Work Life Quiz: Guy Burkill QC, Three New Square

What was your first-ever job?

My first paid case was a noting brief in British Leyland v Armstrong (1986), for £50 per day. It was a six-week trial about copyright in designs of car exhaust pipes.

What was your worst ­experience as a trainee?

On being taken to a patent bar party I became over-refreshed, which manifested itself in a bad physical way in the presence of our head of chambers. Happily, the rest of chambers thought this supported my tenancy.

Where’s the best place to go if you want to find out what’s really going on in the office?

It remains a mystery.

What time do you usually leave the office?

On Mondays I skive off at 6pm for an orchestra rehearsal if I can. ­I try to avoid taking work home, so if I have to stay until midnight I do.

What do you do at weekends?

Lie in, gym, violin practice, fail to mend things, ­procrastinate over ­household chores, worry.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Buca di Sant’Antonio in Lucca. We become ­Lucchese for a month a year, and the first time we eat there each August it feels like coming home.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you have been?

Orchestral musician, but my desk partners usually advise me not to give up the day job.

What’s your favourite film?

Napoléon, the six-hour silent epic made in 1927 by Abel Gance. If you’re not overwhelmed by tears then cheers at the end you’re not human. Unforgettable.

What was the first record you ever bought?

Beethoven’s Symphony No3 (Eroica) on Classics for Pleasure. It was £1 at a time when normal LPs were a fiver.

Who’s your hero and why?

Yehudi Menuhin for his technique, musicality and charisma. I have one of his favourite violins.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with world-class experts and engineers, and arguing when I suspect they’re wrong.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?

Convincing judges. These things are sent to try us.

What’s your biggest work/career mistake and what did you learn from it?

When first using email, forgetting that any humour in the way you talk on the phone doesn’t show up in text, which can look rude. I now try to be chattier.

What car do you drive?

I indulge my mid-life crisis by belonging to a car club. I loved the bright orange Lambo Gallardo, but I’m equally happy in the Aston Vantage, the Audi R8, the red F430 – all open-top.

What book are you reading?

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. For hardcore geeks.

What’s your favourite children’s book?

When We Were Very Young by AA Milne.

What’s the most exciting deal/case you have worked on and why?

A confidential arbitration. I had to cross-examine five technical experts and was backed up by some ­talented people.

If you were stranded on a desert island what two luxury items would you take?

My violin and my laptop loaded with my MP3 collection, scanned sheet music, photo album and Visual

What’s the worst partner conference location you’ve attended?

The one that we had on a Saturday – in chambers.

What’s the longest you’ve worked without sleep?

Maybe 18 hours.

If a movie was being made about your life, which actor would play you and why?

Let’s be realistic here, it’s not going to happen.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Hannibal Lecter. I want to live long enough to reap some benefit from my pension contributions

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order):

I can play most of ­Paganini’s Caprices from memory; the first computer I built had only 1kb of memory but I programmed it to play MasterMind; I failed Greek O-level, a fact of which I’m perversely proud.


Name: Guy Burkill QC

Title: Barrister

Chambers: Three New Square

Lives: London, NW1


1975-78: University of Cambridge, reading Engineering

1978-79: Diploma in law, PCL

1979-80: Bar school

Work history:

1980: Carpmaels & Ransford (patent agents)

1981: Pupillage with Simon Thorley QC

1982-present: Practice at the patent bar

2002: Appointed Queen’s Counsel