I did not have much direction when I was at school and I thought a law degree would provide me with options. I did not expect to enjoy the subject so much, especially after doing a year in industry as part of my degree. Seeing law in practice, I soon became very determined on my career.
I trained in a general practice in the City. It was a tough experience. I undertook a lot of agency work and had to do regular applications in front of masters on a broad range of legal disputes. I learned to be organised and flexible. I recommend training in a general practice – it allows you time to find what you are passionate about. For me, it was litigation.
Among the hardest set of challenges I have faced as a lawyer is Billett v MoD, which went all the way through to the Court of Appeal. There was a lot of interest from the legal profession in the outcome. The scrutiny both before and after the appeal was tricky, while at all times managing my client’s expectations. It was a great learning curve.
Family and friends often ask me for advice, from divorce to border disputes. I tell them that I cannot advise in other fields of law, but I try to help with general disputes. A chat and some common sense always helps to diffuse disputes at an early stage.
Memorable career highlights include being made chair of Forces Law. It is an honour to be given the opportunity to help service personnel and steer a national network of lawyers, all of whom are experts in their particular fields.
The hardest sort of client is one that does not trust you. Lawyers get a bad press and, more often than not, clients come to you as a last resort. They are sometimes suspicious and in desperate need of help. Not a good mix. You need to establish trust early on and this can require a lot of effort. My colleagues in Forces Law deal with quite a niche clientele; service personnel are some of the most deserving and hard-working clients that you will ever come across. They have a sense of pride and fairness. They can also tell very quickly if you do not know what you are talking about.
My least favourite law is anything to do with property. It is complex and challenging, but I prefer the human element.
I think the sea change that came with the Jackson reforms has been good and bad. It has made the profession more focused on achieving a ‘proportionate’ outcome, but this does not always mean the most ‘just’ outcome. I am concerned that other changes are likely to be sped through without enough reflection.
I am concerned about the changes the government is suggesting to the law of combat immunity and the revisions to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme for personnel injured in combat. I welcome any attempt at securing more compensation for service personnel, but am concerned about the fairness and transparency of the proposed new system.