards the end.
What’s the biggest lesson you learnt as a pupil?
Understanding the role of a barrister. You’re a trusted adviser with obligations to the court and to your clients, as well as the wider public. You can’t take those obligations lightly as they underpin the entire system. Once you understand your place within the system, you understand what you can and can’t do, which was a crucial lesson I’ve taken into practice, and one I come up against on a weekly basis.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
There’s rarely such a thing as a typical day. At Henderson Chambers, juniors have a busy court practice – so I might be on a train to Birkenhead, Bromley or Birmingham, or preparing for court in chambers. I do a good deal of my own advisory work, usually on commercial or financial services matters, so I spend time on my own or in conference doing research, writing opinions, or advising on particular matters. In addition, I’m usually involved in a bigger, more long-running matter, in which I’m a junior to a senior barrister, meaning I effectively have a ‘boss’ (the senior barrister, who’s sometimes a King’s Counsel) who tells me what needs to be done and by when. A typical day usually involves a bit of all of the above!
What do you most/least enjoy about your career as a barrister and why?
I most enjoy the freedom of choosing when and how to work. Although that often means working evenings or weekends, it means I can slip out to the gym in the middle of the day without having to answer to anyone.
What has been the highlight of your time at the Bar so far?
Appearing in the High Court on a led case with head of chambers. It was a particularly contentious matter and I was part of a much wider team, but the thrill of the High Court experience was unmatched. I’m not saying the county court isn’t a highlight, and I have plenty of great experiences from district judges’ chambers around the country, but the satisfaction of bringing years of litigation to a successful conclusion was immense.
What’s the work/life balance like at your chambers? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?
It’s mostly up to you. If you’re being led on a case, the choice is less your own, but generally you can choose how much work to take on depending on your capacity. When I go through a busy period, meaning late nights and weekend work, I make sure I have some time off afterwards to recover. The late night and weekend work periods rarely last more than two weeks at a time, so I’d say I work on two weekends out of four, but that’s completely up to me. However, if I’m working late, I always do it from home and make sure I get enough sleep.
What’s been the highlight of the last month at the chambers?
A month ago we had our summer party on a country estate. There was topiary and a zipline – need I say more?
What’re you reading at the moment?
Switching between Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens and a really good history of Polynesia. I don’t really have a genre.