Name: Lucy Garrett
Firm: Keating Chambers
Trained at: 2 Temple Gardens
Year qualified: 2001
What’s your most vivid memory from being a pupil?
It’s the time I invited the wrong judge to dinner.
I did my pupillage (and early years of tenancy) at 2 Temple Gardens. All the pupils at 2tg did two weeks marshalling with Mr Justice Michael Turner, who had previously been Head of Chambers. He had a terrifying reputation – intelligent, fierce, didn’t suffer fools whether gladly or at all. In person he lived up to his reputation. During my two weeks, he was sitting in Sheffield on circuit and so we were staying in the judges’ lodgings. At the time, this was a very agreeable large country house with catering staff, some miles outside town. I was petrified. I had never been in any social setting like it. One of my jobs was to offer sherry round to the various judges staying there before dinner (yes, really). There was dry sherry and sweet but I had no idea which was which so I used to just proffer the bottles to each person for them to point at.
The daytime regime involved an “optional” 45 minute hike with the Judge and his clerk before breakfast, then going off to court and watching him dish out an awful justice to various miscreants and rogues. There were interludes at lunch and after court in which I would be cross-examined on what I thought of the advocacy, the tactics, the legal points taken, etc etc etc. I remained petrified.
It was in fact the Judge’s last circuit before he retired, so he was doing a lot of entertaining of friends and colleagues. Every evening there was a dinner. I would get sent off to other court rooms or across the retiring room to invite people to come to lodgings that evening or the next. They always came and were always delighted to be asked. One day there was some kind of ceremony going on at the court where all the judges in the building were wearing their (identical) robes and wigs. Mr Justice Turner pointed at someone across the room. “Go and ask him to come to the big dinner on Thursday,” he said. I thought I knew which wig he was pointing out, and darted across to issue the invitation. It was accepted with the usual alacrity, perhaps in this case (or this may be hindsight) tinged with surprise.
The evening came and we were going to be 14 at dinner: the maximum the dining room could hold. They all arrived and got ticked off on a list. I had been given the job of doing the seating plan which was on a table in the large reception area where everyone was arriving and throwing champagne down their necks. I had another job of topping up everyone’s champagne (I know, I know). Someone in a suit came up to me, unrecognisable out of his robes. He said, “You invited me to come to dinner, but my name isn’t on the seating plan.” Horror. There was no place for an extra person, and he wasn’t invited in the first place. He looked at my face and did something very kind. He said, “Don’t worry my dear, I can completely understand how you made the mistake. I’ll just go home now, no need to let anyone know.” And he turned round very quietly and left.
Well, I knew I would have to tell the Judge as everyone knew each other and there was no real possibility that the story wouldn’t get back to him. As I was standing in a corner, desperately trying to work out when and how I should break the news, another guest at the dinner, a QC, came skipping up to me. He had spotted the extra judge arriving then leaving and he made me tell him what had happened. I was pretty convinced my pupillage was over at this point: white as a sheet and a thousand yard stare. The QC thought the whole thing was hilarious. He promised he wouldn’t say anything to anyone until I had managed to tell the Judge, but he couldn’t resist spending the rest of the evening saying things like, “I feel someone is missing” to mystified groups of people, and looking under cushions while ostentatiously telling people that I was “good at finding missing items” and snorting with laughter. I started to feel a very small amount better: could it be disaster, if it was so funny?
I told the Judge right at the end of the evening when everyone had gone. It seems ridiculous now, given what a small thing it was in reality, but I was fully prepared for a terrifying take down and a damning report to go back to chambers. Instead, he looked at me for a moment, said, “Brave girl, not to worry” and went off to bed. In the morning I had to write a letter of apology to the extra judge. That was it. I got taken on at 2tg, and to this day I’ve got no idea whether Mr Justice Turner even mentioned it in his report to chambers.
There isn’t a moral to this story, other than that the Bar is a much kinder place than it might sometimes appear.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
I’ve got two. First, when I had just been taken on at 2tg and was feeling that I didn’t know how to do anything and was probably making terrible mistakes every day, I told a QC in chambers how worried I was. He said, “Lucy, I feel exactly the same. Every day I am waiting for the hand of doom to point at me and a voice to say, you’ve got away with it so far, but now you’ve been found out.” That QC is now Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith. The message is, don’t have imposter syndrome – everyone is quaking in their boots behind their façade of cool control.
Second, in 2018 and 2019, I was privileged to work with the Mayor of Freetown in Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE. She told me that there’s nothing negative about being angry and frustrated with things that are wrong, if you’re using that anger to try and put them right (her amazing TED talk is on “How to turn your dissatisfaction into action”).
I’ve just been appointed head of the pupillage committee and I want to spend the next few years building on a root and branch review we’ve already completed, working to improve fairness in the process and showing candidates of all backgrounds that they are positively welcome at the commercial Bar.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
This isn’t one person. It’s the silks who led me in multiple cases when I was a junior: Adrian Williamson, Adam Constable, Marcus Taverner, Andrew White, Neil Moody and Lionel Persey. I try to copy all their best bits.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT.
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
He’s a barrister in Manchester. We had far too much fun while doing the law conversion course: we both remain amazed we made it.