This is a book about an East End boy who overcame antisemitism and bullying to excel. It is not ‘outspoken and outrageous’ as the flyleaf suggests, but is nonetheless an interesting insight into the growth of a stellar legal career. While the prose in places resembles counsel’s advice when setting out the facts of the case, such as using full names for institutions rather than abbreviations, it is eminently readable.
The best insight into the author’s character and personality is provided at the start and end. He recounts a disaster that affected him before dealing with childhood and his realisation that adults lie, which appears to have had a great impact on him. His account of antisemitism and bullying at school is poignant, particularly given that the antisemitism took place just after the second world war.
The conclusion shows how, having lost hope, he regained it. This was thanks in part to a psychiatrist. They turned the author’s reference to his life being like a night-watchman at the wicket waiting for the end, to the night-watchman seeing the day out and batting on during the next day to complete a memorable innings.
The unfairness of the system and the author’s lack of sophistication meant that he did not pass the 11+. But, as is so often the case, the faith of a teacher in the author’s ability not only inspired him but led him to think of himself as a failure no longer.
Author: Peter Whiteman QC
£20, The Beautiful Publishing Company Ltd
This resulted in him reaching grammar school, where he met Derek Jacobi, who writes the foreword to this book. Success at grammar school led to Cambridge, much to the author’s surprise. Surprise and thanks constitute a common thread as the author progresses in the legal world, writing a legal tax textbook thanks to the encouragement of his lecturer at the LSE. He took silk at 34, seemingly the youngest to do so in the modern era, thanks to the encouragement of a senior judge.
The main part of the book deals with his career from qualification, including taking silk, setting up his own chambers, lecturing at university in Virginia and taking part in international tax negotiations. There is only a small part of the book which refers to specific cases (duly anonymised), including a very good example of how even the most wealthy and sophisticated clients never cease to surprise. In what is perhaps a lesson to many of us, he recognises that he is working far too hard and plans to reduce his workload – but too late to avoid health complications.
Almost limitless energy and a willingness to take risks are what so many successful entrepreneurs and business people appear to have in common. It is very clear from this book that without a great deal of hard work, energy and willingness to follow his instinct, the author would not have made the success of his career that he did.
James Couzens is a former partner at Parrott & Coales, Aylesbury