When I reflect on my near 62 years’ existence, the two major tenets that underpin and define my entire career are a lifelong love affair with the law and a lifelong devotion to educating my mind. Let me make clear, though (to paraphrase that classic remark from celebrated author Mark Twain) that ‘my impending demise and/or retirement is hopefully some way off!’

My love affair with the law goes all the way back to the 11-year-old kid who was religiously glued to the legal dramas unfolding in fictional Fulchester Crown Court in the 1970s Crown Court. Also, to the brilliant advocacy skills of my fictional legal hero, Horace Rumpole, the creation of one of my all-time real legal heroes, the late John Mortimer QC, who apart from being one of the best advocates of his generation, is also the finest exemplar of a barrister being able to use his training and skills in a transferable way to create and develop a new career.

There is immeasurable value in a barrister’s skill set which includes, inter alia, thorough preparation and research, fearlessness, and the ability to think quickly on your feet. It has not only served me well in my criminal defence practice, but proved an invaluable aid when working as a part-time lecturer alongside my career at the Bar.

Those 14 years, teaching four nights a week at Hackney College were probably some of the most rewarding of my whole professional life. Aside from helping to develop my confidence in public speaking, as well as providing crucial financial support during the challenging and, at times, notoriously difficult early stages of a fledgling career, it gave me the opportunity to nurture, educate and support students, irrespective of their age, gender, race or background to realise their own individual long-term held dreams and ambitions in the same way (if not surpass) that I myself have managed.

For me, it’s important to use the talents and gifts with which we are blessed in an altruistic way; to educate and assist the next generation to become the leaders of tomorrow. Not only should we help to create what I call the ‘ladder of opportunity’ for potential talent to climb up, but it is also important, in the provision of any such wholehearted support, to make harsher truths clear.

The world of work is not only highly competitive but can appear, at times, arbitrary, even to the point of unfairness in terms of who will thrive and who will fall by the wayside. Without wishing to sound somewhat matter of fact or, indeed, glib, the advice I always try to give to any up and coming talent, whether in law or any other profession, is this: ‘Make sure your talent is displayed at all times... because you never know who is watching! And if you get that chance, make sure that you are ready to seize it, because it may not present itself again...’

Even the most successful and gifted individual in any given field has needed that all-important bit of luck – being at the right place, at the right time, and being seen by that person who could provide the platform to help make their talent shine and develop.

The only way you stay in control of your destiny is to ‘educate your mind’. This passion for learning was instilled in me from an early age by my family, particularly my eldest sister, Sandra. She was always drumming into me how important education would be in terms of enhancing my ‘life chances’. Together with those trusted ‘transferrable barristerial skills’, it is a mantra that has served me well (even into my sixties!) and lured me to the somewhat fickle and at times cutthroat world of entertainment. Certainly, a devotion to learning was instrumental in helping me become a Mastermind Champion in 2004 and, since 2009, ‘The Dark Destroyer’ on the teatime quiz show, The Chase. Being in such a fortunate and privileged position – able to divide my time between two very demanding, but no less satisfying, careers – is in no small part due to the support that I receive from my clerking team at chambers and the team at ITV.

There is no room for complacency. I’m forever conscious of the fact that in terms of my legal career, ‘I’m only as good as my last closing speech’ and as a ‘Chaser’, I’m only as good as the last question that I answered correctly, thus ensuring that I take nothing for granted!

With fame comes responsibility. Having a public profile means that I can go into schools, colleges and prisons to talk to students and inmates alike. In the former two institutions, I will tell them that they represent our future lawyers, doctors and leaders, and that they shouldn’t be afraid to dream! In the latter, the fact that they are incarcerated doesn’t mean that they should be forgotten – I tell inmates to spend their time as best as they can, within the resources available, to help prepare for eventual release and reintegration into a society where they can make a worthwhile contribution.

It gives me an overwhelming and unrelenting sense of pride to be a member of the legal profession over the last 38 years. In that time, the profession has seen a tremendous paradigm shift in terms of greater diversity in terms of race, gender and disability in its membership and at the top of the profession; based now on merit and talent as opposed to the archaic and arbitrary ‘old school tie’.

But the legal profession during this time has also had to endure some extremely difficult challenges. Decades of chronic under funding in publicly funded work has seen the gradual erosion of morale within the profession; the growing exodus of experienced talent; and acted as a serious deterrent to attracting much needed new and diverse members. This trend, if allowed to continue, could see our great profession – once seen as the benchmark of legal professions around the world to follow – eventually ‘wither on the vine and die’. It could also lead, sadly, to the denial of access to the ‘best legal talent available to those who cannot afford it’. This, of course, should give rise for concern.

As a profession we must always remain forever vigilant that we must never be compromised or diluted out of sheer expediency. I, for one, alongside thousands of like-minded legal professionals will remain at the vanguard to ensure that this will never happen in our professional lifetimes, or indeed, future professional lifetimes.