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:
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  EWHC 4134,  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.