Experienced barrister at top chambers fined for mocking more junior opponent

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Doughty Street’s Althea Sonia Brown ‘improperly undermined, insulted and/or annoyed’ opposing counsel during hearing, disciplinary tribunal finds

An employment law barrister at leading set Doughty Street Chambers has been fined for misconduct after mocking her more junior opponent during a tribunal hearing.

Bar authorities whacked Althea Sonia Brown with a £1,500 fine after finding that she had “improperly undermined” or “humiliated” opposing barrister ‘NC’ during an employment tribunal hearing in September 2019.

The rap sheet included “repeating the words used by NC adopting a noticeably different and disrespectful tone of voice”; “imitating NC by silently mouthing her words when the judge was not looking”; and/or “calling pronouncing NC’s name in an insulting tone of voice”.

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The tribunal also recorded “comparing NC’s submissions to the words of the literary character Violet Bott ‘I’m going to scream and scream until I’m sick’, thereby imputing without reasonable basis that NC was behaving in a juvenile and/or petulant manner”.

Further details of the offence include that Brown “mimicked and/or mocked” NC’s instructing solicitor; “repeatedly spoke over NC and the judge”; and/or “repeatedly made reference to her seniority over NC during submissions”.

A decision published on the Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service website says that Brown “failed to observe her duty to the court in the administration of justice”.

It added that her behaviour “improperly undermined, insulted, humiliated and/or annoyed” NC, and/or “was in the circumstances unprofessional”.

The veteran advocate has been ordered to pay almost £6,000 in costs on top of a £1,500 fine. The decision is open to appeal.

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Someone actually complained about this?


The Jig Is Up

Any law student who has ever appeared in a SENDIST tribunal against expensive counsel instructed by local authorities has heard very similar abuse.

Every person who speaks out ensures others won’t need to.

Well done NC – you did the right thing


Concerned of Counsel

This is disturbing to hear. There is no reason why any barrister should act in this way.
A few things to consider if you experience this abuse:

1) Take a verbatim note of what has been said.

2) If possible, subtly take the point in the tribunal, such as “It’s regrettable my learned friend regards his case as so weak that his best points are a personal attacks on me”. The tribunal might then realise that something’s amiss (and indeed, the barrister might not have even been aware that he was doing it)

3) Get yourself a barrister mentor and discuss it with them. If one of my mentees told me this was happening, I would see if there were any discreet steps I could take to help (if the mentee was comfortable with me getting involved), and at the very least I could give the mentee some re-assurance that the behaviour was unacceptable.

4) If you feel up to it, consider a complaint to their chambers. There is a myth that complaining will somehow black-list you. It’s nonsense, providing you complain via the official channels. (In any event, if its a chambers where the complaints panel feeds back to the pupillage committee, you don’t want to be applying there anyway!)

5) Always remember that good barristers are also good opponents. A barrister who feels the need to belittle a less experienced opponent is unlikely to be going on to great things.



What fantastic advice!

It would be useful to know how chambers/the BSB approaches incidents that take place outside of chambers premises?

I never reported the barrister because I was trying for pupillage in his very niche line of work.

Ironically, I soon realised the money the local authority spend in instructing that QC for the tribunal could have easily paid the fees for the special secondary school my client wanted her severely disabled daughter to attend.

I’m glad I walked away from it all.



Utter rubbish

Sincerely – advocate of 15 years SENDIST experience


Curious George


What is “Sendism”?


Judgey McJudgeface

Good. There’s no place for this at the bar. Though I do question how the BSB can conduct their investigations for a fraction of the SRA. Anyone would think the costs awards in the SDT are taking the piss


Equality and Diversity Advocate

A senior woman mocking someone – unprecedented for gender equality.



Bad career move. She can hardly hide this from client or public view – a Google search of her name brings up this sorry incident in the first few search results.



Good. Disgraceful behaviour.



I fart. If you can master the “silent but deadly” the transcript is your friend.



This seems heavy handed as a one off event. To effectively sink a private bar career over one bad day seems disproportionate and over-zealous.



Sink a career?????

Name one barrister who has been made homeless after BSB sanctions or Twitter ‘cancelling’.

Name one.



With straw-man arguments like that you are going to struggle when you sit your finals.


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