Taryn Lee QC

Job title
Head of chambers of 37 Park Square Chambers, Leeds.

37 Park Square Chambers is a leading North Eastern Circuit set, specialising in the core areas of family law, criminal and civil common law.

You are one of a few elite female QCs at the Bar, and in a further select of female heads of chambers. Do you feel the Bar is improving in supporting women through the profession?
I was fortunate enough to come to the Bar at a time when the real trailblazers had paved the way for female practitioners like myself. Lorna Cole, who was the first female barrister on the North Eastern Circuit, was a real inspiration for many of us who came after her. When she joined circuit she had to eat her meal separate from the men and completely alone in the entrance hall to the venue! Hearing stories like that provided real inspiration for me.

I truly believe that the senior female practitioners provide real support, encouragement and inspiration for those that follow behind. I have been inspired by Frances Oldham QC, HHJ Finnerty, HHJ Cahill QC and Amanda Ginsburg and of course by my pupil supervisors (where it all started), Andrei Szerard and Cherry Harding who have all taught me many things and been generous with their time and experience.

That’s not to say that I have not been encouraged and supported by all of my other male colleagues. I was called to the Bar by the Lord Chief Justice at the time, Lord Peter Taylor of Gosforth, a member of the North Eastern Circuit. I met Lord Taylor when I was a law student and he had been appointed to head the Hillsborough Inquiry. He has always been, and will remain, a true inspiration to me. My call night was truly memorable, not least because I had finally achieved my childhood dream.

In addition, as an elected member of the Bar Council, serving under a number of different chairs, I have always derived huge inspiration and energy and belief that despite all the hardships the profession currently faces, there are many talented, hugely inspirational and driven individuals who will work hard to ensure its survival.

You also chair the Bar Council’s Social Mobility Group. How is that going?
It was real honour to be asked by Michael Todd QC, the then Chairman of the Bar Council, to head up this committee during his term of office. I have been lucky enough to continue in that role under Maura McGowan QC’s chairmanship. It is important to get the message out; that despite the hardships the profession is currently facing, bright and talented youngsters will always have a place at the Bar. I enjoy the work immensely and I couldn’t do it without the hard work and dedication of Oliver Williams at the Bar Council and the hardworking and committed members of the Social Mobility Committee.

What is the best professional advice you have been given?
From my parents “do your best”, and my dear dad often said to me “be nice to everyone on the way up as you never know who you may meet on any journey on the way down.” (I hope that never happens!)

Frances Oldham QC has always told me: “Be true to yourself” and “just make a decision”. Oh and “less is more”, but I haven’t quite mastered that yet. Wow, she truly is an inspiration!

Your journey to the Bar was not stereotypical. What do you credit your success to?
Without doubt to my family. My parents always told me: “Do your best, no one can ask any more of you than that.” That is so true and has been a mantra that my two sisters and I have often repeated to our own children. My parents never pressured me, but supported me endlessly. I met my husband when I was 13, so he has been pivotal in my life and my progress. I would not have achieved what I have without them. Obviously, in the course of my career, I have been inspired and supported by so many. When you achieve any success, it is never achieved alone, but as a result of the love and encouragement received from those around you.

What concerns do you have, if any, on whether children will have “access to justice” moving forward?
I have real concerns about access to justice generally, in the light of the changes imposed by the government. I understand completely, as we all do, that cuts have to be made to the country’s expenditure, but the government really needs to work with the profession and not against it to ensure that the justice system we have, which is universally admired, remains strong and representative and protective of peoples rights and liberties.

What made you want to become a barrister?
“Crown Court” and “Petrocelli” (who remembers those TV shows now?) and the landlord and tenant dispute my parents were involved with when I was a child. They were superbly represented by a then junior barrister, who went on to become Jonathan Brock QC, another inspiration of mine, who sent me the book, Learning the Law by Glanville Williams, as a young girl when my father told him I wanted to be a barrister. Imagine Mr Brock QC’s surprise, 10 years later, when I turned up at his chambers to tell him that I had just secured tenancy at 9 Kings Bench walk and to thank him for his encouragement all those years before!

A number of your cases are pretty harrowing, are you able to relax outside of chambers?
Yes. You have to be able to relax outside of work, otherwise you would not be able to do the job. My family helps me to relax (and shoe shopping) and my husband, my mum, children and sisters keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and in touch with reality. Some cases you always carry with you but that is the nature of the work.

Taryn Lee QC was interviewed by Guy Hewetson, a partner at Hewetson Shah LLP

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