60 second interviews

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The diversity of the employed Bar

A popular misconception when considering the employed Bar is assuming that roles are either in a solicitor’s firm or in the Government Legal Service or CPS. Dispelling this myth, Melissa Coutinho continues her series of 60 second interviews which demonstrate the diversity of work that employed lawyers undertake


KARA CHADWICK is a Commander in the Royal Navy

When were you called?

2007

How did your career progress?

I served in the Royal Navy (RN) as a logistics officer for seven years before being selected by the RN to train as a naval barrister. When I finished my pupillage with the Chambers of Sir Desmond de Silva, I undertook a mixture of legal and seagoing logistics jobs. I prosecuted courts martial with the independent Service Prosecuting Authority, followed by an appointment as the logistics officer of HMS Portland, a Type 23 Frigate deployed to the Falkland Islands, South America and West Africa. I have also served in Bahrain as the legal adviser on operational issues to the 30-nation Combined Maritime Force. I am now one of three lawyers, alongside my RAF and army colleagues, who provide legal advice to a Ministry of Defence (MOD) think tank responsible for military doctrine and strategic forecasting. As well as being responsible for the legal input to doctrine and concepts, we act for MOD in meeting UK obligations to review all new weapons, methods and means of warfare to ensure that they comply with the Geneva Conventions.

What is the best part of your job?

The variety of work that I have undertaken; from prosecuting and disciplinary casework, to deployed operations and representing the UK at international conferences, as well as everything in between. My current job conducting weapons reviews is fascinating and I believe what we do – ensuring that the UK complies with its international treaty obligations – is important.

What is its greatest challenge?

The flip side of the variety of work is that you often have to become an expert on new and developing areas of law very quickly; but I feel well supported by the range of external stakeholders – academics and practitioners, international military lawyers and so on – with whom we enjoy close links.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I sing in my local military wives choir – as a member of the military not as a military wife. I don’t have a great voice but it’s good fun and something completely different to the day job.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I don’t have a long-term plan, but I hope that I am still in the navy and that whatever I am doing it will continue to be worthwhile and enjoyable.

Do you think there are likely to be more employed opportunities for barristers in the future?

Yes. I can only talk about opportunities for lawyers in the military, but the demand for high quality lawyers in each of the services has only increased during my time in the RN.

 

MANDIE LAVIN is chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

When were you called?

1993

How did your career progress?

I started out my working life as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital, qualifying in 1987. After qualifying as a barrister, I returned to the NHS in a number of medico-legal roles before becoming the director of fitness to practice at the UKCC (the predecessor to the Nursing and Midwifery Council). I then spent three years in financial regulation at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. My next position was as the director of legal affairs at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, before being appointed as director of the Bar Standards Board. I joined the General Optical Council as director of regulation in 2011, and am now the chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). My career has been varied, challenging and very exciting.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with people who care about the organisation, the members, the students and the entire CILEx community, as well as the society that they serve. I am also enjoying the countryside setting of our headquarters in Kempston, Bedfordshire.

What is its greatest challenge?

Starting any new role involves learning about the values, the vision and the energy within the organisation, meeting lots of new people and absorbing vast amounts of information and translating that into daily reality. Ensuring that we serve our current members and students, while maintaining growth and promoting and maintaining high professional standards through sound, sensible regulation. It’s a fantastic job.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I have delivered a baby in the back of a London taxi.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Still making a difference, adding value and contributing to the reputation and success of an organisation that works for the public benefit, retains ethical values and promotes continuous improvement and learning.

Do you think there are likely to be more employed opportunities for barristers in the future?

Barristers are uniquely skilled and widely respected, and have a lot to offer many organisations in various roles. I am certain there are many lucrative employment opportunities for barristers, even if, like me, they explore more diverse areas of work.

There are also more opportunities for practising barristers that I can see, including those emerging from Chartered Legal Executive Litigators. CILEx Fellows working in litigation have always been able to instruct counsel, but now Fellows authorised to independently conduct litigation by their regulator will be able to directly. This is a new and emerging field, and one I hope barristers will take advantage of.

