Harry Adamson, Blackstone Chambers

Name: Harry Adamson

Chambers: Blackstone

Position: Barrister

Degree: Philosophy

University: Cambridge

Studied BPTC at: City

Hobbies: Philosophy, Music, Cooking, Cycling.

How many rounds of applications did it take to get pupillage? 1

Number of interviews attended: Can’t recall exactly – but it felt like a lot!

Harry Adamson, Blackstone

Why did you decide to train as a barrister?

This is not an original answer, but I was attracted by all the usual features of the profession that people mention: the intellectual rigour, the advocacy, the independence, and the ability to achieve real results for a huge variety of people who are in need of your help.

It’s also important to spend some time in a number of Chambers before you make the leap: most important of all is to decide whether you will enjoy the company of your peers! I was really excited by the prospect of working alongside so many fiercely bright, motivated, and friendly people.

What was the toughest pupillage interview question you were asked (at any chambers) and how did you answer?

“If we offered you a pupillage, would you take it?”, when asked by Chambers who were not top of your list. The answer depended on who was asking!

Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment…

The bulk of my work is in commercial law, and often particularly fast-paced fraud/injunction work. I really enjoy the pace: quickly taking stock; analysing the legal and tactical position; shifting pressure on to the other side; getting before a judge and changing the momentum of the case. I also enjoy combining it with the public law and human rights aspects of my work by dealing with international corruption: a fascinating and eye-opening area!

The main challenge is the pace: it’s impossible to do that kind of work without a few sleepless nights…

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

My colleagues.

What aspect of the job have you found most difficult to get to grips with?

Judging precisely how long things will take so that you can make the most efficient use of your time. It is hard to predict at the start what kinds of curveballs a case can throw that require a sudden investment of time.

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

The typical image of a barrister is as a lonely scholar of the law, who swans in and just does the advocacy at the end while interacting with the clients as little as possible. I always knew that was a false picture (in fact I wouldn’t have wanted to do the job if it were true)—but I didn’t realise quite how false it is. Most large cases require instant integration with a big team composed mainly of solicitors who are all used to working very closely together.

An unexpected bonus has been the close friendships I’ve made in teams along the way – getting to work with them the next time is always a real pleasure.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

A message from a clerk asking if I would like to take on a new matter.

What’s your best ‘in court’ anecdote so far?

Early on I was up against a Defendant, representing himself, who was a “freeman of the land”.

“Freemen” believe (insofar as I can make it out) that laws only bind them because the state issues them with birth certificates. If they reject a state-given name, they are free of the law. It was not an easy hearing to manage (right down to knowing how to refer to the Defendant without causing a scene). I lost.

Which member of chambers would you want to be on the run with in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and why?

Any of the clerks. Within about ten minutes they’d have the zombies working for them.

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I’ve been bitten by one of President Obama’s dogs
  • I’ve played on stage before Hot Chip at a gig
  • I’ve worn a wig in public.

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

I would have been a university lecturer (in philosophy). I love teaching, and still do it as much as I can.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career as a barrister?

Think of the stock questions that you will be asked at interview: why did you want to be a lawyer; why an advocate; why this area of law; why this Chambers?

Think about what experiences you could have that would support your answer to those questions: e.g. if you have actually done advocacy (either formal legal advocacy at the FRU, or for any cause, or if you have acted or taught) that really helps answer the advocacy question!

Now: go do all those things. It will help in interview, but much more importantly they might be fun; they’ll probably be worthwhile; and they’ll make you sure that you’ve done the right thing by setting out on the difficult journey to becoming a barrister.

And finally, barristers tend to have a lot to say, so please feel free to add any extra words of wisdom here

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.