1. When did you decide you wanted to practice advocacy?
Originally, I thought I would be corporate lawyer and work in London but in my second year as a trainee I worked for two senior court partners and I was drawn to the adversarial nature of court work. I suppose it rather reflected my alternative career choice, which would have been the Marines or the Parachute Regiment, perhaps I was always drawn to the challenge of “battle”.
2. What do you remember most about your first court appearance?
While working during my summer holidays at University I was told to go to Edinburgh Sheriff Court to have case dismissed. I can visualise the rows of solicitors in their gowns. Before I spoke, I paused, probably because I was nervous, and everyone looked up. I left the court feeling relieved that it was over but also feeling slightly exhilarated and that, I suppose, was the start of my career in advocacy.
3. What are you most proud about as a solicitor advocate?
It has to be achieving Silk in 2017. Civil practitioners need to work hard at getting time on their feet in court because it is less common for cases to run than it is in the criminal courts. Being recognised as worthy of Silk, particularly as a solicitor advocate, has to be a career highlight.
4. What’s your favourite thing about being a solicitor advocate at Brodies and what advice would you give to other solicitors thinking about becoming a solicitor advocate and a KC?
It is the people. We all seek to be the best that we can at what we do and to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients. Brodies has more accredited specialists in their chosen fields than any other Scottish law firm. As an accredited specialist in both construction law and professional negligence law I am delighted to be afforded the chance to work with those specialist colleagues.
The best advice I can give is study hard, listen carefully, learn as much as you can. Play everything off a “straight bat”, afford to everyone the degree of respect that they deserve, and that their office commands, and hold upper most in your mind that reputations take years to build but can be lost in a moment.
5. Do you think COVID-19 will, and should, have a lasting effect on the way court processes are conducted?
There is no doubt that the pandemic will forever change the way we think and how we work, and probably, in the most part for the better. The use of technology to conduct hearings remotely has been accelerated. Clients generally want a fair resolution of any dispute and are less concerned than the lawyers as to what procedure is used to achieve that end. COVID–19 has made more lawyers less precious about the traditional ways of resolving disputes and more inclined to embrace alternative solutions.
I think Professor Richard Susskind summed it up very well when he suggested that courts should be a service and not a place. Those providing the service, which includes solicitor advocates, need to be mindful of what it is the client wants and not just how historically that service has been delivered.