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Katherine Apps interviewed by lexis nexis about Government panel appointment

Reproduced from LexisNexis with the permission of the publishers. For further information visit or call 0845 370 1234.
Public Law analysis: What are the most challenging aspects of being on the Attorney General’s B panel counsel? Katherine Apps explains the challenges and most enjoyable parts of her role on the panel.
What work is taking up the majority of your time at the moment?
I practise in the areas of:
  • public law
  • human rights
  • EU law
  • employment
  • disciplinary and regulatory, and
  • and commercial law
Most of my work involves cases in which one or more of these areas overlap. The work I do for the government is through the Attorney General’s B panel of counsel.

This week, for example, I have a mixed, but interesting, bag:
  • an appeal in the Employment Appeal Tribunal
  • an advice for a central government department on a human rights issue
  • a skeleton argument due on an EU law social security appeal
  • a written advice on a cross border employment case, and
  • some pleadings in some immigration judicial review proceedings
What are your recurring challenges?

I chose to pursue a career at the Bar, in part, because I wanted something challenging. I enjoy all different aspects of the job such as:
  • the pressure of getting up to speed on a new case
  • finding a route through a knotty area of law
  • translating a complicated morass into a persuasive and understandable form
  • helping a client to develop the best litigation strategy, and
  • advising in the world of ‘politics’ and ‘Politics’
Other aspects of the job that I cherish are:
  • meeting new people
  • doing interesting work
  • persuading courts, and
  • never having two days the same
Life at the Bar can, however, be rather like keeping lots of spinning plates in the air. We rarely only have one thing in our diary at one time, but when we are in court or attending a client or solicitor, they need (and get) our undivided attention. On a case there is always more work which could be done.

Are there any developments in which you are particularly interested?
In the areas in which I work, the most important legal development over the next few years will be whether the UK stays in the EU. Many people outside of the law do not realise how much being in the EU has influenced the ordinary law of this country for the last 40 years. Withdrawing from the EU would not automatically put the clock back—but initially at least, there will be significant uncertainty as to the extent to which the last 40 years of case law ought to continue to be followed.
It is interesting that the Supreme Court, in particular, over the last few years has been ‘recognising’ domestic human rights from pre-1970s lines of case law. That may work well to protect ‘traditional’ civil liberties, but is much trickier for more ‘modern,’ but no less important, areas of fundamental rights protection, such as reasonable adjustments for disability, gender equality and trade union rights. If the UK leaves the EU, I expect that legal arguments will increasingly make reference to the UK’s unincorporated treaty obligations. This already occurs (for example in the non-EU law judicial review case R (Aspinall) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2014] EWHC 4134, [2014] All ER (D) 90 (Dec) (Admin)), and if the UK leaves the EU, I expect this will occur more often.
Have you come across anything particularly novel or interesting of late?
My family remind me that I find novel and interesting things that ‘normal’ people find awfully dull. I recently gave advice relating to locally employed civilians engaged by NATO forces during a peacekeeping mission abroad—even my family might have thought that to be both novel and interesting.
Also, although not limited to the work of barristers working for the government, the Bar Council has recently published a Snapshot of the experience of self-employed women at the Bar. This makes interesting reading. The Bar is far behind many professions in retaining women. There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to reduce the number of those who leave after having children and never return, but there is increasing recognition that more can, and should, be being done. The Bar can learn lessons from the Government Legal Department, who recognised the value in this years before the Bar did.
Interviewed by Jenny Rayner.
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