Lisa Linklater QC interviewed by the Barrister Magazine

June 13, 2022

This article appeared in the latest issue of the Barrister Magazine.

Lisa Linklater QC

Lisa Linklater QC from Exchange Chambers took silk on 21 March 2022. Specialising in shareholder and partnership disputes, corporate insolvency and contractual disputes, Lisa talked to the Barrister Magazine about her road to silk.

What motivated you to pursue a career at the Bar?

I really enjoyed my law degree and had always been attracted by the independence and challenge of the Bar, as well as the role of the advocate. I had enjoyed the competition of debating at school – one of the debaters I was regularly against is now a High Court Judge and another is a news reporter at the BBC – and I built on this by regularly mooting as a student at the University of Cambridge. As a student, I worked at both Slaughter and May in Paris and Linklaters in Brussels. These were excellent opportunities to live and work abroad and experience a corporate law environment. However, I did find that I was enjoying the court work and paperwork I was seeing during mini pupillages more, which confirmed my instincts to pursue a career at the Bar.

You’re a member of Exchange Chambers, one of the largest barristers’ Chambers in England and Wales with 200 members across the Northern and North Eastern circuits. How has practising at a large Northern Chambers contributed to the development of your practice?

I have practised from both a very small chambers in Leeds in the first 15 years of my practice and also from Exchange Chambers over the last decade. At the heart of my success in both Chambers has been an excellent working relationship with the senior clerk and wider support team. Being in a small Chambers gave me freedom and opportunity to “make a name for myself” in a well-supported environment. However, at Exchange Chambers I met key individuals, including my Senior Clerk and Chambers Director, who took time to show me how to develop my practice and effectively network and supported me in doing this. I also gained access to more resource, including fantastic IT support and excellent support with seminars and marketing. I also had the opportunity to work with leading silks in my field of practice, particularly HHJ Cawson QC, which helped my professional development. Moving forward, I am confident that being part of a well-resourced Chambers like Exchange Chambers will help me fulfil the ambitions I have to continue to develop my practice nationally in silk in my specialist fields of practice in shareholder disputes, corporate insolvency and commercial litigation.

Please tell us about your practice?

I am currently instructed on a number of unfair prejudice petitions under s994 Companies Act 2006, brought by minority shareholders in the Companies Court of the High Court in London and the North of England, as well as shareholder disputes that are pre-action. These cases involve high value, privately owned businesses in a wide range of sectors. I am also regularly receiving instructions on novel and technical legal issues in corporate insolvencies, as well as high value and complex insolvency litigation (often against directors). In addition, my practice includes high value and complex contractual disputes.

What skills / strengths do you need to succeed at the Bar?

My own experience is that a combination of creativity, resilience, determination and working well with others has been important in my success. I think that it is important to avoid a “one size fits all” approach to success at the Bar as different people have different ways of surviving and thriving and that contributes to the success of the Bar itself. When applying for silk, sharing your ambitions with trusted colleagues in the legal profession and asking for advice and help is vital. While everyone is very busy, many are generous in their support and sage in their advice when you reach out to them.

Why did you apply to become Queen’s Counsel?

Over the last five and more years I was increasingly being instructed on cases at silk level and against Queen’s Counsel and enjoying the challenge. At the same time, I was starting to compete for work against Queen’s Counsel, which could create an additional hurdle to instruction if the instructing solicitor or client had not worked with me before. Therefore, I applied to become Queen’s Counsel to keep moving my practice forward.

As a QC how will you be looking to further develop your practice?

I would certainly like to maintain the excellent working relationships with the solicitors and clients who have instructed me to date. I am looking forward to continuing to develop my specialist fields of practice in shareholder disputes, corporate insolvency and contractual disputes and receiving instructions from solicitors and clients who may not have worked with me before.

You took silk at Westminster Hall on 21 March 2022. How was the day itself and what sort of feedback have you received since taking silk?

Silks day on 21 March 2022 was fabulous and very enjoyable from start to finish with such a range of experiences, sights and sounds. I have also really enjoyed celebrating my appointment as Queen’s Counsel with my colleagues at Exchange Chambers and from across the legal profession. I have particularly enjoyed these celebrations and opportunities to gather again after the restrictions caused by Covid over the last two years.

What impact has the pandemic had on your practice? How has it changed the way you work?

The Business and Property Courts moved seamlessly and quickly to remote working. We received early and excellent support from the Chancery Bar Association with electronic working. Therefore, my practice did not change really. I was conducting a shareholder dispute trial in the High Court against a silk in June 2020, which was one of the first trials to take place remotely in the North of England.

Who (or what) has had the biggest influence on your career?

My pupilmasters, Lord Justice Snowden and Jonathan Peacock QC, have been a significant influence on how I approach cases, apply the law and analyse the facts. In the early years of practice, HHJ Klein who was then a colleague in my former Chambers, gave me excellent direction, which included pointing out the advert for Junior Counsel to the Crown in Counsel magazine. I applied successfully and served for three consecutive terms, representing different Government departments, particularly HM Revenue and Customs and BEIS in complex and precedent cases across the North of England. He also introduced me to other barristers and judges in Chancery work in Leeds and Manchester through Northern Chancery Bar Association events, which put me at ease in my practice and made me part of a wider legal community from an early stage in my career. More recently, HHJ Cawson QC, my former colleague in Chambers before his elevation to the Bench, has been a positive influence during the last decade and is an excellent role model for me in silk.

What challenges have you met as a woman in law?

I think that the main challenge I have met has been not having many female role models or colleagues in my practice area, particularly when I became pregnant and returned to practice after my children were born. I did receive some excellent advice and did have a lot of support from most of my colleagues, although there were challenges. There are certainly now more visible female role models across the legal profession and the judiciary compared to when I started in practice and this creates a positive cycle.

A number of Chambers, including your own, have signed the Women in Law pledge to help tackle the issue of gender equality within the profession. How important are initiatives such as this?

As a member of the Bar Council Retention Panel, I have been really pleased to see the Women in Law pledge gather momentum and for Exchange Chambers to take the Women in Law pledge. The great advantage of the Women in Law pledge is both a focussed approach within individual Chambers, as well as the sharing of experience across the profession. Taking the pledge is important; implementing the pledge and targets over a number of years and ensuring equal opportunity for women at the Bar is even more important.

How do you achieve work/life balance?

I aim to switch on, focus and give my best when I am working and then to switch off when I am not, although I often have some of my best ideas about my work when I am away from my desk.

What would your advice be to anyone wishing to follow in your footsteps as a QC?

Believe in yourself and don’t wait for a tap on the shoulder.