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JLD Talks: Elise Jeremiah, 33 Bedford Row

The JLD interviews Elise Jeremiah, barrister and Head of Family at 33 Bedford Row.


1. Can you briefly outline your day-to-day role, and if this varies, generally what you would expect from a working week?


I will check overnight messages at 8am. Pre-hearing discussions will either be 9am or 9.30am.  The hearings will start at 10am/10.30am.  Lunch will usually be working time.  Court finishes at 4.30pm/5pm.  I will have a client/social work team post hearing conference and attend advocate’s meetings until 6pm.  The evening will include drafting attendance notes, billing and approving/amending orders. Practice Direction documents (case summaries/position statements and draft case management orders) will also need to be drafted.  I may also need to draft closing speeches/submissions, opening notes and research case law and authorities. 


Eat sleep repeat. 


I am dual qualified in family and criminal law.  I mainly work in criminal defence work and public family law.  I defend and represent Local Authorities, parents and Guardians.  The cases range from arguing for the return of children to families, applying for children to be placed for adoption, sexual and domestic violence and murder. 


My week is very wide and varied.  I may be travelling between London and the circuits.  I may be in front of a District Judge, Circuit Judge or High Court Judge.  I may have various chambers related social and work commitments in a week. 


Having qualified as an arbitrator (Family/Children) I may also be instructed to hear cases and draft ‘determinations’ as a judge would do. 


2. At what point did you consider the Bar in your career (i.e. was this during early studies, during University, work experience etc?)

As a child I always knew I wanted to be a barrister.  I watched and was fascinated by the television show ‘Crown Court’.  I did very well against older children at school when arguing during an AS qualification in law aged 15.  A local solicitor lectured the course and was impressed, apparently.  I advocated for disabled parking spaces at my university and was a finalist in the national negotiation competition. Working in a solicitor’s firm confirmed my choice of career. 


3. Was there anything about joining the Bar that made you feel reluctant or any concerns you had as a young lawyer, such as about the commitment levels or hours of work?

I was worried about joining the profession with lots of student debt so worked as a paralegal in two top London law firms (legacy Theodore Goddard – contentious intellectual property dept and Bindmans LLP – criminal/family depts to gain experience and repay the debt. 


I gained first-hand experience of how hard and pressured working in the law is.  My choice of the Bar was confirmed while working in law firms and going to court to sit behind counsel at court.


4. How would you describe a ‘perfect solicitor’ in respect of providing instructions and briefs?


Approachable, efficient with a good working knowledge of the client and case.  I always very much appreciate an instructing solicitor who is available to speak to, which is sometimes quicker than e-mailing.


The ideal brief would be sent in good time prior to the hearing, where possible, and contain up to date information since the last hearing or background, if first instructed.  The reality is that counsel may be changed so a brief that says ‘counsel will know the history of the case’ may not be helpful.  To save drafting a history for every brief, my instructing solicitors will also send a previous brief or cut and paste previous information. 


Providing previous documents in Word format i.e. case summaries and orders is also very helpful to reduce drafting time. 


The reality of late briefing means that the advocate will at times be required to prep late into the night but still be ready to catch the 6.09am train. 


Instructing solicitors in family cases MUST ensure that counsel have been added to the Portal prior to the hearing.  


5.  What would you say to a junior lawyer who wanted advice on how to stand out after completing their studies and searching for a pupillage?


Make good use of time. If on holiday, learn something about the local law or procedure where you have travelled to, it makes for an interesting topic discussion in pupillage interviews and shows an active interest in the profession. 


Try to pay off some debt.  Come to the profession as financially unencumbered as possible.  It will be finically difficult as a pupil so chambers may look more favourably on a candidate who may to better able to accommodate gaps in their diaries. 


Demonstrate maturity.  If you failed in previous first round interviews, demonstrate how have you improved in the area that set you back. 


Demonstrate initiative.  Acquire other skills e.g. marketing and PR in the interim. 


Success at the bar will usually require very good people skills. 


6. Do you have any exceptionally good memories of successes or cases in your career that you’d like to share?


As a 2nd six pupil I prosecuted a 20 year old in the magistrates court for careless driving.  The standard of driving resulted in the loss of control of the car causing a crash with an on-coming vehicle.  The car’s passengers were the bride and her friends coming home from the bride’s hen weekend.  The car following contained the parents.  The crash cost the life of the bride, who died instantly.  One of my duties was to meet the bride’s family to explain the penalty for careless driving (before careless driving causing death was on the stature books) was a driving ban and fine. 


Over many years I have represented parents who have had their children returned to them when the care plan for them was adoption.  This is a highly stressful aspect of my work but incredibly satisfying.


I successfully prosecuted a vulnerable children’s care home owner, for one charge of assault by beating.  It was the first time he had been successfully prosecuted because the children were so vulnerable they couldn’t give evidence.  The prosecution took 21 days in total.  He was later successfully prosecuted for rape of a child and sentenced to 18 years in custody. 


I have recently represented an alleged murderer (suspected strangulation of his wife, putting her body in a suitcase and throwing the suitcase in a river) in family proceedings.  He is currently on trial, accused of murder, at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey). 


7.  Is there anything you have learnt during the course of your profession, that you wish someone had taught you sooner?


Be disciplined and never fall behind with billing. 


Put money aside for income tax and VAT payments.  If available, make use of the facility for chambers to pay a percentage of fees received into a separate account. 


Never compare your practice to your colleagues.  Your strengths may lie in a different area of law, which may take time to develop. 


The development of social media skills. 


Keeping a record of case law when reading or researching. 


8. What would you say is the most difficult aspect of your profession?


The irregular flow of income as a Legal Aid practitioner.  Being required to pay tax on fees earned rather than fees received. 


The amount of administration has increased over the years.  


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