Since its very early days your practice has had a heavy overseas component, yet you also practise in England. That is unusual for the Junior Bar. Was this by accident or design?
Absolutely by design (albeit with much good luck). I was a pupil and junior tenant in the traditional way and got my start overseas working with appellate lawyers in Houston, Texas, on death row appeals. By the time I returned to chambers, it was clear to me that there was a strong market overseas for the skills of an English-trained barrister prepared to roll his or her sleeves up and get stuck in. Both my then head of chambers and senior clerk read me the Riot Act when I later resigned to take a litigator’s job in the Caribbean. Not for the first time, I was convinced I knew best and luckily things turned out well. My father, who is decidedly not a lawyer, saw the need to develop both the market and the product, and was very supportive of the idea (either that, or he knew better than to try and dissuade me). In those days, young barristers with an appetite for commercial or chancery work offshore were almost a novelty in the jurisdictions where they are now thick (and getting thicker) on the ground. The work was there in spade loads and usually both interesting and substantially more “senior” than anything I would have seen for many years had I been persuaded to stay at home. That steep learning curve was invaluable, as was also being a relatively early face in the Caribbean region. I was always very keen to maintain my London links and so remained a Door Tenant at 1 King’s Bench Walk for several years. Like the firm as a whole, my own cross-border “offering” sharpens my game and both speeds up and improves the solution for the client. It also gives me scope to participate in London-specific initiatives such as the Chancery Bar Association litigants in person advocacy support scheme known as ‘CLIPS’.
How would you plan the career development of the Junior Bar interested in overseas work?
High quality practitioners at very specialist sets will always have the world come to them, in a sense. But that is a tiny minority. For mere mortals looking to work in the commercial and chancery space, there is substantial scope to make one’s own luck. A stint offshore is no longer viewed with suspicion on return to London, in fact entirely the contrary. Leaving aside the substantive “black letter” law benefit which that brings, it is a huge marketing and credibility advantage back onshore. Think out of the box and don’t necessarily follow the herd because there are jurisdictions with huge scope for growth in contentious work, but without the personnel currently in place to service that work. In the meantime, the ambitious need to realise that a month off in the summer with an “out of office” response saying that you will not be reading emails is something only the very, very senior Bar can get away with without damage or at least lost opportunity. Finally, if you do end up offshore for a while (or even a single hearing) then keep a diary. Rarely a dull moment.
Do you prefer a firm or chambers, and is there a difference anymore?
Our type of firm has only been possible since 2010 and the QC colleague who tempted me into the partnership was (and is still) someone with judgement that I absolutely trust. Where others might have seen risk, all I saw was opportunity to add another string to my bow. As we are a trial firm by design, we are much more akin to a barristers’ chambers than a traditional solicitors firm (although I am delighted to have first rate solicitor colleagues with a similar “can do” attitude). The real difference is that we have capacity on the ground in more places than any chambers of which I am aware, and my practice gets to leverage that geographic spread. There is huge talent within the firm and the three QCs within the (still quite small) partnership are great fun and utterly devoid of anything approaching an “us and them” attitude. They simply couldn’t get away with it around here.
Everyone has a “stand out” memory in practice – what is yours?
There are a few. Certainly aspects of travel to court changed a bit with the move overseas: flying low in a twin prop plane over a humpback whale and calf in totally clear Caribbean water usually beats an early train out of Victoria. I was able to get involved in the very early fallout in Bermuda from the Madoff fraud and that was certainly the “right place, right time” to be a dual-qualified Bermuda and British Virgin Islands English-trained barrister. It was also the constant dealings with top-flight New York lawyers and a graphic illustration of how the small size of the offshore jurisdictions themselves belies the monster size of the issues and amounts that are being litigated from and in them. Rubbing shoulders with some very eminent QC opponents in the Turks & Caicos Islands Commission of Inquiry was also quite the day at the office (well, more like several days and nights). At one stage I was interposed in order to make what turned out to be a successful disclosure application in respect of a mountain of documents I could not copy, mark, show to others or retain for more than 12 hours: be careful what your client wishes for.
How do you relax?
Never been my forte, but I would win Olympic gold at falling asleep on planes. I do enjoy watching my seven year old son do practical stuff far better than I could ever manage. Also, getting my orders for the day on a Saturday morning from my six year old daughter is (mostly) very funny. I travel with my children and their long-suffering mother within the Caribbean and up to the States whenever I can. Sometimes the laptop even gets switched off.
Tim Prudhoe was interviewed by Mathew Kesbey and Guy Hewetson of Hewetson Shah LLP