Achievement Against All Odds.
I am the most fortunate of fathers. I could never have dreamed that my children would scale such heights. A fortnight ago my youngest son, Evan, qualified as a chartered surveyor. Today my eldest, Richard, capped his extraordinary achievement in becoming a barrister by gaining tenancy at 9, Bedford Row, possibly the top international criminal and human rights set in London.
In the 21st century, the route to success as a barrister is almost impossible to negotiate but Richard has done so despite many disadvantages and challenges.
Born five weeks premature, he spent his first days of life in the special care baby unit. Twice-butchered, traumatised before the age of three in what should have been a minor operation at the Royal Surrey Hospital, he was at last properly served by a skilled surgeon at Great Ormond Street. Then, at the age of four, he was diagnosed with type one diabetes. His response, even as a small child, was to become an expert. Before he was a teenager he could have taken on any doctor, any diabetician, any endocrinologist and taught them a thing or two. His whole life is characterised by determination and an ability to gain knowledge through intense study and the application of his most remarkable intelligence.
As a child, he was known in our wider family as ‘the next prime minster but six’. I still have no doubt that he could achieve that if he put his mind to it – and he still may. He was individual national champion in the ‘Debating Matters’ competition and then, despite dyslexia, diabetes and far from the finest secondary education, he made his way to the University of East Anglia to study politics, philosophy and economics, that degree most favoured by our leaders and the elite. In truth, he neglected his studies for student politics, editing ‘Concrete’, the university newspaper and then launching a rival, Norwich-wide student magazine. Despite this he gained the requisite 2:1 and was by that time set on a career in the law.
Unlike many of his contemporaries at the bar, there was no silver spoon for Richard. His mother’s hard work, the support of his grandparents and his own diligence at some depressing jobs enabled his second degree in the law and successful completion of the bar course. To see him called at Middle Temple in October 2014 was then the proudest moment of my life, particularly as it was the very last such occasion for my father, himself a retired lawyer, before he died on the last day of that year. I believe Richard knows what supreme joy he brought to his grandfather in those last weeks of his life.
The next stage in a barrister’s career is to gain pupillage, the essential apprenticeship that leads to a practising certificate. Fewer than one in ten who are called to the bar achieve this and often they are aided by family contacts, networks, their Oxbridge or public school connections. Richard had none of this, only his ability, courage and a focus which makes determination an inadequate word to describe him.
I am very grateful that 9, Bedford Row granted Richard pupillage and has now given him the opportunity to reach the very top in his chosen profession. In the year before he began pupillage he showed how much the open market already values him and was appointed General Counsel on a fat salary at TES Global, the world’s leading educational publisher.
I am in awe of my son. He humbles me with his achievements. I have no doubt that he will take silk, become a judge, or triumph at whatever challenges he chooses. I am the proudest father.