I set out to specialise in economics with an ambition to teach. I studied for a BA in social sciences covering economics, law, social policy, sociology, and maths and statistics. In year two I focused on economics and law, but law came more naturally.
I was always interested in politics and human rights, and saw lawyers at their best when advancing human rights.
I was articled to Michael Messent at Woodford & Ackroyd in Southampton, since absorbed into Trethowans. He remains one of the most excellent litigation lawyers I have come across.
I was a founding trustee and director of the Boaz Project in Hampshire which we established principally for young people with disabilities. We set up an agricultural work project which continues to thrive. I have stepped down as a trustee and director, but legal and professional, as well as business, experience provided an invaluable backdrop for making a contribution.
When you tell people you are a lawyer, they either ask you 10 unanswerable questions, or they clam up. In my experience there is not much in between.
The hardest sort of client is one who doesn’t want to listen, or to receive advice.
With barristers, I have learned not to pay too much attention to prior reputation. Some are among the most impressive people I have come across.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act is my least favourite piece of legislation.
I have seen the demise of the importance of professional standards and the rise in commercial awareness. The first far outweighs the second.
I hope the profession will rediscover the pre-eminence of the highest and best professional standards.
Specialisation is essential, but it now occurs at an unhealthily early stage. There is no doubt that a broad spread of experience as a litigator in diverse areas of practice makes you a better lawyer in any specialism.
There are too many lawyers in my field. However, there are never too many excellent practitioners.
If I were starting my career now, I would probably seek to be called to the bar and to conduct a human rights practice.
John Spencer is director of Spencers Solicitors