Brighton barrister Andrew Stephens gives students insight into a career at the Criminal Bar
On 29 September Brighton Law School hosted their first annual law lecture, providing an opportunity for students to hear first-hand what life is like as a barrister. ‘Life in Law: The Current State of the Criminal Bar’ was led by guest speaker Andrew Stephens, Head of Crime at Brighton’s Westgate Chambers.
A number of legal professionals working out of Westgate Chambers also joined Andrew, including barristers Richard Barton (Head of Westgate Chambers), Dale Sullivan, Gareth Burrows and Cerys Sayer, plus Scott Sharp who’s currently undertaking his pupillage at Westgate.
Keynote speaker Andrew shared how finds working as a barrister not only intellectually stimulating, but it allows him to assist those in need and make a tangible difference to people’s lives through the application of legal expertise.
Through personal anecdotes, Andrew talked about the challenges associated with having a career at the Criminal Bar, including the unpredictable workload. He shared stories of receiving briefs at the last minute, sudden case developments that require a swift revision of planned arguments, as well as commenting on the difficulties of striking a good work-life balance.
While the workload is undoubtedly high, Andrew captivated the audience with the tale of why he became and still enjoys working as a barrister. It’s clear that this profession has moments of immense satisfaction.
The lecture also produced passionate discussions that highlighted the current state of the Criminal Bar. Speakers drew attention to the lack of diversity, as well as recent cuts to legal aid that impairs individuals’ access to justice.
During the Q&A session, students took the opportunity to ask the team at Westgate Chambers a variety of questions, from whether it’s realistic to have hobbies to how they cope when professional obligations clash with their moral values.
The lecture provided a unique insight into life as a barrister, and ended with an inspiring reflection on the value of providing effective criminal representation to all clients, regardless of the seriousness of their crimes.
Words by Dr Isilay Taban, Lecturer in Law at Brighton Law School