Alumni Interview: Joshua Rozenberg
02 April 2015
What law stories can we expect to be reading about this year?
Magna Carta will continue to be big throughout the year, with the Americans arriving for the anniversary celebrations in June. The Global Law Summit and its aftermath will certainly generate coverage. But the most far-reaching legal story this year may well be the Conservatives' plans to reform human rights in the UK.
How did doing a law degree help you become a journalist?
I owe my place on the BBC News training scheme to it. The retired newspaper journalist who ran the scheme — a non-graduate, like most of his generation — seemed in awe of people with degrees from Oxford (and Cambridge). He shrewdly recognised that the BBC might find it useful to take on a trainee with legal experience.
How useful has your brief time as a solicitor been in your career?
It gave me some useful contacts: one of the barristers we instructed has just retired as senior judge at the Old Bailey; my opponent in the only significant piece of litigation I handled retired recently from the Court of Appeal (he won). Beyond that, it gave me a good grounding in the day-to-day work of a suburban solicitor, anchoring my theories to the realities of making a living. And I can still draft a mean will.
What has been your most memorable story?
The extradition of General Pinochet and the trail of the alleged Lockerbie bombers in the Netherlands (both of which I covered from 1998 to 2000) were the most interesting legally. The miscarriages of justice in the mid to late 1980s were unforgettable. So too, unfortunately, was the trial of Rosemary West in 1995.
Who is the most interesting member of the legal profession you have ever met?
I shall play safe and nominate Lord Bingham. But I have soft spots for Lords Hailsham (the first Lord Chancellor I knew well); Lord Lane (the first Lord Chief Justice I knew well) and Lord Havers (the first Attorney General I knew well). I also know some interesting lawyers who are still alive.
Will blogging lawyers mean an end to professional legal journalists?
I don't think bloggers are to blame for the decline in paid journalism. Indeed, I admire them for filling the gap.
You have a big Twitter following and are an active user of the network: do you envision social media becoming mainstream among lawyers?
No. There are a few practising lawyers I follow. But most good lawyers are too busy. Clients don't want their lawyers tweeting about the work they do for them. Still less do they want their lawyers tweeting about the work they don't do.
Which areas of law do you see growing over the next few years?
Alternative dispute resolution in its various forms. Perhaps some areas of commercial work.
Do you ever wish you had pursued law rather than become a journalist?
Sometimes. I don't think I would have progressed very far as a suburban solicitor but I might have got by at the criminal bar.
Joshua Rozenburg studied at The College of Law in 1971 was awarded an honorary degree by The University of Law in November 2014.