Tell me about the Bar Musical Society and your role in it.

The Bar Musical Society was founded in 1952 and at one time the patron was HM The Queen Mother. The current patron is Lord Dyson who is a very accomplished pianist (and was a pupil of Dame Fanny Waterman). We traditionally put on four concerts a year. We’ve had some great names over the years from Yehudi Menuhin to the Belcea Quartet. We did a very successful Fauré Requiem in Temple Church in February. We have also revived the ‘Members’ Concert’ which will be on 3rd July in Gray’s Inn Chapel and gives the various talented members of the Society an opportunity to do their own thing. We’re doing our best in the difficult economic climate to put on as many concerts as we can and to attract new members. I hope anyone who is interested in music and wishes to attend the concerts will consider joining. 

I heard you and Paul Wee (a very talented pianist and now a member of the Bar) performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto for the Charlie Waller Memorial Concert earlier this year. What else are you doing in music?

Yes, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (which raises awareness of and fights depression) is a charity that I am particularly interested in supporting and it was a great privilege and pleasure to do that concert. I recently did a piano trio concert in Krakow and my next concert is in Luxembourg with works to include Beethoven’s Spring Sonata.

Was becoming a barrister always in the back of your mind?

No, not at all. I had been playing the violin professionally for about 10 years – I first played at the LSO when I was 17 - and I was going to do a PhD in music, just for the intellectual stimulation. Then I met somebody who was doing the law conversion course part-time and the idea of continuing with music but studying something completely different really appealed. It wasn’t an overnight decision to stop and I was still doing a lot of professional music playing during my first years at the Bar. It’s possible to combine the two professions; there’s a trumpeter in Gray’s Inn called Christopher Pigram who still plays with the Philharmonia and ‘The Sixteen’, so has a fully dual career, but I do music purely for pleasure these days. I still regard myself as a musician even though it’s not my primary source of income. My legal practice became quite busy and had to be my primary commitment so music had to give way. Nevertheless, the freedom of the Bar allows me to take a bit of time to practise for specific events. I actually enjoy it all the more now, playing with Paul Wee or working with Christopher Bowers-Broadbent who’s an organist and composer on the international stage and a member of the Hilliard Ensemble as well as being Gray’s Inn’s Organist and Choirmaster since 1983.

How was your musical background perceived when you came to the Bar?

I suppose it might have seemed odd to some, but I received huge support from musical people at the Bar who took the view that if you could succeed at something demanding, that was a sign that you had the commitment for another demanding career. I remember one interview for pupillage which seemed largely based on a discussion about music and when some members of the committee tried to steer the conversation onto the law, the head of the committee seemed disappointed.

Did you have strong views about what areas of practice you wanted to do?

I enjoyed the logic of land law and commercial law from the outset. Alongside that my practice is quite broad and it now ranges from all aspects of property law, fraud and asset tracing to mortgages and consumer credit. I got into this last area after writing an article on an EC Directive that interested me. I was then instructed in what became the first reported case on the regulations and my mortgage and consumer credit practice started from there. I’ve just edited the new volume of Halsbury’s Laws on consumer credit. I think that it is by taking these opportunities that one develops an expertise.

Tell me about your involvement with cultural exchange at the Bar.

I’m involved in the promotion of British Polish relations and I’m a member of the British-Polish Legal Association which was established by His Honour George Dobry QC CBE who was a County Court judge and set up the British Law Centre in Warsaw in 1989 with Professor Cornish QC at Magdalene College Cambridge. As a result of this initiative an English law Masters course is now being taught in about 14 or 15 Polish and Central and Eastern European centres.

Poland had a great jurisprudential history but hadn’t had freedom since the end of the Second World War. There was a lot of catching up to do when it became a free country in 1989. After decades as an occupied country, suddenly the legal system has to be sufficient to be world-facing in trade and deal with privatisation.  I have a Polish student with me at the moment. I also take part in the Lord Chancellors’ Training Scheme for Young Chinese Lawyers (I’m delighted that the programme has been reinstated this year) and each year, over the last few years, I’ve had a Chinese lawyer spending 3 months with me and Hodge Malek QC in chambers.

A profile of Luke Blackburn appeared in the April edition of Counsel. One question in the interview, although not Luke’s answer, implied that he had won the Bar Pro Bono award. Luke has asked for it to be made clear that it was a nomination not an award and LPA and Counsel apologise for any mistaken impression given.

Damian Falkowski was interviewed by Stephen Turvey of LPA Legal Recruitment