Barristers don’t surf

Tim Kevan takes a break from the Bar to go surfing and write a novel

One of the joys of being a barrister is that you are self-employed and therefore get a lot more freedom over your own destiny than many might otherwise have in an employed position. Well, that’s in theory at least and I accept that it might sometimes appear illusory when there’s a backlog of papers sitting on your shelf and court days stacked to the horizon. For my part, I practised as a barrister for over ten years at the common law Bar at 1 Temple Gardens (now Temple Garden Chambers) in London and I had been able to use this flexibility to take breaks by the coast to catch the odd wave when the surfing conditions were right. It also meant that I’d had the chance to indulge another hobby—writing—as well as starting a couple of businesses. But as each of these things started to take more time, I eventually decided to make the jump and take a full-time break from the Bar for a while.

The pull of the ocean

First, I guess, came the surfing. Having been brought up on the coast in the West Country, I’d always felt the pull of the ocean. I found myself spending increasing amounts of time down there whilst feeling a real sense of disappointment when it was time to leave. So much so that I eventually bought a house in North Devon which was very close to the surf.

 

Immersed in words

Then there was the writing. Law books at first and then a motivational book entitled “Why Lawyers Should Surf” (xpl Publishing, 2007), which I co-wrote with Dr Michelle Tempest, and which suggested the possibility of lawyers looking for inspiration outside of law and used surfing and the power of the ocean as metaphors for living the day to day. After having immersed myself in surf literature during the time I was writing this book, I was left with even more of a feeling that I was living my dream only through the pages of books rather than with the sea air in my lungs.

When the book was finished I very much wanted to sit down and write a legal thriller. But instead what popped out was a legal comedy about a fictional young barrister doing pupillage. I called him BabyBarista which was a play on words based on his first impression being that his coffee-making skills were probably as important to that year as any forensic legal abilities he may have. It’s a strange thing to say but I discovered that this voice, along with a collection of other  characters, had simply jumped into my head. The words started pouring onto the page. I wrote it in the form of a diary and posted it online as a blog. I was hopeful it might raise a few smiles but in my wildest dreams I hadn’t imagined what in fact happened: The Times offered to host the blog, and Bloosmbury Publishing offered me a book deal. .
In the meantime I had co-founded a couple of legal businesses and these started to take off. The first provides free legal email newsletters (www.lawbriefupdate.com) as well as a subscription law journal and the other provides online CPD training for personal injury and employment lawyers through video seminars or webinars (www.cpdwebinars.com).

 

Taking a break

All of these things really came to a head in 2007 and I felt very much that I was trying to juggle too many things at once and so eventually decided to take a break from the Bar, sell up in London and to move to North Devon. This allowed me to pay off my mortgage, reduce my expenses dramatically and return to the much simpler country way of life that I had known as a child, complete with a little border terrier dog and all. Since then, I’ve finished off the book which came out last year with the title BabyBarista and the Art of War and am currently writing the sequel. I’ve also been able to concentrate on the businesses as well as properly settling into the local community.
It’s all been quite eventful and has put me in a dramatically different position to where I was only three or four years ago, most of all that I am now able to get out into the surf whenever there is swell. Ultimately I intend to return to the Bar part-time and based in Devon, though hopefully through my chambers in London.

Tim Kevan is a barrister and the author of “BabyBarista and the Art of War”, published by Bloomsbury and available at www.amazon.co.uk. Visit: www.timkevan.com and http://timkevan.blogspot.com.

 

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