Robin Allen QC is the Times Lawyer of the Week. The full column, which can be found in today’s edition of the Times has been reproduced below:
Robin Allen QC, of Cloisters Chambers, acted for the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal where the judges ruled unanimously that a baker’s refusal to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on it was discriminatory.
What were the main challenges in this case – and the possible implications?
To seek to resolve the conflict between Mr Lee and the bakery’s evangelical owners, opposed to gay marriage, in favour of my client, while fully respecting their right to their beliefs.
What’s the best decision you’ve taken as a lawyer?
Joining the wonderful lawyers and staff at Cloisters, my professional home since 1988.
Who has inspired you in your career?
Tony Gifford QC, who analysed every legal problem, however small, in a larger political and economic context; the then Stephen Sedley QC for showing me how to take that to the next level; and all the great women lawyers, my wife included, who, against terrible odds, have kept their careers going or gone onto the judiciary.
What’s the oddest/funniest thing that has happened to you – as a lawyer?
As an impoverished junior my suits were sometimes threadbare. Once in Croydon County Court my trouser seam ripped. The clerk kindly stapled it together. In my gown, I argued the case and returned to Chambers on the tube – modesty preserved.
What’s the best advice you’ve received
The clerk suggested I buy a new suit. Practise introspection about your failures and your successes.
Which three qualities should a lawyer have?
Insatiable curiosity, good judgement of the relationship between quantum, merits and costs, and an honest but silver tongue, make a good start.
What law would you enact – and why?
As chair of the Bar Council’s Equality & Diversity Committee, the lack of a diverse judiciary really worries me. We need steps of all kinds to move closer to a balanced career judiciary, including pre-application training, better terms, and more positive action to secure greater success for black and minority ethnic, and female, candidates.
For what/how would you like to be remembered?
As a constant support to the profession, especially in equalities law. Career-wise: for working with the other trustees of the 7/7 London Bombings Relief Charity – to raise and donate £12 M, all within 13 months, and developing disability discrimination law as a special adviser to the Disability Rights Commission.