Partner, Taylor Haldane Barlex, Chelmsford; and judge
My parents pushed me towards a legal career (although they weren’t at all pushy). I was 15 and had to find a work experience placement. My mum was (and still is) a probation officer and my dad a police officer, so law seemed like a natural path. My mum knew that THB was setting up a firm and I gained work experience there. I have never looked back.
I have been gaining experience ever since I started at my firm. I haven’t gone down the ‘traditional route’ and have been fortunate with my training. The firm has been brilliant. I can’t thank it enough for all the training and opportunities I have been given.
Among my hardest set of challenges is getting up at 3am to go to the police station. I’ve found it hard to accept outcomes that I think are wrong – when a client is found guilty and I don’t think they should have been. I’ve also realised that although we have come a long way, it is still difficult as a female lawyer. I have been ignored and looked through, and mistaken for a secretary on more than one occasion.
Many years ago, before I qualified, I saw a colleague looking into the application process to become a deputy district judge. I hadn’t even realised that the post existed. Back then, seven years’ qualification was required before you could apply. It sounded like a great opportunity and I decided that I would apply as soon as I was able to.
Being the youngest woman in the UK to become a judge feels quite surreal. I had an idea that I was the youngest female but I did not know how much attention I would receive. However, when all is said and done, I hope that this will encourage and inspire other young women, and show that anyone (male or female) is capable of anything they set their minds to. I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved.
My first day as a fully qualified solicitor was without doubt one of my proudest moments, and I will always remember my first case in court. The mixture of nerves and excitement is what got me through it. Winning my first trial is another highlight and conducting trials generally. There is no feeling like it – court feels like home. Latterly, my highlights have been appearing in the Court of Appeal as advocate and having a case at the Supreme Court.
Lost in the changes I’ve seen in criminal law is the loss of access to representation with the legal aid changes. However, a gain has been the changes with the advocates toolkit and working with the vulnerable, as well as the use of intermediaries.
I hope that access to justice for all is not lost. I also hope that someone beats my record and becomes not only the youngest female judge but also the youngest judge, regardless of gender. I am not precious about it, I want others to succeed and be great at what they do.