Employed Bar Award Winners 2017

Meet the employed Bar’s crown jewels, recognised in the new Bar Council awards at the Tower of London

THE EMPLOYED BARRISTER: RAISING THE PROFILE

From being regarded as a discrete cohort who operated outside chambers, considered by some to be in competition with the self-employed Bar, the profile and contribution of employed barristers is now better understood. This year it has been recognised in the inaugural Employed Bar Awards, launched by the Bar Council to mark the vital work of barristers in-house and this article introduces the first set of outstanding in-house advocates.

The employed Bar spans the public, private and third sectors, juniors and seniors, specialists and generalists. It covers civil and criminal work. It covers people with domestic and international practices. It is not the preserve of those who could not get a good tenancy, but rather those who make positive lifestyle choices, reflecting the practice they want and the terms that they want. While professional responsibility remains an individual obligation, teams can share tasks when working for organisations that allow this flexibility. Individual accountability exists but there is a focus on results being met in the proper way, rather than a single individual having to achieve a specific set of tasks. Just as there is no typical barrister, there is no typical employed barrister: terms and conditions vary according to the organisations employing them.

The old-fashioned notion of independence not being able to exist while one has an employer is less often expressed these days. Employed barrister roles, sometimes glamorous and often worthwhile, can be the subject of fierce competition. Spanning diverse industries, they can be a way for barristers to combine specific interests, sometimes gained in earlier careers with the law. Being an employed barrister today does not allow for generalisations for workload, ability, or income to be made with any accuracy. The only common denominator employed barristers are likely to share is a regular income! 

PROFILES

Camilla de Silva,Serious Fraud Office (Called 1999)
Employed barrister of the year

Why did you opt for the employed Bar?
I had a hugely enjoyable 15 years at the self-employed criminal Bar, prosecuting and defending some of the most serious criminal offences. Although I loved being a member of chambers (9 Bedford Row), as a working mum, I found myself looking for more ability to structure my working day and life. I wanted cutting-edge legal work, working as part of a team and in a more collaborative way than the Bar allows. The SFO was a perfect fit for me.

How did your career progress?
Pretty quickly. I joined the SFO in July 2014 as a seconded counsel, then secured a permanent legal role in January 2015, working on one of the Libor investigations. The same year, I was promoted to case controller, leading the Energy strand of the Rolls Royce investigation (resulting in the landmark deferred prosecution agreement in January 2017). More recently I led the investigation into Rio Tinto, and in June was promoted to the interim role as joint Head of Bribery and Corruption.

How did you get your current post?
There was an internal competition in June and after an application and interview, I was successful. June was a big month for me!

What is the best part of your job and why?
A big part of my job involves helping the organisation to develop its expertise by applying my insights and knowledge from one case to the next. We take on some of the most well-known companies and their world class legal representatives. It’s tough and high risk work, but I enjoy the challenges of leading the division, working with other members of the senior management team and external partners, such as law enforcement, Whitehall or overseas jurisdictions. I enjoy working with a diverse and talented team to overcome challenges, such as wading through terabytes of data or lengthy disclosure exercises, but we work hard together to keep cases on track.

What is its greatest challenge?
Coping with management jargon...

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? 
Still leaving the house in the morning feeling excited about the challenges my day holds.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’m a qualified garden designer struggling to find time to help out friends with their gardening woes.

Will there be more employed opportunities in the future?
Absolutely. There is a demand at the SFO for good quality prosecution experience and we are always interested in hearing from people who have that, and are looking to develop their careers in a more rounded environment. It’s a good deal both ways; we benefit from that sort of talent, but can also offer people fantastic experience on some of the best work in the City.

What does the award mean to you personally?
For me, the award is a testament to the hard work and quality of the people with whom I was lucky enough to work on the Rolls-Royce case. I also think it’s a wonderful acknowledgement of the significant, stimulating and legally challenging work available at the SFO. 

Matthew Johnston, Government Legal Department (Called 2012)
Young employed barrister of the year

Why did you opt for the employed Bar?
I opted for the employed Bar, the Government Legal Department in particular, due to the range and exposure that isn’t necessarily available in traditional practice – briefing ministers, attending Parliamentary debates and drafting legislation, all of which is unique to government work.