 

ANUPAMA THOMPSON is assistant director of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s legal services in fitness to practise

When were you called?

1994

How did your career progress?

After doing a conventional criminal pupillage, I became a tenant in chambers in Harrow where I spent several happy years doing crime. I then took a six-year career break to have my three children and joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in 2008 as a hearings lawyer. I progressed through the NMC, taking the lead in defending the organisation’s statutory appeals and judicial reviews. Having been a Crown Court advocate for so many years, becoming a High Court public law advocate was a bit of a shock. As assistant director for legal services, I now oversee a number of teams of lawyers and non-lawyers who prepare and present cases before the practice committees of the NMC, as well as the High Court and Court of Appeal.

What is the best part of your job?

I love the variety that every day holds. I can be planning tactics in a High Court appeal, discussing millions of pounds worth of budget spending, assessing our pupillage programme, advising on legal policy, participating in a procurement panel – all in one day. My days can be frenetic and challenging, but never dull.

What is its greatest challenge?

I have to wear many hats. At heart I will always be a member of the Bar but my role demands so much more – I need to be an astute manager and a strategic thinker and sometimes I have to stop to determine which hat is being required of me at any given time.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Although I was born in India, I was brought up in Glasgow and am a proud Scot. Whenever a big celebration is called for it has to be a ceilidh, where I will be seen jigging into the wee small hours!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I have developed many new skills since leaving self-employed practice (many of which I never knew I possessed) and as a result I am fortunate to have many different avenues which I could pursue over the coming years – both in business and in law. I hope I will be employed in a role (which probably doesn’t yet exist) which will allow me to continue to combine the two, although I’m sure it will have to be something where I can continue to delve deep into the law.

Do you think there are likely to be more employed opportunities for barristers in the future?

Yes, very much so. I think our profession is beginning to realise that members of the employed Bar are a force who are underestimated and underused. In particular, I hope we see better representation of the employed wing of the profession at all levels of the judiciary.

 

KASH ASHRAF is an Open University lecturer and former Government Legal Department lawyer

When were you called?

2004

How did your career progress?

Having been called to the Bar and practising in mainly commercial and chancery, I moved in-house as legal counsel for a FTSE 100 plc. I then became a judicial assistant to the Lord Justices of Appeal and remained for several years in the Royal Courts of Justice in the Administrative Court and latterly with the High Court as court lawyer, before joining the Government Legal Department. There, I advised on the regulation of medicines and medical devices but also on related subject matter in the fields of public, commercial, litigation and IP.

While at the employed Bar, I have continued to work part-time as a university lecturer teaching contract and tort modules on the LLB (Hons) degree. As advisory work does not give an opportunity for court advocacy, being on my feet delivering lectures and tutorials provides a good alternative outlet and flexibility.

What is the best part of your job? 

Quite simply, diverse instructions. At any time, I can be advising on a variety of topics, from the regulatory licensing of a particular drug to proposed legislation.

What is its greatest challenge? 

I often receive instructions involving a multitude of issues touching on different areas of law, eg, trademarks combined with the interpretation of a complex EU Medical Devices Directive, where I am required to balance political risk with the law and with the expectations of the clients.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I spend a lot of time in prisons teaching prisoners. One particular highlight is having taught contract/tort law to a prisoner (serving life imprisonment) who achieved first class honours in those subjects.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Practising at the employed/self-employed Bar as Queens Counsel.

Do you think there are likely to be more employed opportunities for barristers in the future?

Yes. The increasing number of alternative/multi-disciplinary practices, caused not least by the drive to cut legal spend, will inevitably create new opportunities and broader options in career progression.

Contributor Melissa Coutinho

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Melissa Coutinho

Melissa Coutinho is a lawyer for the Government Legal Service An accredited arbitrator, qualified PPM practitioner and a magistrate, she also writes and lectures on medical products and their regulation.