Amanda Yip QC. Amanda is a personal injury and clinical negligence barrister at Exchange Chambers. She was called to the Bar in 1991 and took silk in 2011. This post was originally posted on Amanda’s blog Life in the Law after 84 new QCs were announced on 29th February. It is reproduced here with permission and thanks.
This week 84 barristers have been celebrating their appointment to the rank of QC. Rather like when there is a new intake at secondary school, those of us in the second and third year have been only too keen to pass on our considerable experience to the new boys and girls! Over the last two years I have often been asked how I am finding it. My honest answer is that it has been a bigger change than I anticipated. Many changes were foreseen and welcomed. Taking the lead on the big cases was something I wanted and enjoy. I had reached the point where I wanted to have that responsibility and fortunately I still feel that way. What took me by surprise was that becoming a silk was a change in lifestyle.
New role; new lifestyle
As someone who has been a barrister in the same Chambers all my working life, I haven’t had the experience that most in “the real world” have of moving jobs and taking on new roles. My closest experience has been becoming a mother for the first time. In both cases others warned me that my life would change more than I expected. In both cases I thought they were wrong – I knew what to expect! Having a baby and taking silk were both followed by great euphoria, piles of congratulation cards and bunches of flowers. When that settled, I realised I was on my own, stepping up into a new and hugely responsible role. Life wouldn’t be quite the same again and, while I have never once regretted either decision, at times I have missed aspects of the life I left behind. As a busy junior, I would often get through a week high on adrenalin squeezing papers and hearings in amongst consultations with leading counsel. Life isn’t quite as hectic now. I have a bit more space and “thinking time”. Having got used to the previous pace, I had to adjust and learn to use my time well. Like motherhood, taking silk does not come with an instruction manual. In both cases, you will often get conflicting advice from your seniors. You just have to trust your instincts and do what you do … and enjoy it!
Fortunately, taking silk hasn’t involved too many sleepless nights and I don’t think I’m now entering the “terrible twos” (although in case Daisy is reading this I should admit she was never a terrible two!) I hope I haven’t “mothered” my juniors but I have enjoyed seeing others develop the skills needed for catastrophic injury work and playing a small part in that. There have been benefits at home too. I feel a little more in control of my diary and able to work at home more.
The gender imbalance
It is disappointing to note that of the 84 new appointees only 14 are women. Men and women enter the Bar in roughly equal numbers and have for some time so the numbers ought to be better. It seems that we are losing female talent along the way. I well understand that it is hard to combine a family life with getting to the point at which a successful application can be made. I wonder whether we need to look at thecurrent system which focuses on a two year period of practice and instead allow for evidence to be gathered over a longer period. This might just encourage more women to enter the application system. What I can say by way of encouragement is that the life of a silk may be more compatible with balancing family life than that of a junior. For me, it has been well worth the effort.