University: University of Cambridge
Degree: BA Law
Year of call: 2021
What attracted you to a career in law?
In the words of John Milton (played by Al Pacino) in The Devil’s Advocate, legal practice is the “ultimate backstage pass”. As a barrister or a solicitor, you learn a lot about the world and human nature that you can’t acquire from reading the headlines. You can’t talk about most of it, though, because a lot of the cases you work on as a lawyer will be confidential!
Did you do a mini-pupillage? Would you advise other aspiring barristers to try to do one of these?
Definitely. I completed mini-pupillages at a variety of chambers that specialised in different areas of practice (eg, chancery, commercial, tax and public law) to get a feel for what a day in the life of a barrister practising in each of these areas was like. More importantly, doing a mini-pupillage in a set of chambers allows you to get to know the culture of the set, what the people there are like and hopefully a little about the clients the set works with. In other words, a mini-pupillage lets you discover whether you ‘vibe’ with the sets that you want to apply to.
What was the most difficult part of the recruitment process/application for you?
The interviews were the most difficult part of the recruitment process for me. I’d flown home (I grew up outside the UK) just before the onset of covid-19 across the world and had to quarantine in a hotel room for two weeks. By coincidence, almost all my interviews took place within those two weeks. An experience I wouldn’t repeat…
What sort of work did you get involved with during pupillage?
I got involved in all the cases my pupillage supervisors were working on when I sat with them, which meant I had exposure to a very broad range of work. For example, I worked on a precedent-setting case in the High Court relating to the rescue of failed energy companies overseen by Ofgem (Croxen v GEMA), a Cayman Islands trial relating to the winding up of a fund, and a dispute between a prime-of-prime broker and a retail Forex broker.
What’s the biggest lesson you learnt as a pupil?
The biggest lesson I learnt as a pupil is to never be afraid to debate and discuss ideas (respectfully) with the more senior barristers who are leading me on a case. Lawyers are in the business of solving problems and, when solving problems, two heads are better than one. Moreover, in these discussions I’ve found that there’s always something I’ve learnt from more senior barristers and from the store of experience they’ve built up.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
At present, I focus on civil fraud, insolvency and commercial disputes in England and Wales, and overseas. Some days are spent preparing for large cases where there might be a big hearing several months away and where I’m led by more senior barristers; these days are usually spent in chambers reading papers, preparing various types of legal document and doing research.
I am, however, in court often and frequently head down to the High Court, Insolvency and Companies Court, and County Court as sole advocate on an array of different types of case. These include injunctions, applications to set aside statutory demands, winding-up petitions and bankruptcy petitions against individuals.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful barrister?
As you might expect, to be a successful barrister you need to like advocacy and be confident speaking in court. You also need to adapt your advocacy to a variety of settings. Barristers are often asked to act as advocates before a range of tribunals but also in other out-of-court scenarios, such as in mediations. Finally, you need to be able to work well and get on with lots of different people, including clerks, court staff, solicitors and lay clients – one thing many people still don’t realise is that modern barristers have far more contact with lay clients than in the past!
What advice do you have for budding barristers who are contemplating a career in law?
My advice for aspiring barristers is to read widely, get to know the chambers or firms you want to apply to, and cultivate a range of life experiences that you can draw upon in practice at the Bar.
What’s the work/life balance like at your chambers? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?
As a pupil, I almost never worked late or at weekends. Our supervisors made a very conscious effort to see that we were out of chambers by 6pm and had a restful weekend.
As a tenant, it really depends on our schedule and the cases we’re working on. If there’s urgent work that needs to be done, late nights or weekend work are sometimes needed. That being said, everyone I’ve spoken to so far has managed to get a good break in over the summer and Christmas.
What’s the wider culture like at chambers?
Chambers is warm and welcoming, in particular at the junior end. It’s very common to find members wandering into each other’s rooms to chat about a particular point of difficulty and it’s also common for there to be informal, ad hoc drinks after work in addition to more planned social events.
What’s been the highlight of the last month at the chambers?
Our chambers’ summer party!
What’s your signature dish?
I’m a terrible cook but I love making anything with aubergine!