There may not have been any doctors or lawyers among the people I grew up with, but everyone I admired shared a sense of public duty and its rewards.

Many first-generation Britons will share my experience of helping older family members navigate the unfamiliar systems that surround them. I may have been a quiet child, but I was also articulate. I discovered I could speak up for others and make a difference. That feeling helped determine – in some way – my choice of degree and career.


I’m a Londoner from a mixed Caribbean and Chinese heritage.  I grew up in Neasden, in a rich and culturally diverse environment, where every continent and religion was represented. That gave me flexibility and facility to get on in any environment.

My Jamaican mother was part of the Windrush generation; she came to Britain to train as a registered nurse. She was hard-working, resilient, and ambitious for her daughters. I inherited her quiet determination to make the most of every opportunity and work my way around any barriers.


I didn’t think about specialising in construction and engineering until pupillage. I acted as my first pupil master’s junior in a 6 week trial in the Technology and Construction Court. I’d excelled at maths and science at school, and had even considered and abandoned plans to study a science degree. I was surprised and pleased to discover I could find a way to mix law and science.


I experienced the usual challenges getting into the bar, gaining pupillage and tenancy. However, it was unexpectedly hard breaking into the construction industry. It’s predominantly male (and quite traditional males, at that) and all the successful construction barristers at my first chambers were men. Clients sometimes found it hard to judge my age and experience, which seemed like a hurdle.

So, to break into the professional negligence side of construction, I took an engineering degree by correspondence with the Open University.

When I was talking to architects and engineers, this degree helped give us some shared language and experience. It was an ice-breaker that made me familiar. Years later, all this is second nature; but clients are still pleased to see that engineering degree.

I was able to build enough of a practice to move to the construction specialists, Keating Chambers. Keating has a tremendous reputation in the industry, and I’ve been busy ever since.


Building a career at the Bar and the construction Bar takes a certain amount of resilience and determination. I think the challenge is finding your own space and working out where you can demonstrate particular skill and expertise.

We also all thrive in environments where we feel comfortable and confident in showing off our skills.  So there is a need for role models. I have been lucky.  At my first Chambers, there was a female senior junior of mixed African heritage, who is now a QC in Northern Ireland. I was also hugely inspired by hearing Baroness Patricia Scotland speak about her journey to becoming the first Caribbean female QC, when I was a student at university. More recently, I have benefited from TECBAR’s BAME Network, championed by Riaz Hussain QC.

However, the lack of diversity at the Bar can be very off-putting and result in women from an African or Caribbean background excluding themselves from a career at the Bar or — worse still — leaving. It’s easy to forget that what’s important is the value you provide to your clients and not your gender or heritage.

The Bar needs to increase the work of its networks for these groups and change its attitudes so as to understand how to be truly inclusive. This will attract more diverse applicants and change what normal looks and feels like for the Bar, the Judiciary, solicitors and clients.  Eventually, diversity will have to increase if the Bar is to remain relevant in our modern and increasingly global environment.  Ultimately clients will demand to be represented by Chambers and individuals who share their gender, background, values, heritage and norms.