This article was written in support of National Pro Bono Week, running from 2–6 November 2015.
National Pro Bono Week is a nationwide campaign to celebrate the range and impact of voluntary free legal services provided by the legal profession. Support the campaign on Twitter using #NPBW2015 and #WeDoProBono
is your position and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
long have you been in this role and what brought you here?
I’ve been at the bar for 13years
now, although I had never thought of being a lawyer until I was in my twenties.
I found myself as President of the Students’ Union at Birkbeck (Uni of London)
where I gained a reputation for advocating pretty relentlessly on behalf of
individual students and the student body. I took myself dead seriously, and
people kept telling me I should be a lawyer. Eventually, when I thought about
it, I realised the bar was a pretty good match for the things I enjoyed and was
good at. I did not want to become a family lawyer though, and kicked against it
for quite a few years before realising what a great niche it was for me.
are the people you work for/with like?
I’m proud to work with some passionate,
creative and amazing people at St John’s, and the wider Bristol legal community
is a fantastic community to be part of.
When I was very junior I advised a very
insistent client that his proposed appeal against a committal order was so weak
I could not think of any grounds I could properly draft. I was persuaded by my
equally insistent solicitor (against my better judgment) to have a try, based
on the fresh evidence my client had obtained from a private investigator who
had prepared a 'location report'. I did. To my eternal astonishment, after 2 long days before a circuit judge, I won the appeal. Whilst it was gratifying to
have somehow pulled it off, it was excruciatingly embarrassing to have given
advice that had turned out to be duff. It stays with me as a reminder that even
apparently hopeless cases can sometimes succeed, and we should be ready to find
ways to advance our clients’ cases, however seemingly forlorn they are.
is the best and worst part of the day for you?
On a bad day it’s that moment not long
after midnight when I realise I am past my best and will have to get up at four
am to finish preparing. But on most days it’s that point when I realise I’ve
slept through the third alarm.
Hitting send when I’ve crafted a poetic
skeleton that I’m happy with. And those rare occasions when a client says
adjectives best describe you?
Ornery. Stubborn. Excitable. Idealistic.
keeps you motivated?
The knowledge that people need my help more
than I need a break. And my mortgage.
Builder’s tea. With milk.
would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?
It’s amazing. Don’t do it.
song do you listen to the most?
Honestly? It’s a draw between Let It Go
(Frozen Soundtrack) and Best Song Ever (One Direction). If I had a choice
(which I don’t) it would be Big Yellow Taxi.
do you enjoy your time outside of work?
A lot of my 'spare' time is taken up
blogging and writing, or working on other projects like The Transparency
Project or the other litigant support initiatives we’ve set up in Bristol (
www.familycourtinfo.org.uk). Otherwise I knit, talk to my chickens, fail to
exercise and spend time with my family.
you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and
Transparency. And I don’t just mean
publishing judgments – I mean making our family court system clear,
understandable, accessible. It is shamefully complicated, confusing and
impenetrable for normal people (lawyers are not normal) and most of the
projects I get drawn into are aimed in some way at changing that.