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Nicholas Lavender QC takes over as the new chairman of the Bar amidst unprecedented protests over legal aid cuts which recently saw the first walk-out from trials in the profession’s history. A top-rated commercial silk himself, he talks about his career and the turbulent year ahead:
Why did you choose law as a career and what encouraged you to become involved in Bar politics?
I grew up in Yorkshire where my family had worked in the coal mines—my father as a deputy electrical engineer with the Coal Board—for generations. I had no legal connections but I remember watching Rumpole of the Bailey as a teenager and thought it looked like an interesting career.
[Lavender went from his direct grant school in Wakefield to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he took a first in Classics, and then to Oriel College, Oxford for a BCL]
I didn’t feel overawed by the Bar. It is important to get away from stereotypes about lawyers—historically, practising as a lawyer has always been one of the routes for social mobility.
I did my pupillage at No 1 Hare Court, now Serle Court, where I went into commercial law, though I still secretly wish I had stuck with Rumpole. My wife’s cases [criminal barrister Anuja Dhir QC] always seemed much more interesting than mine.
My head of chambers encouraged me to become involved in Bar politics straight out of pupillage—dealing with debates on the rights of audience for solicitors and employed lawyers—and I have been involved in it ever since.
Do you think the profession risks becoming less diverse with the cost of training and shortage of pupillages?
I am very concerned about social mobility and worry about the debt young people have to take on. I am getting together a team to look at proposals to encourage chambers to recruit
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