QC in waiting: Kassie Smith
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Barristers who applied for silk in the latest round have learned their fate. Here, successful QC applicants answer questions about life at the bar, the silk process, and which actor would play them in a film
Name: Kassie Smith
Set: Monckton Chambers
Year of call: 1995
What was your first-ever job?
A Saturday job at Thorntons: the perfect job for a chocoholic. It’s all been a bit of an anti-climax since then.
Which barrister most helped shape your career? Why?
It would be invidious to name just one. I’ve been lucky to have had some inspirational leaders from chambers, including [Monckton Chambers’] Christopher Vajda QC, John Swift QC and Jon Turner QC, who taught me a great deal. Also I had a wonderful example in Melanie Hall QC [Monckton Chambers], who showed me that it’s possible to be a successful barrister and mother of three, although I’ve only managed two.
Which case was your most memorable as a junior barrister?
Most recently, one of my proudest moments was in a case which I led in a multi-party telecoms dispute in the Competition Appeal Tribuna (CAT). I cross examined an expert economist who insisted on standing by his evidence even though I had demonstrated that it was unsustainable, and described himself as “sticking his head above the parapet”. The silk for one of the other parties closed his case by saying that “Dr X stuck his head above the parapet and Ms Smith shot it off”.
Why did you apply for silk?
It was the logical next step. I was already doing cases leading juniors and enjoying them.
What was most challenging part of the silk application process?
For someone with an EU/competition/regulatory law practice like mine, which often involves a smaller number of larger cases that do not always go to trial, it is difficult to find the required number of judicial references. In the end I took the view that quality was more important than quantity and only nominated 10 judges.
What’s your biggest work/career mistake and what did you learn from it?
Cross examining while wearing uncomfortable shoes. I’ve found that doing it barefoot is best.
What’s the toughest thing about your job?
The unpredictability: you never know when you will need to work through the night to meet an urgent deadline. But a corresponding benefit is the flexibility: there can be days when you can escape from your desk to go for a long walk at lunchtime and, as long as you get the work done, it’s not a problem.
Where will you celebrate taking silk?
The first glass of champagne will be tonight at home with my husband after I have put the children to bed. There may be a few more consumed in the following days.
If you weren’t a barrister what would you have been?
Rather unimaginatively, I’ve wanted to be a barrister since I was about 15 years old. Honestly, though, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be.
What book are you currently reading?
Bedtime reading is currently Matilda by Roald Dahl and – when I have some rare time to myself – The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond.
If a film was being made about your life, which actor would play you and why?
Maggie Smith: we share a surname; I hope I’m successful for as long as she has been; and I definitely have ambitions to be a terrifying dragon when I’m an old woman.