Mini Biography – Rosemary Jackson QC

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Rosemary Jackson QC

I passed my eleven plus but didn’t want to go to the local girls’ High School as I couldn’t see how single-sex education could prepare me for a world in which men and women needed to be comfortable together and understand each other.  So, I went to the co-ed Technical High School and took needlework, cookery and jewellery-making lessons alongside the traditional academic subjects.  I asked to take Latin but there was no provision for the only pupil who was interested in it.

I loved watching Crown Court and General Hospital on television but not as career research.  There were neither lawyers nor medics in my family and we didn’t know any.  Nobody in the family had even been to university. So, imagine my surprise when I was 13 and my father returned home from a parents evening to announce that he had told my Maths teacher I was going to be a judge!  It was deeply embarrassing for me and I still have no idea where he got such an idea from.  It was it never mentioned again.  I wish my father had lived long enough to see me sworn in 30 years later as a part-time judge (Recorder) and that he could have come to the Crown Court to see me presiding over jury trials.

Fast forward 3 years and my 16-year-old self had a boyfriend studying a law degree. I wondered if law might be interesting, so I applied to do my work experience in a local solicitors office.  There I was welcomed and encouraged by the kindest of people and I immediately decided to be a divorce solicitor.

I studied law in London and, for reasons I cannot identify, I made a sudden decision in my third year to be a barrister.  In those days there were no pupillage awards and my parents couldn’t have afforded to support me through pupillage.  But they always gave me moral support and never allowed me to think anything was beyond my reach.  I obtained a grant to go to Bar School and was lucky enough to be awarded a Middle Temple scholarship.

I will never cease to be grateful to Keating Chambers, who decided in that year (together with Falcon Chambers) to offer the first ever pupillage awards.  I was successful in my application so received £750 to see me through my first 6 months of pupillage. That paid my rent.  I made my own black suits and white shirts with detachable collars (the needlework O’Level paid off!), I lectured on Tuesday evenings and I worked at Selfridges on Saturdays selling maternity clothes.  Without my pupillage award I could never have come to the Bar.

In 1983 I became a tenant at Keating Chambers, the first woman amongst all of the men.  It felt like a welcoming second family then, and it still does now.