Partner, Moore Blatch, Richmond
I entered the legal profession by good fortune, having left school at 17. I began working as an outdoor clerk for trade union firm Rowley Ashworth. It was there that I developed a passion for helping people and a passion for law. Acting for trade union members meant that I was exposed to a variety of clients, from those who suffered injuries arising from road traffic accidents, to industrial accidents or public liability accidents, as well as those suffering occupational disease.
Supporting the victims of accidents helped me develop a sense of empathy which motivated me to qualify and build a career in law.
My legal training was unconventional in many ways, but this put me in good stead and has given me a different perspective as a lawyer. I qualified as a legal executive in the first instance while working full-time, which gave me great practical experience. By the time I qualified as a solicitor at 26, I already had nearly 10 years’ experience, which then led to obtaining partnership at a relatively young 28.
I would say one of the hardest challenges has been developing in a profession which has not historically been the most diverse. However, this has changed significantly over the years. I hope the challenges I have overcome will inspire more junior lawyers coming through.
I have been blessed with many highlights in my career. I have won three awards and been shortlisted for two others, including the 2016 National Diversity Award in the Positive Role Model (Race) category. My first award was at the Law Society Ethnic Minorities Conference in the ‘Rising Star: Advocate in the Face of Adversity’ category. I can also reflect on several TV appearances, most notably appearing on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman.
My most memorable highlight is winning the case of Corr v IBC Vehicles in the House of Lords in 2008. This case was the first employer’s liability suicide case since 1957, and established legal principles which will be relevant for many years. This was a very personal case as the deceased was with me the day before his suicide. The loss at first instance in the High Court was probably my most memorable low, which made the subsequent victory in the Lords all the more memorable.
I have gained a sense of balance from law, respecting other points of view and always being respectful. Above all, I maintain an empathy and social understanding which comes from a desire to ensure justice. This has led me to be significantly involved in charitable work, including being vice-chair of Headway South West London (a brain injury charity) and the new chair of the Mary Seacole Trust.
I feel a sense of the legal profession working hard to ensure it remains accessible to all and reflective of a more diverse society. It is also moving away from alternative business structures and back to the principles of building reputation though quality of work rather than advertising budgets.