Name: Adrian Beltrami QC
Chambers: 3 Verulam Buildings
Position: Barrister, Joint head of chambers
In Hot 100 for: Defending banks in many of the biggest finance cases in the UK courts. Read his full Hot 100 entry.
What’s your most vivid memory from being a pupil?
I particularly remember, on my first day, being locked in my pupil master’s room. There had been a burglary in Chambers and he was especially security conscious. So when he suddenly left, mid-morning, he locked up, either forgetting I was there or not knowing that I had not been given a key (I have always liked to think the latter).
Too nervous to create a stir, I stewed for four and half hours, before I was rescued by a junior clerk who was by chance returning a book. Otherwise, my first day could have been my first all-nighter.
Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?
Two inspirations. First, my father, a criminal solicitor in Scotland, for whom every day in court, for 50 years, was a genuine thrill. Second, John Hopkins, my undergraduate tutor, whose unbridled enthusiasm for the law could not but be infectious and lasting.
Each very different but both with the same message: we are very fortunate if we can do something that we enjoy; if that stops, it is time to look elsewhere.
What was the best career decision you ever made, and why?
Taking an undergraduate law degree rather than an arts degree with a view to a subsequent conversion. From the outset, it teaches you to think like a lawyer, which is so much more important than learning particular chunks of law, which you will never use or which will have changed by the time you do need to use them. It has also enabled me to adhere firmly to one side on the perennial debate at the Bar as to which is the better route. No contest, really.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
No doubt good academics, dedication, responsiveness and luck are all important. But you are unlikely to progress far unless you enjoy what you are doing; and any progress would probably not be worthwhile anyway.
So the best advice is to focus on what you actually like, be it the area of law, the type of role and/or the legal environment. You have to be able, day in day out, to get out of bed and go to work because you want to do so, not because you have to do so. Once you have reached that stage, the rest is the easy bit.
What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?
Teaching. Every year in practice results in an accumulation of further knowledge, if not necessarily wisdom. As most law students will be coming into practice, that accumulated knowledge, or at least some of it, is bound to be of value to them. I am not sure that a purely academic diet provides everything that they need. And we can easily forget that teaching is also mutually beneficial.
So I think that there is a role for greater involvement by practitioners in the teaching of law and legal processes, if only the demands of clients and Judges made that remotely possible.