Robert Cline, Barrister, St. John’s Buildings Chambers

09 April 2018

Interlink Recruitment meets Barrister Robert Cline and talks more about his legal career, from the reasons why he chose the Barrister route to his advice for those interested in a career at the Bar.  

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q:  
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, Robert.  Can you start by talking us through your own legal career and the path you took to get where you are today?  

[Robert Cline]
A: 
I attended Manchester Grammar School and completed a gap year before moving onto Jesus College, Cambridge to read Law.  It was during my year out that I gained invaluable experience, spending six months working with a criminal practitioner doing freelance criminal clerking for various firms in Manchester and learnt the reality of Criminal Practice.
Having completed my law degree, I went on to complete the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) at Manchester Metropolitan University, before spending one year as a Magistrate’s Clerk.
I was offered Pupillage at Atlantic Chambers (Liverpool) in 2002. I undertook a Common Law pupillage – focussing on Crime and Family – and having been offered tenancy, I remained with the Chambers for fourteen years, at which point I moved to St John’s Buildings.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q: 
What made you choose the Barrister route, as opposed to perhaps the Solicitor route, and did you consider a career down South, having studied at Cambridge University?

[Robert Cline]
A: 
I suppose I had an idealised view of court, advocacy and the joy and excitement of huge trials.  I spent five years at Birkenhead Magistrates and Family Courts and it was the changes in Legal Aid that prompted my move to a Personal Injury specialism.
In terms of a career down South, the reality was that whilst it may have been difficult to get pupillage, once secured it was more likely to be kept on in the North.  Of course, I have many friends and family in the North, and the preference at the time was to be a ‘bigger fish in a smaller pond.’  That said, one can never be sure if the same decisions would be reached if the same set of circumstances presented themselves today.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q: 
What advice would you give someone looking to go the Bar?

[Robert Cline]
A: 
Firstly, it’s very important to think carefully and research thoroughly.  I would strongly advise anyone considering the Bar to look at the changing legal landscape, too.  There is always a role and a place for the Bar, but you should ask yourself the questions.  Is it for you?  Do you know exactly what is involved?   It can be a lonely existence. 
However, Chambers are always very supportive, and my current Chambers for example, have a WhatsApp group for most practice areas.  This is an excellent forum where Barristers can help and support each other.  Yes, as a Barrister you are self- employed, but your practice is looked after by Clerks, so it is a different employment situation to other careers.  Clerks are employed by Chambers and they play a crucial role in controlling our diaries.
Whilst it is an uncertain time for the Bar in terms of my own practice areas – Crime, Family and PI – it is a thoroughly rewarding career.  It’s just important to think carefully, research and be sure it is for you.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q: 
How do you split your time across the different disciplines you cover?

[Robert Cline]
A: 
My work is almost entirely within Personal Injury nowadays, so it is relatively easy to manage.  I also do some Local Authority Criminal Prosecutions.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q: 
How do you see your career developing over the next, say five years?

[Robert Cline]
A: 
I’m unsure as to exactly how things will develop over the next five years.  The legal market has drastically changed and even I have moved from Criminal and Family to Personal Injury work. Flexibility at every stage of your career is crucial, but I enjoy a very supportive Chambers network. Being at the biggest Chambers in the country, I am confident I am surrounded by other Barristers and Clerks who understand the market and possess the tools and the know-how to adapt to changing market conditions.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q: 
Do you have any final advice for those aspiring Barristers to succeed at the Bar in such a competitive market?

[Robert Cline]
A: 
Remember that hard work, dedication, commitment and good luck goes a long way.  Always have a clear focus and be willing to admit to yourself when things aren’t going well, and be prepared to change.

Interlink meets is an opportunity for us to share career insights with like-minded legal professionals. We are fortunate enough to get to talk to many faces in the world of law, through 'Interlink meets' we hope to inspire others with their legal futures.    


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