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A day in the life Of...
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A day in the life of ... Byron James

Date:1 JUN 2018
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What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am a barrister working at Expatriate Law based in Dubai. We work exclusively on international cases, representing expatriates all over the world. I plan my day by time-zones.

How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?

I have been based in Dubai with Expatriate Law for 18 months. I could say it was the sunny, beach-based, fun-filled, expatriate lifestyle that made me consider Dubai, but I believe I suggested wanting to immerse myself in one of the most forward thinking legal jurisdictions in the world in my initial interview for the job.

Any memorable stories from your career so far?

Receiving an email from a (slightly hard of hearing) judge at the CFC after a three-day trial asking the parties to explain why they had made “constant references to an aunt who lives in Leicester” and “if the parties want the aunt who lives in Leicester to be involved somehow, they should have asked her to file a witness statement or at least write a letter to the Court”. The parties jointly, and tactfully, wrote to the judge and asked if he had in fact meant “the bank account with Alliance & Leicester”?

What is the best and worst part of the day for you?

I love being able to instruct Counsel now, working as I do in the solicitor role rather than the barrister one I have left behind. It is such a privilege to be able to choose the very best barristers and work with them on the interesting cases we have. The worst part is now not being allowed to speak as much in conferences, which took some getting used to!

What keeps you motivated?

Our caseload is so varied and involves so many different jurisdictions and difficult legal problems that every day seems to present a new and difficult challenge. Our current client roster involves cases involving almost every continent (despite our extensive marketing efforts, we have not been able to reach out to the expatriates in Antarctica just yet) and I have the pleasure of learning so much about the world just through speaking with my lovely clients on a daily basis.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee is a necessity.

What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?

Make sure that you are prepared to embrace technology both in the way you practise day to day and engage with clients. Our office is entirely paperless and there are plenty of clients I have never met face to face. When the Court system catches up with providing a full online service (and I can serve applications by email without making a specific application for permission!) the family law world will change dramatically, and it may leave some people behind.
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What song do you listen to the most?

Anything by Max Richter.

Who inspires you within the world of family law?

First and foremost, my boss Alexandra Tribe. She moved to Dubai over 10 years ago and then later set up on her own a niche-international specific family law firm at a time when it was almost entirely unheard of to do so. She is an inspiring visionary and I am extremely lucky to have the chance to work with her every day.

I am also constantly inspired by the elite level work of Jo Edwards (Forsters) and Philip Marshall QC (1KBW). They are exceptional individuals who both conduct themselves with assurance and kindness that does them both great credit. I must also mention the brilliant work undertaken by senior clerks Danny Chapman (36 Family) and James Shortall (29 Bedford Row), who both always have/make time for you and do so with a massive smile.

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

Despite rumours to the contrary, Dubai does have some extra-curricular activities worth exploring away from the law. It is an amazing, cosmopolitan place where the sun always shines. There is a friendly community of expatriates who can make living abroad seem much more like living at home. There are some wonderful countries around the Middle East to visit and you have a great launch pad to Asia too.

What book would you recommend to others?

No Logo, by Naomi Klein

What would be your alternate career?

If Arsenal ever needed a striker, I possibly have a few years left.

If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?

Allow parties from around the world to properly participate in court hearings without requiring their personal attendance. It is difficult to manage even attending by telephone at present which clients are constantly baffled by.

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