Sport has always been a big part of my life, and I still make time to play and watch whatever, wherever and whenever I can. For all its wonderful advantages, a career at the Bar can be unhealthy at times, both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing.
For every long lunch and lie-in, there are many more early starts, late finishes and lonely train journeys. Sport is a really good way of getting some fresh air, catching up with friends and taking your mind off things for a while.
Within Chambers and on Circuit we have various sports clubs, from cricket to running, netball to football – even the odd late-night game of ping-pong in one of the larger conference rooms. Sports throw together colleagues who may not otherwise
cross paths apart from chambers meetings or the Christmas party. It’s a great leveller, and the pupils can make just as much of an impression with some distinctly average bowling at the QCs in the nets one evening as they can with a whole
year of exemplary written work.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but team sports really do go some way to creating a team spirit, between team-mates and opponents alike. It provides common ground, something to talk about, and shared experience, which is all fruitful ground for
building relationships. Many of our matches are with or against our clerks, instructing solicitors, opponents, and universities from which we receive applications for pupillage, so there is a tangible benefit from a work point of view –
and of course sitting on the boundary rope next to a QC gives you a chance to pick a very big brain about your difficult cases.
One of the obvious difficulties with arranging sports is that herding barristers can be like herding cats. We all have such different and ever-changing diaries that getting together can be difficult. We appear to get over that problem, both in Chambers
and on Circuit, with the help of some very enthusiastic and long-suffering team captains, whose patience knows no bounds. Julian Horne and Simon Emslie deserve honourable mentions for captaining the Chambers’ cricket and Circuit football
teams respectively. I can only imagine the amount of time they must spend arranging fixtures, chivvying and chasing their squads (ie me). It seems a bit of a thankless task, but then the beauty of amateur sport is the way that it brings out the
fanatic in otherwise sane people!
In November 2018 a few of us from chambers were given the chance to play football at the Principality (formerly the Millennium) Stadium in Cardiff, in a charity match arranged by Admiral Law in memory of Jack Griffiths, a teenage boy who very sadly
died of cancer in 2017. It was for a great cause – the proceeds went to two charities, Noah’s Ark and Latch – but it also gave those of us who took part the chance to play on a stage far, far bigger than our talent (pictured).
It was an amazing experience playing under that roof and those lights, hearing the Welsh anthem over the tannoy, getting changed in the same dressing rooms as all the famous players who’ve played there over the years. For a night we pretended
we were proper sports people. It was tough – I had a lot of work to prepare for the next few days – but I wouldn’t give up that experience for the world.
I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never play for England or Shrewsbury Town, and I may never get into the second week of Wimbledon. I won’t stop playing sport though. It’s too important.
Ben Handy is a personal injury and clinical negligence specialist at St John’s Chambers