Like many careers, Anthony Julius' began with a wobble at university. “I had the typical undergraduate crisis,” he explains, as we sit down to chat in Africa House, Mishcon's plush London pad. He'd envisaged a life as an academic, but while studying English literature at Cambridge the niggling voice of self-doubt set in; believing his grades wouldn't be good enough to pursue a PhD in the subject, he headed to the careers centre. “With all the melodramatic pathos and self-pity of a twenty-year-old, I told them that through my own incompetence I was going to betray my vocation. What should I do if I can't be a don?” In response, they asked whether Julius would consider being a lawyer. He said he would. When he stumbled on the difference between a solicitor and a barrister, they just told him to be the former.
On being a lawyer: “If we're philistines we're not going to be appropriate guides to our clients.”
Julius' fears turned out to be unfounded: he graduated with a First in 1977. “But by then I was already committed to my legal career,” he says. “I'd booked my place at law school and had sorted out funding. I thought I'd stick with it. I could always go back to university.” He ended up training at what was then Victor Mishcon & Co, “not the obvious firm for me to go to,” he reflects, “but one I was interested in because of its Labour Party connections.” The firm's eponymous founder, Victor Mishcon, had served as a Labour councillor for Lambeth and – upon being made a life peer in 1978 – would go on to act as the Party's spokesman on home affairs in the House of Lords. Yet he remained a familiar face at the firm, to the benefit of Julius, who was quickly rising up the ranks: “I certainly learnt quite a lot by watching how he managed himself and how he engaged with his clients.”
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