The Lady QC, With a Difference

stevens-hoare-lawfuelBeing a Queen’s Counsel is the highest honour a British barrister can receive, beyond judicial elevation.  But it’s also been largely an ‘old boys’ network of fusty men in musty chambers.

So how does a recently elevated barrister like Michelle Stevens-Hoare make it?  More to the point, how does a lady barrister like Michelle Stevens-Hoare   who is also tee-total, gay, red-headed and left wing still makes it at the British bar?

She spoke with The Lawyer about the ins and outs of the inns of court and how you can do it.

What was your first ever job?

I was a shop assistant in a low-end clothing store in St Mary’s Butts shopping centre in Reading, working from 8am to 8pm for £4.50.

Which barrister most helped shape your career?

[Hardwicke’s] Nigel Jones QC


His strong belief that the bar needs to modernise, be open to the best and that it exists to provide a quality service for our clients, and be focused on their needs, showed me what the modern bar could be. He also created the environment in which a woman who is teetotal, gay, left wing and a feminist could see a future and thrive.

Which case was your most memorable as a junior barrister?

Being judge Michael Hopmeier’s junior for the often forgotten about second defendant in Polly Peck first time round.

Why did you apply for silk?

Because not enough of the fantastic women at the bar do. The more of us apply and succeed, the more younger women will see it as accessible for them and feel confident about putting themselves forward.

What was most challenging part of the silk application process?

Having to describe myself, in writing and face to face, as excellent. Those who know me understand that it is not my style – I do my very best and leave it for others to decide if it was good enough.

What’s your biggest work/career mistake and what did you learn from it?

Not to stand up for myself in the early years when patronised or subject to gender-based teasing and the like. I learnt to stand up for myself and others and to demand fair, open, respectful treatment.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?

That’s a really hard one. I absolutely love what I do and get paid handsomely for it. I guess the hardest thing is sometimes feeling you haven’t managed to get the outcome your client should have got.

Where will you celebrate taking silk?

In chambers, of course – we used to be known as a party chambers for good reason. Hopefully my roommate (PJ Kirby, who also got silk in this round) will get his decks out.

If you weren’t a barrister what would you have been?

I cannot imagine. I decided the bar was for me when I was only 13.

What book are you currently reading?

Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French.

If a film was being made about your life, which actor would play you and why?

Tilda Swinton because she looks great with red hair, is an amazing character actress and my wife adores her.

Meanwhile, the British press report that the number of barristers being awarded QC status is sharply reduced with just 84 taking silk this year, compared to the 2005/06 intake that saw 175 gain their new status.

The most recent announcements were made by the appointments committee.


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