I grew up in Scunthorpe, a small working class town in the north east of England. In my second year of University (studying psychology) I decided I would become a lawyer and work for the United Nations. I studied the conversion course and took the Bar exams. In order to pay for my Bar School fees, I worked in a variety of part-time and vacation jobs, including in a newsagents in Peckham, a bookies and a pea and bean factory. Unfortunately, I missed out on applying for any Middle Temple scholarships. There was no Internet and I was not aware of them and was a little disorganized. By the time I realized what was available, I had missed the closing dates.
I was called to the Bar in 1995. I obtained a tenancy at Tooks Court Chambers, focused upon criminal defence work. After 5 years, I moved to Doughty Street Chambers to expand my international criminal law practice, eventually branching out into the field of international human rights, including business and human rights.
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have very interesting international cases and clients, including the Libyan government at the International Criminal Court, the Serbian Government at the International Court of Justice, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, the UN and Action Aid.
Many of these clients and cases involve highly emotive issues and involve a large amount of travel. Keeping focused on the law and trying to balance a professional and personal life is often tricky. However, I guess that is true of most busy professionals. It is also a price worth paying for the privilege of having a job that is so interesting.
I was never focused upon becoming a QC. On the contrary, I doubted whether the ‘badge’ of QC would suit my practice or me. However, in the end I was pleasantly surprised at the willingness of the QC Selection Panel to be searching and flexible in their approach to the relevant criteria.
For those, like me, who come from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented at the Bar, I would recommend hard work and persistence. The Bar has some incredibly intelligent and talented people. However, the majority intake is fairly normal. Many have been lucky enough to have benefitted from patronage or assistance or, like myself, have worked very hard to be successful. Through hard work and application, we can and should force ourselves into the profession.