Or do you simply reach forks in the path and somehow end up in a place which you would never have imagined? Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, stated: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ My transformation from counsel in the Crown Courts in and around London to international criminal lawyer, now for 17 years, probably started the day I attended my first Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) meeting. Suddenly I was in a room which seemed to be full of bright, motivated colleagues talking about Texas death row cases, missions to Turkey, pro bono work, challenges in francophone Africa; all exciting but somewhat alien to my day-to-day practice, which usually seemed to include dragging my wig, gown, papers and law books around the Southern England public transport system.

Opportunity knocks

Within a couple of years I was undertaking missions myself, including two to assist the UN in the civil war in Sierra Leone, at the invitation of the International Bar Association. As BHRC Treasurer I led a mission to Diyarbakir in South Eastern Turkey, where the local police treated us in a very frightening manner. I was then offered the role of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of Belize, for what seemed at first blush a surprising reason, namely that I was a competent prosecutor who had a human rights background. Human rights lawyer contacts had informed me that the new, forward-looking Attorney General of Belize was coming to a human rights presentation at one of the Inns and that he was looking for a new DPP. I attended the presentation and was able to meet him.

This memorable two-year post in Belize was followed by a further four years in Belgrade, Serbia as Legal Advisor on Organized Crime to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), working on rebuilding the rule of law in a transitional state. Application for the OSCE position was suggested to me directly by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, although I still had to competitively interview for it. In 2007 I was appointed to my current post as DPP of Bermuda, for which I applied directly to an advert in a UK newspaper.

A multi-faceted role in Bermuda

Bermuda has the fascinating challenge of being a small jurisdiction (22 square miles) with a high population density (just over 60,000 inhabitants), and a large and sophisticated financial industry. The DPP’s department, therefore, has to achieve a very high standard of prosecution befitting an international finance centre, whilst having to fulfill many functions. I wear hats as diverse as being a member of the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee as well as the Anti-Gang Task Force; activities that require very different prosecutorial skills/approaches.

I have been lucky as DPP in being able to continue to go into court in the most serious and complex prosecution cases, allowing me to maintain close contact with the challenges experienced by line prosecutors on a daily basis. This has included leading jury trials, Court of Appeal cases, and also Privy Council cases, advocated in the old Downing Street location (when DPP of Belize), more recently in the beautiful new Supreme Court in Parliament Square and unusually, in an extradition matter when the Privy Council was sitting in The Bahamas.

The role has also included hands-on experience of international cross-border criminal cases, and I closely oversaw the first significant corruption trial in Bermuda of a senior civil servant. I have helped develop a witness care unit and assisted with legislative development. Trial-related work includes working with the US Departments of Homeland Security and of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and I recently spoke on mutual legal assistance at a Securities and Exchange Commission/FBI/DoJ conference.

The DPP also serves as accounting officer for the department, so the role includes managing the budget and allocating resources, which have become scarcer due to the economic downturn. I also plan how the department will develop and build up capacity to meet future plans and focus on staff training and mentoring.

Constitutionally independent, the post brings the privilege of overseeing directly or delegating the decisions on all prosecution matters in Bermuda. I manage a team of lawyers of varying levels of seniority, two of whom are from the London Bar. Clearly there is room for barristers from England and Wales to fill such stimulating roles. While having a wide variety of court work in Bermuda, our lawyers become involved in anything from witness protection and public access to information, to policy and legal development, training and recruitment, website design and development of sources of forensic expertise.

Thinking internationally

Involvement in international organisations is recommended to all barristers. Working alongside senior lawyers from a variety of jurisdictions who run large institutions teaches skills in everything from policy development, management and media relations, to how to obtain informal international assistance in cross-border cases. The International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), for example, is the only worldwide association representing prosecutors and produces case-related opportunities, professional networking and the chance to keep at the forefront of legal developments. It also provides the opportunities for developing lasting friendships, since attendees share obvious similarities like wishing to meet new people from overseas, high ethical standards, significant levels of post-graduate education and a belief in putting service before monetary gain.

At my first IAP annual conference in 2003 there were 500 prosecutors present, from all corners of the world. Since then, IAP annual conferences have taken me to places as diverse as Singapore, Zurich, Bangkok, The Hague, Moscow, Paris, Seoul, Copenhagen, Dubai and Kiev. In 2010 I was elected to its Executive Committee and in 2014 elected Vice President for North America and the Caribbean. Other opportunities abound. A lawyer friend here in Bermuda, for example, was recently President of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, which allowed him a year of ‘giving back’, mixed with wonderful worldwide opportunities. Another barrister friend has served as President of the Union Internationale des Advocats, which resulted in a great year, presumably assisted by the grace and favour apartment in central Paris.

Barristers should seize all opportunities to speak and network at conferences. Involvement with Heads of Prosecution Agencies Conferences (HOPAC) has taken me to Mauritius, Hong Kong, Cape Town and Edinburgh. Through the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities, I have had speaking opportunities in locations as far apart as Panama and Shanghai. Another key fixture is the International Symposium on Economic Crime at Jesus College, Cambridge University. This is attended by over 1,500 lawyers, academics, central bankers, financial investigators and other experts in money laundering, compliance and financial crimes. Again, new friends are made and a worldwide cross-section of cutting edge material is available. Most of these organisations are open to members of the Bar, so it always surprises me how few barristers in private practice attend.

Despite being insanely busy over the last few years, I have tried to continue on with the sort of work I originally undertook at the BHRC; to assist in parts of the world where there are serious challenges of poverty or lack of human rights. In 2007 I took part in a European Union (EU) Mission to the Philippines, as the representative of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the invitation of the President of the Philippines to the EU. Four international experts – a Finnish academic, a senior Swedish police officer, a German diplomat and me (advising on prosecution matters and on witness protection) – were invited to review and report on the issue of extra judicial killings.

More recently, in 2012, I travelled to Dar es Salaam as an international expert at the invitation of the Commonwealth Secretariat to assist the DPP of Tanzania with a training workshop for prosecutors, police and judges and then to provide hands-on mentoring to Tanzanian prosecutors. These were both fascinating and fruitful opportunities and resulted in exchange of knowledge, networking and skills development for all who took part.

Seizing opportunities

As my time in Bermuda comes to an end, I have reflected long and hard on how I can utilise my skills in the future. Frankly, if there is one thing I believe, it is that you only live once and that while always ensuring one is ethical and working for the common good, one should try to have the most interesting and fulfilling life one can. In search of a new challenge, I am co-founding a business for good governance and capacity building, based in Vienna called ViennEast. Meanwhile, I hope my reflections provide some ideas for the enrichment of your own career. We often seriously underestimate the skills and choices we have as barristers from the Bar of England and Wales and how good our training is. We tend to expect a very high standard of professionalism and integrity of both our peers and ourselves. I encourage you to seize the opportunities available internationally to assist in making the world a better place.

Contributor Rory Field, former Director of Public Prosecutions, Bermuda and co-founder of ViennEast


  1. Undertake pro bono international work.
  2. Attend international conferences and make sure to network.
  3. As soon as you can, speak at or find a role at international conferences.
  4. Build a network of international contacts who might be able to assist you.
  5. Be courageous and apply for international jobs.