Richard is Westgate Chambers’ Head of Chambers. A specialist in criminal, regulatory and civil work, Richard has been described as “a very skillful advocate who exudes charm and confidence” and repeatedly praised for both his advocacy skills and the quality of his advice.
However, in the first of a new series of spotlights on Westgate Chambers’ leading advocates, we wanted to find out more about why Richard chose a career at The Bar and what drives him to maintain such high standards after more than 30 years in the profession.
Why did you choose a career as a barrister?
I have now been a barrister since 1990 but looking back, I remember the careers advisor at my comprehensive school laughed when I said what I wanted to do. She thought it would be impossible for someone from my background.
Well, 40 years later …!
How did that influence your outlook on the profession?
It has definitely influenced my feeling that it is absolutely crucial that the profession is open to people from every background, and that people from every background are encouraged to pursue a career within the profession.
This is an objective I have worked hard to progress as Head of Chambers, and I like to think that Westgate Chambers is now doing everything it can actively to foster this aim. We undertake outreach to local schools and colleges, provide financial support for our pupils, and ensure that we have an extensive mentoring system in place, so that anyone who is unfamiliar with the profession is not left feeling out of their depth.
What have been some of your most memorable case experiences?
I can honestly say I have enjoyed every day of my professional career. I have been lucky enough to have been involved in some interesting cases, including murders of national interest, such as R v Coutts and R v Ash Smith.
What was the best professional advice you’ve been given in your career?
The best advice I have ever been given is to remember ‘bedside manner’. The client or the witness is in a very stressful situation, so you need to help them through the process.
Where do you see the future of the criminal Bar?
I have grave concerns for the future of the Criminal Bar. Not only do we have to fight a continual battle with the government’s funding of the criminal justice system, it is also difficult to attract young practitioners when they have other, more lucrative, options available to them.
Again, this is where I think diversity could play a major part. If we can encourage barristers who better understand their criminal clients and their backgrounds, I believe the Criminal Bar will have not only a brighter, but also a more effective, future.
Looking more widely, do you think a chambers can survive if it is not run as a modern business?
‘No’ is the simple answer. This is why Westgate Chambers is run as a modern, democratic business. All our members work in close contact with our clerks, and we engage on an equal basis with them.
And finally, what would your advice be to those starting their career at the Criminal Bar?
A career at the Criminal Bar is a wonderful chance to hone life skills such as assisting vulnerable people, questioning experts, or addressing a jury.
Anyone who is considering coming to the Criminal Bar is welcome to contact Westgate Chambers to find out more about the opportunities we provide.