Barrister, 7 Bedford Row, London
I had a burning desire to be outstanding in whatever career I embarked upon, to work with people in a stimulating environment, and to make a significant social contribution. I chose a law degree because I thought it would provide me with a solid platform to work in many fields. Fortunately I was able to excel in this discipline from the outset, and represented the university at mooting, competing successfully against other top universities. This gave me the confidence to go on and carve a successful career at the bar.
My legal training was an excellent grounding both academically and practically. It honed my forensic and research skills, and taught me the most succinct and cogent way to present an argument, written and oral, which is important in any sphere. However, you can only be taught so much by others, and by far the best legal training of all is to learn through your own hard work and practical experience.
I have just finished a case in a foreign jurisdiction which lasted over six years. It provided by far my hardest set of professional and personal challenges. As English counsel, I had no rights of audience there, so I was lead counsel advising on all aspects of the law and litigation, and ran a highly complex international and financial investigation into the 25-year career of one of Europe’s most notorious organised criminals. I was often away from home, on the road to and from a wide variety of places, living out of a suitcase.
A good lawyer, the ultimate lawyer, needs so many qualities. For me, the core qualities, from which many others stem, are integrity, sincerity, a brilliant forensic mind, a deep understanding of the law and how to research it, tenacity, stamina and strength coupled with flair, creativity, independence, and last but not least emotional intelligence. I believe all of these qualities are found in the elite barristers.
I have been privileged to have been involved, on both sides, in some of the most stimulating work at the criminal bar. My work over recent years has concerned working in or for foreign jurisdictions against high-profile or infamous international criminal figures who people have read about. If I am given the opportunity to qualify the ‘usual’ impression of a lawyer (something akin to an investment banker) and explain my job, people are hugely positive and interested.
The severe cuts to legal aid funding in family and particularly criminal law over the last decade have (and continue to have) a devastating impact on both the quality and the diversity of those seeking access to, and those seeking to remain at, the publicly funded bar. It is quite true that only those with sufficient private wealth and/or without dependents can afford to do so – a genuinely appalling consequence. It is obvious that this will have a knock-on effect over time on the international reputation of our legal profession as a whole. The exceptional quality and strength of the independent bar was and should be one of this country’s greatest assets. I have no doubt that, save for a dramatic U-turn in the near future, posterity will judge governmental policies over the last decade as little short of a crime.
Effective international cooperation requires a strong relationship. I have worked with many different jurisdictions all over the world. In my experience, different systems, cultures, priorities, personalities, under-resourced mutual assistance departments and even significant violations of comity and foreign or international laws may all provide significant obstacles. No obstacle should be insurmountable, but I would suggest that mutual trust, understanding, demonstrable respect for each other and each other’s systems, strong personal relationships, a creative intelligent approach, and a great deal of charm and tenacity are all absolutely crucial.