Our articles are written by experts in their field and include barristers, solicitors, judges, mediators, academics and professionals from a range of related disciplines. Family Law provides a platform for debate for all the important topics, from divorce and care proceedings to transparency and access to justice. If you would like to contribute please email editor@familylaw.co.uk.
A day in the life Of...
Zahra Pabani
Zahra Pabani
Partner - Family Law
Read on
A Day in the Life of ... Chris Barnes (family barrister, 4PB)
Date:28 SEP 2016
Chris Barnes, family law barrister, 4 Paper Buildings

What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am a family barrister at 4 Paper Buildings, specialising in proceedings concerning children. Given the work I do I am very frequently in court, but around that my work time is spent on paper work and providing advice to clients.

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

I qualified as a barrister in 2009 and specialised in family work soon after that. I have been at 4PB since moving chambers last year - the chance to join the outstanding set for children law surrounded by colleagues of such high quality is something I hadn't expected and could not be more grateful for.

What are the people you work for/with like? Any memorable stories?

The thing I love most in the world is the sheer range of people you work with and represent. I am very lucky in the colleagues and solicitors, and you often find yourself bonding over the idiosyncrasies of life as a family lawyer. Obviously the most important people are always your clients, many of whom are facing incredibly difficult and emotional situations.

My most memorable story is probably from the first case I ever had in the Court of Appeal, where I had to take over the hearing from the silk leading me part-way through - I've never felt closer to an episode of Silk!

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

It's hard to live in Sussex and work in London without complaining about the trains, but I try to focus on the best part of the day which, for me, is always the moment just before your judge comes into court. There's always a mix of excitement, adrenaline and nervous tension. It's the time that epitomises the solitary nature of the job and the need to prepare for the unexpected.

What adjectives best describe you?

Committed, happy, and frequently chatty.

Article continues below...

What keeps you motivated?

I love the challenge of the job, especially where the demands of a case require you to stretch yourself to find a novel or unusual argument. More than anything though, it's the few cases where you feel you've made a real difference for your client or the children at the heart of the proceedings that keeps you going; that, and the fact that it's so hard to predict which client or case can end up surprising you.

Tea or coffee?

At a push I'd probably go for tea, but given that my tongue seems strangely prone to being burnt by hot drinks I tend to avoid them.

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

I honestly can't imagine myself doing anything else or finding any other job more challenging, varied or interesting. I never expected to work in family law so the only piece of advice I have for someone wanting to come to the Bar is to keep an open mind - it's almost impossible to predict what area of law will end up fitting your skills or capturing your imagination.

What song do you listen to the most?

I love Fast Car by Tracy Chapman.

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

I enjoy running, which is a great way of switching off from work. Otherwise I love cooking, travelling and skiing.

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

I think everyone working in the family justice system would love the gift of a little more time - time to reflect, time to prepare, time to engage with families - the pressure of running at or above capacity puts enormous strain on people within the system which is, unfortunately, when things can go awry for lawyers, judges, professionals and families alike.

Chris will be speaking on radicalisation at this year's Family Law Conference. This year the Conference will feature breakout sessions to cover even more topics and a drinks reception for networking after the event.

To secure your place, please visit the website.

Chris is also shortlisted for Junior Barrister of the Year at the 2016 Family Law Awards. To find out more and place your vote, please visit the Family Law Awards homepage. 

To book your table for the Awards ceremony click here. 

If you are interested in sponsoring an award please contact Becky Wall.