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Jonathan Cook

Career Path: Barrister, Cloisters Chambers
Location: London, UK

After studying for a PhD in International Relations at the University of Cambridge, I wanted to find a career that provided a mix of intellectual challenge, practical application and advocacy. I thought about becoming a barrister while at school, but went away from that career path at university. On reflection, at the conclusion of my PhD it seemed a natural vocation. It was a big decision to commit to three years of further studying (two years part time GDL at Northumbria followed by the BPTC) but one of the best decisions I have made. 

What are you doing now?Jonathan Cook

I am practising as a barrister at Cloisters Chambers in London where I specialise in employment law, personal injury and clinical negligence. I am fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant and personable colleagues. Cloisters is a set at the cutting edge of its specialist fields. I am currently instructed as sole counsel in several cases in the Employment Appeal Tribunal and regularly act in complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims on behalf of clients ranging from PLCs to individuals. Current instructions include acting for a very senior employee in a whistleblowing claim against a US-headquartered multinational and as junior counsel in a case on worker status in EU law which is heading to the European Court of Justice. I was previously involved in a High Court case brought by the former CEO of a professional football club.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

I grew up close to Newcastle and having lived out of the area for some time it was a natural fit to come back and study for the GDL and BPTC at Northumbria. I was also attracted by the close links with the local Bar and excellent standard of teaching. Additionally, I had a background as an international middle distance runner and was offered a sports scholarship which helped me to fund course fees during the GDL.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

I undertook the GDL as a distance learning student, so much of that course was taught via workbooks and online lectures with six pairs of study days per year. I did the BPTC full time and found it to be a good mix of lectures delivered to the entire cohort on core subjects and small group classes during which practical skills were taught. Classes and lectures were usually scheduled on 3-4 days per week, with other days for preparation and to focus on other matters such as pupillage applications.

How connected was your course with industry?

Northumbria Law School has close links with local barristers' chambers, with a number of tutors also practising at the Bar. Regular seminars were arranged with practitioners and I participated in a number of mooting competitions that were judged by local barristers. 

What was the best thing about your course?

Interactions with other students and tutors. The BPTC at Northumbria has a number of excellent tutors who were good and supportive role models. I was also fortunate to study alongside some very able students, many of whom have now gone on to obtain pupillage and practise as barristers on the North Eastern Circuit and beyond.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

It equipped me with the core skills I needed to transition seamlessly into a career as a practising barrister shortly after the end of the course. That was achieved through a combination of hard work and engaging and supportive teaching.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Practical skills taught on the BPTC, including cross-examination, drafting, opinion writing and conference skills provided a base of knowledge which I continue to find helpful in my own practice. Inevitably, as my career has developed, I have adapted my style in accordance with my own experiences and what I have learned from colleagues and pupil supervisors in chambers. However, I consider that the practical skills taught on the BPTC at Northumbria provided an invaluable foundation.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

My individual highlight was winning the British Universities Athletics Championships at 1500m in 2016. More generally, I greatly value the positive relationships developed with staff and fellow students.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Apply! Northumbria is an excellent place to study the GDL and BPTC. The courses are far more competitively priced than many other providers nationally and the teaching is great.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Supportive, challenging, engaging

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