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  • Writer's pictureAlpesh Patel

The Enduring Impact of a Mentor

'Credit, where credit's due' was an important lesson I learnt from this fantastic individual, now a judge in the Court of Appeal in the UK. I was a pupil barrister a 7 Stone Buildings, a set of Chambers specialising in Chancery Law with a lot of Pensions law thrown in.

I was helping Guy on a case relating to the powers of the Crown and Ministers. It was the most fascinating area of law - Constitutional Law. I spent days in Lincoln's Inn library looking up case law so old, some of it was in French. 

I found a case which would circumvent the whole argument of the other side (thankfully in English). Anyway, I showed it to Guy, who at first was skeptical I think that a pupil would stumble across something so useful (so was I!). 

We went into court at the Royal Courts of Justice. A few moments before the case began, Guy turned to me and asked me to get that case from the Court library (too late to go to Chambers and I don't know why I didn't keep a copy). 

Guy rose and at the appropriate time raised the case with the judge. I kid you not, the judge commended Guy and to my astonishment, Guy turned to me and said to the judge, "that's my Pupil's doing" or words to that effect. 

Whilst I left the Bar, I regret not doing Constitutional Law or Human Rights Law. Follow what you love - you will excel (not, as in my case Tax, Commercial, Corporate and Law of Trusts, with some shipping thrown in). 

I remember this 30 years later, because it taught me the best traditions of the Bar - credit where credit is due. He asked me, "how did it feel being recognised by the judge"? Well, I shall write to Rt Hon Lord Justice Guy Newey to thank and remind him. 

I'd also urge you to go for professions which are elite and extremely difficult to get into. However short a time you spend in them, you will learn from the best. And the Bar is still the best education for business. It makes you fearless - from advocacy to negotiation and teaches a level of professionalism that is exceptional. 

I speak to many students who complain they keep getting rejected for internships and work experience or jobs. And invariably when I ask how many applications, the reply is usually in low double digits. 

I must have done what felt like 100 applications for pupillage to get two offers - albeit from two outstanding sets of Chambers (the other one was 12 Gray's Inn Square). 

You will not read about these Barristers in the press - they work quietly behind the scenes but are some of the most exceptional brains of their generation. 

I left the Bar, one reason being, I knew I was not of that calibre in law. And for me, it was all or nothing. (Albeit I did achieve 'outstanding in Advocacy in Bar exams of which I am very proud - top 10 out of a 1,000). But consider Cherie Booth came top overall in her year! And you can see why my grade didn't cut it! 

They do however raise your sights being around them, because you see the standard is beyond what you ever imagined.

Alpesh Patel OBE


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