Name: Judith Ayling
Chambers: 39 Essex
Pupil at: 39 Essex
In Hot 100 for: Work on significant personal injury and clinical negligence cases. Read her full Hot 100 profile
What’s your most vivid memory from being a pupil?
In my final seat of pupillage at 39 Essex Chambers my supervisor Neil Block QC was appearing with Colin Mackay QC (as he then was) for the boxer Michael Watson in his case against the British Board of Boxing Control Limited.
Michael Watson had been very badly injured during his fight against Chris Eubank – his case was that the Board owed him a duty of care, and had breached that duty in the way in which the aftermath of his injury was dealt with. The Board said it did not owe him any duty at all.
This case convinced me that I wanted a career involving tort law, which can be intellectually difficult but also extremely interesting in human terms. Michael Watson won his case.
Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?
I gave up a career in publishing to come to the Bar in my mid-30s. The most directly influential person must be the mature law student whose name I sadly can’t remember who said, when I was trying to decide whether to change career, that I could either give it a go or sit around and wait to die in Cambridge. That did it (I still live in Cambridge).
Aside from that, Dr Jeremy Mynott, who was my boss at Cambridge University Press and who has always shown me by example the importance of keeping a diverse range of interests going, and Neil Block QC in chambers, who was my supervisor, and with whom I have been lucky enough to do many brilliant cases over the years. I now have a wide-ranging practice in my own right in personal injury and clinical negligence, but that would not have happened without Neil’s support, encouragement and patience in discussing tricky questions.
What was the best career decision you ever made, and why?
Giving up one career to start another, having spent almost 10 years in academic publishing. I had a fascinating job as a commissioning editor in linguistics and philosophy, and did a huge amount of travel to interesting places (including three months at Stanford University), but I realised that I needed a change and that a career at the Bar was likely to give me the right blend of the highly academic and the very practical.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
You don’t know unless you try. Work hard, but keep an outside life going (if that’s what you want).
Do your research carefully, so that you end up in a workplace that suits you, chambers can be very different – 39 Essex has been a brilliant place to be, and I am especially proud of our record in encouraging and retaining women.
What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?
A postgraduate degree in medical law. I am very interested in issues around consent to medical treatment, including the philosophical underpinnings as well as the practical ramifications of those issues, but I just don’t have time to do the academic research. I have organised a forthcoming chambers seminar about consent to treatment – one of the great things about this profession is the freedom to pursue interests like this as far as my cases permit.