A Day in the Life of...

Sarah Reid

Sarah Reid is a leading Barrister at Kings Chamber specialising in Planning, Environment and Highways. Sarah is a member of the committee for Women in Planning North West and was named on the Planner’s 2019 Women of Influence List. She is also the Assistant Editor for Highways Encyclopedia and a regular on the King's Chambers Planning Podcast, you can listen to the latest episode here. Most recently, Sarah has been nominated for English Women’s Awards 2019 in the Services to Law category.R Read about Sarah's typical day below. 

 

What does your typical working day look like?

My day starts…

I usually get up early, either to drive to an inquiry or conference, or to sneak a few hours of work in before the kids are up or the emails start coming in. When I don’t get up early for work, I’m woken up at the crack of dawn anyway by one of my 3 young children jumping on my head.

In my working day…

There is no such thing as a “typical day”. The most visible part of my job is obviously the public inquiry work, where I’m “on my feet” all day taking witnesses through their evidence, cross examining, dealing with the Inspector’s queries, and squeezing conferences in during breaks. Alternatively, I could be working at home preparing for an inquiry (which is like preparing for an exam), working on advisory work with my head in the Planning Encyclopaedia or a set of papers, or travelling near and far for a conference, site visit or hearing.

On an evening…

I particularly enjoy reading a story to my children and putting them to bed.

My day ends…

At about 11pm. I function better with an early morning start than a late finish.

 

How do you unwind on an evening or weekend?

I have 3 very young children, so there isn’t really any such thing as unwinding! I really enjoy spending time with the family at the weekend, particularly as I am often away in the week and work long hours.


I’ve got two football mad little boys, so many Saturday mornings are spent watching them play football, taking all 3 kids swimming, for bike rides etc. The kids also nag me to cook large Sunday roasts for them every Sunday, and I love sitting down with the family for that. It is fair to say that I also enjoy a bit of quiet time in front of the TV or with a book and a glass of wine in the evening when they are all in bed.

What is your favourite/most rewarding project you have worked on?

It is really difficult to say as I have worked on so many different cases of different types and sizes over the years.


13 years ago, when I was very junior, I successfully represented residents resisting a scheme for the comprehensive regeneration of New Brighton, Wirral. It was seriously hard work at the time as I was against four senior barristers from my Chambers, and the only inquiry that I had done up until that point was about a wall in someone’s back garden that was half a metre too high. We won, however, on the basis of the harm that would have been caused to the significance of a Grade 2* listed lighthouse and fort by blocking views to them across a marine lake. The developer subsequently submitted a revised scheme that preserved those views, which received local consent, and which was successfully implemented. New Brighton is now unrecognizable from the place that it was 13 years ago. I take my kids there frequently in the summer to play on the beach, and I really enjoy having fish and chips in a café overlooking the marine lake, fort and lighthouse, and thinking that I played a small part in preserving part of what makes it special.

What are the best and worst bits about your job?

There is nothing that beats a successful cross - examination, where a witness concedes their case (or effectively does). I really enjoy the battle in an inquiry. The preparation is the worst bit, however. As I’ve said above, it is like preparing for an exam.

Another aspect that I find challenging is the negative sentiment towards developers that I have experienced first-hand. The “unscrupulous developers” mentality needs to change if we want to ensure community engagement is a collaborative process and that the principle of development is supported at a local level.  

Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why?

It sounds like a cliché, but it really was my mum. She was highly successful in her own career, but was always there when I needed her. She made me believe that I could achieve anything that I wanted to if I worked hard enough, and that I could also balance this successfully with a family if I wanted to do so.


My pupil supervisors Ian Ponter and Ruth Stockley have also played a huge part in my career. They are very different barristers, but together taught me everything that I know and gave me the confidence that I needed at the beginning of my career. Although I’ve now been a barrister for 14 years, we still frequently talk on the phone and enjoy a nice lunch together from time to time.

The late Frances Patterson QC was inspirational. She was Head of my Chambers when I joined in 2004, an extremely successful barrister, and was always highly supportive of me.


What is the best bit of advice you have received in your career?

There is nothing wrong with being firm, but being overly aggressive and showing off does you no favours in a public inquiry (excellent advice from Ian Ponter).

What is your favourite place?

Santorini, where I got married.

Home!

 

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