How did your career progress?
From my law degree I went straight to the BPTC, then a year working as an editor following Call and before taking up pupillage.

How did you get your current post?
I began my pupillage with the Home Office, initially seconded to chambers for six months and then joining the Immigration and Asylum team. I qualified into the team, leading on asylum-related issues. I’ve now moved to the Home Office EU & International team.

What is the best part of your job and why?
The people. I can’t think of anywhere else where you’ll find a group of people who work as hard and under such pressures while still genuinely caring for the work they do and the people they do it with.

What is its greatest challenge?
We face some of the most difficult legal questions around and are very often the first to have to grapple with them, often accompanied by a complex political situation.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I imagine Tahiti is out of the question. Likely somewhere slightly less exotic, like Whitehall.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
Despite appearances I’m a keen runner and have races most weekends. The current challenge is three marathons in three days this November.

Will there be more employed opportunities in the future?
Certainly within government.

What does the award mean to you personally?
It was amazing to be nominated by colleagues and then recognised by the panel. It feels slightly fraudulent – I work alongside others who are I’m sure streaks ahead. I am, however, clinging to the word ‘young’ in its title like a lifeline. 

Matthew Gowen, Birketts LLP (Called 1992) 
Employed advocate of the year

Why did you opt for the employed Bar?
A new challenge, a different style of working and to re-focus my ambition against the changing landscape for the criminal Bar.

How did your career progress?
For more than 20 years I followed the traditional route for criminal barristers. I was self-employed, predominantly at Red Lion Chambers in London, prosecuting and defending serious crime. Like many practitioners I reassessed my professional life and decided that I needed a new perspective and better work/life balance. I had the opportunity to become a consultant for Birketts; in retrospect working in a dual-capacity for a period of time was invaluable as it gave me the confidence to be able to take the step away from chambers.

How did you get your current post?
After about 18 months or so working as a consultant with the Corporate Criminal Defence Team specialising in regulatory defence, particularly health and safety and private criminal defence, I was offered a full-time employed position. The decision was surprisingly easy, albeit tinged with a little sadness as I had never really contemplated a move way from chambers, friends and colleagues.

What is the best part of your job and why?
The great benefit is being involved in cases from start to finish; I can deliver effective client care and continuity in a way that I was unable to do at the independent Bar. I also have more head space to deal with the cases; my work load is more limited and focused.

What is its greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge was adapting to life in a law firm; very different from that of a criminal advocate. It is not called the independent Bar for nothing. In a large full-service firm like Birketts you are working within a team environment which has distinct advantages. Utilising the support services (PR, marketing, HR and IT) does take an adjustment. Clients on the whole are far more challenging and forensic – you have to be on your game and able to justify your position and advice at every turn.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Obviously with my feet up by a pool somewhere enjoying a different pace of life – but that’s very unlikely! (See below for why...)

What would people be surprised to know about you?
Despite having four boys (aged 1 to 13) I am still relatively sane!

Will there be more employed opportunities in the future?
Inevitable, given the way the provision of legal services has changed and will continue to develop. Hopefully these awards will encourage others to pursue the less traditional career model and highlight the quality, diversity and expertise of the employed Bar.

What does the award mean to you personally?
I was very proud and honoured to be recognised. 

David Browitt, Government Legal Department (Called 1998)
Outstanding achievement by a public service barrister

Why did you opt for the employed Bar?
It was really the Government Legal Department that attracted: the diversity of work, but also thinking about how the law should be and contributing to major bits of public policy.

How did your career progress?
I learnt a lot about the nature of government and administrative law in my first post at the Department for Transport – advising on issues relating to driving and roads. I then worked on Crossrail (both legislative and programme elements) for four years – which gave me a real taste for large projects. From 2008 I was in the DfT’s aviation team, which involved all sorts of things – from negotiating international conventions to advising on domestic airports policy.

How did you get your current post?
I moved roles within the Government Legal Department three months ago to join the Department for International Trade: I was looking for something which would develop my current skills but was also excited about joining a new and developing legal team working in one of today’s key areas.

