Dr Simon Fox QC – No. 5 Chambers, Bristol

Dr Simon Fox QC works across the country from his base in the Bristol office of No5 Chambers and he was in the London offices off Fleet Street when I met him to talk about his experience of the Queen’s Counsel competition.

We began by talking about how and why he had transferred from medicine to law.  Perhaps surprisingly, Simon said that the decision to give up medicine had not been difficult.  He had qualified at the young age of 23 and had soon realised that medicine would not be the career for him, although he was keen to still be able to utilise his medical expertise.  He had found the academic transition from medicine to law daunting. Having studied primarily science-based subjects since GCSEs, Simon found that it took time to relearn the skills needed for a non science subject such as essay writing. However, Simon said that he had found his unusual background to be an advantage later when he applied for pupillage as he “stood out from the mainly Oxbridge law graduate applicants”.  He now advises his work experience students to think about doing something unusual academically or career-wise to stand out against the large number of applicants for pupillages.

At the start of his career at the Bar, Simon had never planned to become a Queen’s Counsel, having been delighted simply to have successfully made the difficult transformation from medicine to law and subsequently progressed to senior-junior.  Over time he developed a specialisation in the sort of work he loved in complex medical negligence claims. However he then began to realise that he was in fact carrying out silk level cases, often against QCs, and was seeing colleagues of a similar call being made silks.  He felt that he owed it to himself and family to apply.

He says that you needed real endurance to apply for silk.  The process was time-consuming and demanding.  Simon had taken a week off work just to complete the application form, and had to also spend time seeking out people who he wished to be his assessors.  He had also devoted a good deal of time to preparation for the interview. In particular he found that he needed to prepare thoroughly for the diversity component of the interview assessment, as this cannot be demonstrated as easily as the other competencies through the application form and the evidence from assessors. He felt that the interview was his opportunity to demonstrate this competency.

He said that it was vital for applicants to take the diversity competency as seriously as the ones with which they were likely to be more familiar – knowledge of the law, advocacy and working with others.  It was important for silks to act as role models on diversity issues both within chambers and more broadly within the profession.

Asked what he considered would change for him professionally as a silk as opposed to being a senior junior, Simon said that he expected to take on more of a leadership role.  He would be one of just two silks in the Bristol office of his chambers.  Even in his first 24 hours of the announcement of his award of silk, he had noticed a shift in the way people viewed him professionally in this respect.

And on a more personal note, Simon was “absolutely delighted” at how pleased his family were at his appointment.  And friends in his home town of Cheltenham, most who are not in the legal profession, had expressed happiness at the accolade.  He said it was “a bit like when you get engaged – everybody is happy for you”.  However, Simon noted wryly that when he asked his clerks for their advice on his award of Silk, they had simply told him not to get ‘QC-itis’. He hopes not to.

So, what was Simon’s overall impression of the QC selection process? He said he found it daunting – but added that it had to be daunting; the standard for silk should not be easy to achieve.

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