This months Barrister of the Month is Anthony Johnston, called in 1993.
What caused you to want to specialise in Employment Law? I think it has the twin attractions of being both an interesting and constantly developing area of the law and one which impacts upon people’s daily lives. Above all else, though, it is the human element that appeals – the majority of tribunal cases are ultimately about human interaction at one level or another.
What was your worst / most embarrassing moment in Court or Tribunal? Making the schoolboy error of forgetting to switch my phone to silent and having “Bittersweet Symphony”, my ringtone at the time, blare out loudly just as I was about to start a cross-examination. To be fair, the Judge (Employment Judge Rostant) dealt with it brilliantly – having listened to my profuse apology, he looked at me, without skipping a beat, and said, “personally, I thought the Rolling Stones did it better”.
Who or what is your inspiration? My late father, who, despite being very successful in his chosen field, always remained a profoundly humble man. He instilled in me values, particularly in relation to the way in which you should treat other people, that have hopefully served me well in both my professional and personal life.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of entering into Employment Law? The next couple of years promise to be a very interesting time in a field of the law whose development has been closely intertwined with our membership of the European Union. Don’t let that put you off. Ultimately the overwhelming majority of UK employment law will remain the same.
If you could create or change any Employment law or regulation, what would it be? At the risk of beating a familiar drum, I would get rid of employment tribunal fees. Whilst I have sympathy with the view that there ought to be a disincentive to Claimants pursuing unmeritorious claims, I do not believe that the answer to that (whether in the employment tribunal or elsewhere) lies in the charging of fees, which have far wider-reaching implications in terms of access to justice. I think there are other means of achieving the same end (e.g. the more robust use of strike out/deposit orders) which would not have the undesirable impact on the pursuit of meritorious claims that tribunal fees have undoubtedly had.
Away from the law, what do you like to do? I am passionate about sport (I am a member at Arsenal and Warwickshire CCC and a long-suffering Scotland rugby and football supporter). I also enjoy theatre, film, live music and comedy and spending time with my grown-up kids. Aside from that, I play the guitar (very badly) and write (hopefully slightly less badly).