What is the best part of your job and why?
I work with a really supportive group of people, with a real team feel.

What is its greatest challenge?
It’s very difficult to predict what any day will hold when I head into the office – that makes it fun, but sometimes difficult.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
With three children under 10, a decade feels far too far to think ahead. On a work level, continuing to be challenged sounds good.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of ‘80s music which comes in handy for pub quizzes.

Will there be more employed opportunities in the future?
That feels like the direction we have been travelling in; I feel that a real diversity of careers and career paths is good for both individuals and the legal profession.

What does the award mean to you personally?
A huge amount; the work that my colleagues do is by its nature, and rightly, very much behind the scenes so it’s really affirming to see that appreciated – and hugely motivating. 

Hannah Laming, Peters and Peters (Called 2001)
Outstanding achievement by a barrister in a corporate organisation or solicitors’ firm

Why did you opt for the employed Bar?
It was a very difficult decision to leave chambers but after I had my first child, the more predictable working day and work-life balance offered by an in-house role was an attractive alternative.

How did your career progress? 
After over four years at the Bar, I joined the Serious Fraud Office for three years. Then I moved to the Financial Conduct Authority’s Wholesale Enforcement Division for just over a year. I joined Peters & Peters in 2010 and haven’t looked back since.

How did you get your current post?
I joined Peters & Peters as an associate. The role was advertised in Counsel magazine and the job description wanted someone with specific SFO and FCA experience. I had both.

What is the best part of your job and why?
I enjoy conducting global investigations because they are intricate and exciting, with the facts unfolding as you progress your inquiries; you have the opportunity to work with lawyers in other jurisdictions and deal strategically with the interplay between different laws and procedures in various countries.

What is its greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge is to try to ensure that the individuals facing long, drawn out investigations which place them under immense pressure do not become lost or feel voiceless in the legal process.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Ideally, on a beach drinking cocktails...

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love any thrill-seeking activities from waterparks to zip wires, rock climbing to gorge scrambling and I recently took part in a flash mob dancing to ‘Groove is in the Heart’!

Will there be more employed opportunities in the future?
I think there are already many fantastic employed opportunities for barristers and I expect that movement between the Bar and employed positions will become increasingly fluid in the future.

What does the award mean to you personally?
Not so long ago, barristers could not become partners in a law firm unless they cross-qualified which might have dissuaded some from making the move. Employed barristers often fulfil a different role but continue to identify proudly as members of the Bar, applying our professional training and past experience in chambers to our current role. For me, this award demonstrates solidarity within the profession and a recognition of the contribution of employed barristers practising in commercial legal environments. ●

Carolyn Kenyon (Called 2005)
Outstanding performance by a HM Forces barrister

Why did you opt for the employed Bar?
From 1999-2017 I served as a Royal Naval officer. The Service selects candidates for legal training from within its officer cadre and in 2004 I was successful in my application.

How did your career progress?
As a Royal Naval barrister, I undertook a variety of work. Highlights included serving in a warship whose primary mission was to deter piracy, acting as the senior legal adviser to a multinational maritime force in the Middle East, and prosecuting cases in the Court-Martial.

How did you get your previous and current post? 
On leaving the Royal Navy I wanted to practise criminal law. I therefore applied to be an Investigative Lawyer at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), commencing the job in July.

What was the best part of your previous job and why?
I particularly valued two aspects of serving in the Royal Navy: the range of the work; and the team camaraderie.

What was its greatest challenge?
As a Naval officer, a continuing challenge was ensuring that limited resources were used most effectively.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? 
I'm fortunate to have been appointed as a Deputy District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts). I hope to develop in this role and perhaps seek a full-time judicial appointment in the future.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I follow Wigan Rugby League team and I’m hoping that civilian life will enable me to attend more of their games.

Will there be more employed opportunities in the future?
From the Armed Forces’ perspective, there will remain a demand for legal advice on a range of matters. Whether more military posts will be civilianised remains to be seen.

What does the award mean to you personally?
I was honoured to receive it but I was part of a team and I’m delighted that the award has been established to recognise the important work of Royal Naval, RAF and Army lawyers generally. 

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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.