David Forsdick QC
David Forsdick QC, of Landmark Chambers in London’s Fleet Street, was called to the Bar in 1993. He specialises in environmental, planning, local authority and public law. Prior to his appointment to Queen’s Counsel, David was on the Treasury Solicitor’s ‘A’ Panel – from 2005 to 2014 – a role which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Originally, David was aiming to become a solicitor. However, when he was volunteering with the Free Representation Unit a judge suggested to him that he was cut out to be a barrister. David won a Gray’s Inn scholarship which paid for Bar School and the rest, as they say, is history. David said that he was originally attracted to public law work because of his keen interest in political, social and environmental issues. He found planning and environmental work to be an excellent route into broader judicial review work. These days, David has a broad practice, working for a wide range of public sector clients, private clients and public interest groups. He said that the common feature was ‘land’. In recent years he had been involved in the Olympic security (“missiles on the roof”) case and acted for the RSPB in its challenges to a bird cull and on the grant of permission for expansion of Lydd airport.
So, how did David know that the time was right to apply for silk? Having had one unsuccessful application several years ago – “far too early” – colleagues in the profession and some senior judges were encouraging him to apply again. However, it was his involvement as lead counsel for the City of London in the high-profile St Paul’s Occupy Protests – including in the Court of Appeal – that gave him the real spur to apply for QC in 2013. In considering applying for silk, he said it was important for applicants to feel certain that “the time was right”. He added that you needed to be objective as to what potential assessors were likely to say about you. It was an expensive and time-consuming process, and there was little point in applying before you were confident they would support your application. You need to ask yourself: do I have the necessary experience which can be demonstrated at a level of excellence across all the competencies based on my self-assessment, case list, and set of assessors, to be able to convince the QC Selection Panel?
Somewhat to his own surprise, David has not found the transition to becoming a QC particularly difficult; although he was clearly delighted to be in silk: Not least for the fact that as a QC, he had juniors to share the workload, enabling him to concentrate on leading the case and the top-level stuff – and it has freed up some more “quality family time” too. In fact, David had always maintained a healthy life-work balance. His weekends from the outset had been ‘sacrosanct’ for family, friends and non-work interests. He said that this separation of home and work was essential and, although it had also meant very early starts and very long hours during the week, it was well worth that price. For anyone setting out on a career in the law and aiming at the senior levels, David believed that it was vital to establish a healthy template for work-life balance early on in your career – it would be far harder to claw it back later. No one contemplating a career at the Bar should be in any doubt that it would entail extremely demanding work and at times would be very stressful. However, David emphasised, it was also extremely satisfying.
In David’s view, those who aspire to QC needed to have “keen focus”; they should avoid what he termed “a scattergun approach” to accepting briefs, no matter how tempting that might be in the short term. You needed a clear career plan, and you needed to stick to it. It was essential to work towards getting cases that would take you before the highest courts.
And when the time comes to applying for QC, what would David advise? Do not overstate anything on the application form, and avoid un-evidenced assertions. Set aside time for completing the application form, and be ruthless with protecting that time. David kept his diary free for three days to complete the form. Do not leave completing the form until the last minute. A well-thought out and honest self-assessment, well-crafted case descriptions, together with the best choice of cases and assessors, might well help secure an interview – if of course you and your assessors could provide the evidence of excellence.
As to the interview itself, David found this to be “straightforward, friendly and enjoyable”. Applicants should try not to get into “too much of a sweat” about the interview: It would indeed provide an important part of the total evidence before the Section Panel in making its final recommendation, but it was not in itself determinative. David found that a few interview practice sessions with colleagues were very helpful in getting him back into interview mode – as he had not experienced an interview for a number of years.
Were there any other steps that David had taken that he feels enabled him to convince the Selection Panel that he was ready to be a Queen’s Counsel? David answered this question using terms such as “honesty” and “genuine involvement”, especially as regards the diversity competency. He felt that his passion and interest in the law and the Bar more widely came across to the Panel. As to the diversity competency, David said “you can’t make it up” – meaning that the commitment to and understanding of diversity must be genuine. He felt that although it might be easier in some practice areas than others to demonstrate excellence in diversity, there was always the option to draw on involvement in such issues as social mobility (eg encouraging pupils in inner city schools to think about a career in law). For his own part, in his ‘spare time’, David has for many years been chair of governors of a federation of inner city schools.
© Queen’s Counsel Appointments Ltd
- Date: March 25, 2019
- Category: QCA Profiles 2014