Ex-Taylor Wessing lawyer is in the Army now (as a lawyer)
This week we speak to Captain Adrian Twyning, previously of Taylor Wessing, now in the Army Legal Service (ALS). How did a junior employment lawyer from the City end up driving tanks, firing guns and playing representative sport while advising the military on conflicts, Courts-Martial and other interesting legal issues?
mtl: Hello, Captain Twyning, how are you?
Captain Twyning: Very well, thank you.
mtl: Great. Now, start at the beginning.
Captain Twyning: Ok. After studying politics and economics at Cardiff University, I decided to qualify as a lawyer.
I took the CPE/LPC at the College of Law (Guildford) and then joined Taylor Johnson Garrett (now Taylor Wessing).
I didn’t really enjoy being a trainee until I reached my employment law seat. That was good fun. I had my own files and enjoyed the quality and variety of work.
I qualified into the department and got some great work – unfair dismissal, discrimination claims and some interesting corporate support work.
Adrian - not quite the City
But something wasn’t quite right. I was frustrated by being at the beck and call of clients every day, any time. It didn’t matter how good you were, or how well you organised your day, there was still a risk that your evening or weekend was going to get sidelined by work. It’s the usual story – the City work-life balance (or lack of it) wasn’t for me at that stage or time of my life.
mtl: But instead of going in-house at a bank or moving to a regional firm, you went for something a bit more radical….
Captain Twyning: Yes. At Cardiff University, I was a member of the Wales University Royal Naval Unit, and managed to work during the summer at the Naval Prosecution Service, clerking for the now Judge Advocate General (the military version of the Lord Chief Justice).
I was still in touch with him and, when I mentioned that I was considering my options, he suggested the ALS. I looked into the possibility and he gave me the relevant contact details. I thought it sounded pretty exciting, so I went for it.
Graduated Cardiff (Politics and Economics)
1999/2001 CPE/LPC at College of Law
Joined Taylor Wessing
Qualified into the employment department
Joined Army Legal Service
I had an interview in London and then had to take the Regular Commissioning Board. This was a 3 day assessment, involving written work, leadership tasks, academic tests, physical assessment and presentation skills. It was a more thorough assessment than you get at a City firm but luckily I got through! After handing in my notice at Taylor Wessing, I turned up at the home of ALS (Upavon) to start my initial Officer training. After a month of being allocated our kit, touring various units and being given an overview of the Army through various lectures, it was off to Sandhurst on the Professionally Qualified Officers' (“PQO”) Course. This was hard work but good fun as it’s with lots of other like-minded professionals in the Army (including Doctors, Nurses and Padres). The course was a month of Army basics: military tactics and history, shooting, drill, navigation, leadership tasks and physical exercise.
After that I was straight out on my infantry attachment with the Light Infantry in Germany. This was an extension of my basic training and built upon what I had already learnt at Sandhurst. You are there to understand exactly how the Army works before you take up your official post in the ALS. However, although you are there to learn, you are still an officer in charge of a platoon (24 – 30 soldiers), so it is pretty challenging.
I managed to pass my Warrior Commander Course and got to command an Armoured Personnel Carrier (like a small tank) in Poland as well as organise battlefield training and help the soldiers under my command (including career and personal issues). The learning curve was immense!
"My work-life balance is fantastic! I get to pursue my sporting ambitions alongside my day to day legal work."
I really enjoyed my Infantry attachment and all my hard work was rewarded when they sent me to play rugby in Fiji. Six weeks of playing rugby on a beautiful island in the Pacific – all of it paid for by the Army (well nearly all) – incredible.
Then it was back to reality and to my first post in the ALS at Aldershot, where I’ve been for the past 9 months.
mtl: So what sort of law does it entail?
Captain Twyning: There are three main areas of work within the ALS: operational, advisory and prosecutions. I’m currently in advisory but will be moving to the Operational Law Centre in September. Currently, I advise the Chain of Command on both administrative (Army employment law including discipline and grievance) and disciplinary (criminal law) matters. Operational law involves advising on the rules of engagement, the Geneva Convention, law of armed conflict and jurisdiction. We also get involved in training and lecturing and/or providing direct advice in relation to a particular incident in Iraq, for example. Obviously, operational law is now a key focus for ALS and your training in the three core areas really stands you in good stead for working on operations which involves working intensively over a six month period. I believe this is where you really earn your money and I look forward to my first operational tour next year. Prosecution is probably the most public, high profile and ‘sexy’ side of the legal service – think Tom Cruise in ‘A Few Good Men’ but with a different uniform and prosecuting as opposed to defending.
mtl: ‘I want the truth’. ‘You can’t handle the truth’.
Captain Twyning: I can’t believe you just said that but yes, UK Courts Martial have some similarities to the film.
The great thing is that I get to move around every 2 years so I will try all of these different areas. You don’t need to be a barrister or have higher rights of audience to prosecute but obviously it is a steep learning curve if you don’t have a criminal law background or a background in advocacy.
mtl: How does it compare to City life?
Captain Twyning: It’s totally different. My work-life balance is fantastic! I get to pursue my sporting ambitions alongside my day to day legal work. I get to train every lunch time and every evening and have a physical training programme to follow which is given to me by Army Rugby. That may sound a bit much but I have to keep up with the other boys in the rugby team.
I live in the Officers’ Mess which is a beautiful listed building in the Hampshire countryside. The food and accommodation are fantastic, there is a real collegiate atmosphere - I feel lucky to live there.
The legal side of things is varied, but the skills that I picked up in a top City law firm are certainly valuable – attention to detail, succinct drafting and presentation skills, for example.
mtl: How do the financial rewards and career progression compare?
Captain Twyning: I took a pay cut, of course, but with relatively cheap food and accommodation, access to sports facilities and an excellent pension, it doesn’t make much difference. You can move up the ranks quite quickly if you are good enough. I could be a Major within six years and Lieutenant Colonel within ten years.
Overall, the opportunities here are great. We do exchange programmes with Australia/America/New Zealand, there are opportunities to attend prestigious International legal courses and you can be sponsored to do a Masters Degree at Oxbridge in International Law. It is what you make it.
mtl: So what should lawyers who are interested in the ALS do?
Captain Twyning: You can find out more about it on the ALS Website here. Any qualified solicitor or barrister can apply – you don’t need to have experience of any particular field.
It is becoming increasingly popular with women and ALS has an increasing proportion of women serving in the Corps and at command level and beyond. It is also a great option for people who love sport and adventure training, but also for anyone who wants to work in an interesting international organisation at the same time having a great work-life balance.
mtl: Captain Adrian Twyning, thank you very much for speaking to us and good luck at the ALS.
If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.
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