Until August of last year you were the Chairman of the Bar of Northern Ireland. How are you finding being back in full-time practice?

I can honestly say that I regard my two and a half years as Chairman of the Bar of Northern Ireland as an honour and a privilege. That said, it was certainly a challenge trying to balance the role with my practice and ultimately as a new Silk. However I relished the diversity of issues that arose daily, particularly as they provided me with an insight into our profession from an entirely different perspective. Having time now to devote exclusively to my trials without the whirlwind of all that comes with being Chairman has also left me with an appetite for new challenges and opportunities.

What are the challenges facing the Northern Ireland Bar?

For almost 30 years individual members of the Bar faced the darkest days of the Troubles providing the highest standards of independent representation to all who came before the courts. The Bar met those challenges, including threats to their very lives, at a time when the sheer volume of work going through the courts was unparalleled in any other common law jurisdiction worldwide.

The peace process has delivered a local Assembly and most importantly the devolution of justice back to local democracy.

Ironically that has provided the most severe challenge in access to justice since the Troubles. In the last three years we have witnessed swingeing cuts in the legal aid budget; a restriction in the levels of representation by counsel in the Higher Courts and in some instances the removal of counsel entirely from the lower courts.

This is against a backdrop of increased competition from solicitor advocates; resolution of civil work without recourse to the Bar and increasing numbers of young barristers coming into a profession beyond its capacity to deliver a career.

I know these are not problems unique to the Bar of Northern Ireland. But perhaps the greatest challenge to the Bar is the Bar itself recognising the need to change to adapt to the environment it is currently facing.

It is how we deal with those challenges that really matters in order to ensure the public can continue to enjoy the highest levels of representation by the best and the most experienced of counsel, who remain independent and dedicated to providing excellence in the discharge of their professional duties.

Your Bar is structured differently; how do you market your practice?

Business development and marketing the Bar is a theme close to my heart. The Bar in Northern Ireland has consistently demonstrated excellence in what it does but cannot promote just how well it succeeds in delivering the best representation in the country. The Bar is not a competitive animal, so more recently, we have sought to get the message out to the public that the Bar is open for business. This has included a re-branding exercise and an outreach strategy to the media and business community, together with participation in a ground-breaking five part BBC television programme (available on our website).

We have also been working with Invest NI to identify a role for the Bar in the international legal market - in recent times launching events in Tokyo and Boston as well as attracting international lawyers to Belfast.

As you can tell from this answer my instinct is to talk about the Bar collectively but I am also conscious that senior members of the Bar need to demonstrate leadership on the way forward by taking risks and walking the talk of self-promotion. We cannot depend on our work-rate and success statistics to simply speak for themselves.

That is why international travel and advocacy for the profession is so vital.

You recently spent time in Hong Kong working with their Advocacy Training Council. Your practice is predominately white collar fraud/crime; what international opportunities are you finding?

The world is an ever smaller place and with that comes the potential for opportunity outside of the local courtroom. Ten years ago my international work extended as far as driving one hundred miles down the road to Dublin, now it is actively looking for work on other continents.

Just this week some of our members are in Abu Dhabi exploring opportunities in commercial arbitration and I spent some of my time in Hong Kong exploring opportunities for criminal Silks.

From a different perspective, regarding international opportunities, it is worth mentioning the role played in emerging third world countries training new advocates by the International Advocacy Training Council, currently chaired by Edwin Glasgow QC and about to be chaired by Russell Coleman SC. The Bar of Northern Ireland became a member just last year. The Council does this on a pro bono basis and provides a great opportunity for us to actually give something back to the profession that has been so good to so many of us.

What is the best professional advice you’ve been given in your career?

Actually there are two pieces of advice I live by. The first may resonate more with those at the most junior end struggling to get a first foot on the ladder and feeling despondent when those around them appear to be succeeding and building a career quicker and more successfully. “Put the blinkers on and the head down and worry about your own work and not someone else’s.” That came courtesy of my Pupil Master Brian Kennedy QC at the start of my own career.

The other was never to be complacent, no matter how many years of experience, the great wins or the reputation. That came from a wily country solicitor, Pat Fahy, himself the anthisis of complacency.