Mini Biography – Lucy Garrett QC
Lucy Garrett QC
When I was growing up I was going to write a Great Novel (or it could’ve been a Great Poem) which would cause World Peace to break out, or possibly I was going to become a campaigning journalist who would cause World Peace to break out, or possibly I was going to travel the world and come back and write a Great Travel Book which would also… Anyway, these were not recognised ambitions. I went to a fairly rough state comprehensive and the careers advice consisted of a list of leaflets you could send off for on various jobs (this was before the internet). I sent off for the one for Vending Machine Attendant, just to give my parents a conniption fit. I’ve no idea whether barrister was even on the list. At any rate, my parents were teachers, I didn’t know any lawyers at all, and none of my friends’ parents were lawyers either.
Having tried and failed to get into Oxbridge, I went to Manchester to do English Lit. I had my first curry and my first kebab. I went to Amsterdam for my second year on an ERASMUS exchange (with a scholarship). In my final year, I had to work full time in a pub despite having a grant. I got a student loan and then another loan.
When I graduated, my ideas about what I might do for a living hadn’t really moved on. I took a year out, did a series of awful jobs (including packing sweetcorn on a factory line) to save up money, then went backpacking round the world for 8 months. When I got back, I hadn’t written the Great Travel Book and I really did need to decide what to do. My parents somewhat desperately remembered that they used to live next door to a barrister 25 years before, and asked him to let me go in to his old chambers (he’d retired) for a few days. He fixed this up; I went in; it was a family law chambers which was not for me, but there and then I could instantly see that being a barrister was very cool and decided on the spot that was what I would do.
I then did the PgDL and the Bar Course (two more loans and another scholarship) and was lucky enough to get pupillage first time round, at a general civil and commercial chambers. I moved to Keating after about 3 years and am still loving every day of it.
The commercial Bar remains male dominated. I am still often the only woman in the room, especially at my level of seniority. However, things are improving. Many more women are applying and the number of women at the commercial Bar and in chambers is gradually increasing. A couple of years ago, I did a hearing in front of a female High Court Judge (now on the Court of Appeal), my opponent was a woman and so was my instructing solicitor. Chambers is supportive and friendly; the number of our female silks and the fact that we can boast two female High Court Judges whose barrister career was at Keating is testament to that.
I also want to mention one other thing which may resonate with some candidates considering applying. Just after I moved to Keating, a family member became seriously mentally ill. I had to rush off without notice at intervals over the next 10 years. Every time, the clerks and fellow barristers on my cases were entirely supportive. I will be forever grateful to Keating for that support.