Lisa Linklater KC – Exchange Chambers, Leeds

Lisa Linklater KC was the first female commercial chancery specialist in the North Eastern Circuit to be appointed silk, following the 2021 KC Competition.  Lisa specialises in shareholder and partnership disputes, corporate insolvency (both litigation and technical applications) and contractual disputes.  Lisa grew up in the Scottish Borders and attended a local state primary school followed by an independent school in Edinburgh. At this all-girls school there was no talk of ‘glass ceilings’; the sky was the limit.  Lisa had no family connections with the law but she loved taking part in the school debating society, the cut and thrust of debate parliamentary-style, so advocacy was a natural career choice.  One of her interlocutors in the debating society went on to become a national newspaper journalist and another is now a High Court Judge. Lisa studied law at Jesus College, Cambridge – where she was very heavily involved in mooting competitions and represented the university at football.

Lisa had particularly enjoyed studying company law at university and observing practice in this area in the field of shareholder disputes during pupillage, as it involved so many interlinking elements: the forensic/technical detail, the interpersonal dynamics of the parties (including the breakdown of personal relationships) and, of course, the advocacy.  Her choice of specialism was therefore an easy one.   At the time of the interview for this profile Lisa was immersed in a complex shareholder dispute presenting novel and knotty problems which she was clearly relishing.

Lisa has built her career in Leeds, which has enabled her to build strong working relationships with instructing solicitors from across the north of England. Three of her cases on her application form, for example, were from solicitors who had instructed Lisa since she first joined the bar.  The North Eastern and Northern Circuits also provided Lisa with the opportunities she needed for high level advocacy, including trial advocacy in the Business and Property Courts of the High Court (formerly High Court, Chancery Division) in Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool, with Lisa carrying out her appellate advocacy (as sole counsel) in the Court of Appeal.  Developing her career in the North Eastern and Northern Circuits meant that Lisa’s assessor judges were extremely familiar with her work when she came to apply for silk. Lisa greatly enjoyed being part not just of the local legal community but also part of the broader business community. For example, Lisa was active not just on the committees of the Northern Chancery Bar Association but also the Leeds Business and Property Courts Forum, which contributes to the professional development of practitioners at all levels of experience.

One of the key reasons Lisa wished to take silk was to enable her to further develop the two strands of her practice, commercial and chancery, at the very highest level.  Over the last five or so years, Lisa had found herself increasingly being instructed on cases at silk level and against silks. She was also beginning to compete for work against KCs, which could create an additional hurdle to instruction where she had not previously worked with the solicitors or client.  Lisa was also being increasingly encouraged to apply for KC by her Chief Clerk and fellow barristers and the judges. Lisa also had the right sort of substantial cases in the relevant time period to make a viable application.  It seemed like the right moment.

Lisa’s progress to silk was somewhat unstructured and she found the application process highly demanding, particularly in terms of time. Lisa had to fill in the voluminous application form and prepare for the interview.  Lisa benefited from help from her colleagues and friends including one whom she had met at bar school and another from her university days.  A recent KC in the circuit was able to provide Lisa with a more similar geographical outlook as her own.  It was, she says, extremely helpful to have various perspectives on success in the silk application.

More broadly in her preparations for the KC Competition, Lisa knew that she had to be on her game at national level and she attended Temple and KC events in London, taking the opportunity to talk to lots of people in the margins. Unlike applicants in some London chambers which often saw four or five new silks appointed each year, Lisa had a more limited number of KCs in her network to call upon, so she needed to reach out further afield, particularly to other senior women at the bar.  Lisa says that there were still relatively few female role models in the commercial and chancery specialisms, particularly outside of London, and that was perhaps her greatest hurdle, particularly when she returned to practice after her children were born.

Lisa said that, on the positive side, there were now more visible female role models across the legal profession and the judiciary compared to when she set out on her career and this was creating a highly positive cycle which hopefully augured well for the future.  The support Lisa receives from the North Eastern Circuit Women’s Forum was very important, with supportive and forward-thinking events that linked wellbeing and consistently excellent performance as a central theme.  Both formal and informal support networks were extremely important to assist female barristers to cope with competing responsibilities and demands whilst maintaining their own good mental and physical health.  It was important to assist others, men and women, in the workplace and to be as inclusive and positive as possible.

Overall, Lisa found the KC Competition the most demanding and thorough process she had ever experienced. She feels that it made her step back and look clearly at what she had done, as you needed to really connect with your material in order to convince the Selection Panel of your credentials for silk.  Lisa considers that the process enabled her to develop personally and professionally.

Lisa says it was so heartening to see so many families at the KC Ceremony at Westminster Hall held on 21 March 2022, with children of all ages, from babes-in-arms to teenagers. The event was joyful and inclusive, and probably one of the best days of Lisa’s life, surrounded as she was by her family, dearest friends and her Chief Clerk with his wife and the Chambers’ Chief Executive. It was a particular delight and joy to have her elderly parents from Scotland at the event, a very proud and joyous moment for them after the dark days of the pandemic.  Lisa says that it has been wonderful the way people that she worked with throughout her career had reached out to her at that very exciting time, evoking so many happy memories. Finally, Lisa says that none of this would have been possible without the support of her husband throughout the demanding years leading up to silk and throughout her career.

  • Date: February 14, 2023
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