Have a career plan, but not one that is set in stone. I decided at a very young age that I would be a barrister. I’m not entirely sure I really knew what a barrister was, but my younger self clearly, inexplicably, identified with John Thaw as Kavanagh QC. It had been my career ambition for such a long time that, when it finally came to applying for pupillage, it was something of a struggle to answer the question ‘why do you want to be a barrister?’. The honest answer was, ‘I always have and I frankly can’t think of anything else, now’! What I certainly didn’t anticipate was that my teenage dream of specialising in international human rights would morph into a desire to practise in public and employment law by the time I applied for pupillage, and that I would ultimately end up specialising in insolvency, company and commercial law.

Take every opportunity offered to you. In my final year of school I secured a paralegal position with a silver circle law firm, to be undertaken in a gap year before I went to university. I remember being on holiday with my parents and mentioning to my dad that I was thinking about just going straight to university rather than taking the gap year. He expressed the quite firm view that I should definitely take up the paralegal position. So I did. I ended up having a great time, making lifelong friends, and meeting my partner. That position was also great CV fodder for pupillage applications. So perhaps the lesson should really be, listen to your parents.

There are still endemic problems at the Bar which will take more than a handful of individuals to fix. The advice I was given when I was applying for pupillage was ‘look at the junior tenants of a chambers, and if you have a similar background, you’ve got a good chance of getting an offer from there’. All too often those junior tenants would be somewhat homogenous. Indeed, the junior tenants at one set I looked at had all done undergraduate degrees at Oxford. I don’t think terms like ‘confirmation bias’ and ‘social mobility’ were really part of the conversation a decade or so ago. It is important that they are now. There are lots of great initiatives out there to address problems that the Bar has with recruitment and retention. However, the Bar Council annual gender earnings gap report continues to generate concern, and there remains a serial lack of representation of, in particular, women and those from a minority ethnic background at the senior end of the Bar and in the senior Judiciary.

To retain senior female barristers, the Bar needs to tackle head on the consequences of having children. I have recently had my first child. I chose to take only four months off work, partly because my partner’s employer has an incredibly generous Shared Parental Leave scheme. I know contemporaries at the Bar who have similarly exploited their employed partner’s SPL schemes. What happens, though, if a barrister is a single parent, or if both parents are barristers, especially if they are at the publicly funded Bar? I took part in the Bar Council’s Leadership Programme during the pandemic, and my group were exploring the possibility of a collective income protection scheme to provide financial support to those who need it during career breaks. It would be good to see such ideas taken forward. Childcare responsibilities should be taken into account in the listing of hearings, especially since we are all now au fait with remote hearings. The idea of extended court-sitting hours regularly rears its head, but it appears blindingly obvious that the wholesale introduction of a longer court day has a real risk of impacting those with caring responsibilities.

Class, education and wealth unfortunately still largely determine the outcomes of children in this country. At university I volunteered as an Appropriate Adult, attending police stations at all hours to support children who had been arrested but did not have an adult who was willing or able to sit with them during interview. A comment from one of those children has always stuck with me. We were discussing career ambitions, and I explained that I wanted to be a barrister. His response was ‘I could never have done that.’ A couple of years ago, I began volunteering with a children’s literacy charity. The disparity between literacy levels in the same class of 20-odd five-year-olds amazed me. One child I read with, who really struggled with reading, told me that she had no books at home. I suspected that she may be dyslexic, and spoke to her teacher, who told me that her mother didn’t want to have her tested (I presume because of the fear of stigma). I recognise how privileged I am to have had wholly supportive parents, who made great sacrifices for me and my sister (even if I wasn’t allowed to read after bedtime). I have come to the sad conclusion that initiatives to improve equality of opportunity for teenagers and students are too late for many: more must be done from primary school age.

It is deeply fulfilling to be able to reach a hand down to help those who need it. My interest in social mobility initiatives was sparked at around five years’ call, when I took charge of pupillage recruitment and introduced a university-blind sifting process. Fast forward to the present day, and I have been running a Social Mobility Mini-Pupillage programme and an essay competition for sixth-form students to commemorate Stephen Lawrence Day for a number of years, as well as re-drafting Chambers’ maternity leave policy to create a comprehensive and generous Parental and Long Term Leave Policy. I mentor a student through Inner Temple every year, and speak at schools and Inner Temple whenever I am asked to. When I applied for pupillage, I had no idea about the Chancery Bar; to be frank, I’m not sure I even knew what the word ‘Chancery’ meant. It would be great to end my career at the Bar having encouraged and assisted teenagers and students from ‘unconventional’ backgrounds to forge successful careers at the Chancery Bar.

The Bar is populated by some wonderful, generous and kind-hearted people. As someone without any family legal background and connections, the Bar was potentially a daunting place for me. I am not sure I will ever forget the first time I walked into Inner Temple: a different world in every sense. I owe huge thanks to so many people who have helped me in my career. In particular, my pupillage supervisors (the indomitable Rachel Sleeman, the unflappable Ben Maltz, Jane Hodgson (the loveliest person at the Bar), and Nicky Rushton KC (the poster-woman for aspiring female barristers)), and my clerks (especially David Portch and Michelle Greene, both of whom I am lucky enough to call friends).