Law: The barrister who is game for anything

For Michael Beloff QC, going part-time means working in Kuala Lumpur, Jersey and Oxford.

EVER HEARD of a lawyer settling your problem overnight? It sounds unlikely. But that's precisely what Michael Beloff claims he can do.

The circumstances, admittedly, are unusual. The Hon Michael Beloff QC - to give him his full title - is currently working at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. He's the only lawyer from Europe on the six-strong panel of the International Court of Arbitration, a group of lawyers originally established to settle disputes at the Olympics. Why Beloff? Because he decided, two years ago, to stop working full-time at the Bar. In doing so, he made himself available for a wide range of extra-curricular activities.

If something does come up at the Games, it is likely to be a doping case, an infringement of the advertising arrangements, or perhaps an appeal against some decision.Whatever the problem, it will need a hasty resolution: "The object is to stop people from whizzing off to domestic courts," he explains. "Otherwise you might get some judge putting a stop to the entire games."

Later this month, Beloff will sit for a couple of weeks on the Court of Appeal in the Channel Islands, which, to be frank, sounds relaxing. "It's a marvellous job," says Beloff. "A distinctive legal system, and you can walk along the beach in the sun and go paddling at dawn!"

One other thing that keeps him busy is sitting on the Senior Salaries Review Board, in charge of judicial salaries. "When I was full-time at the Bar, I tried to do pro bono [free] work. Now, if someone wants my time, I can give it free, rather than charging, and feel rather better doing that."

Until a couple of years ago, Beloff earned as much as pounds 1m a year as one of the country's leading advocates. Sporting disputes were one particular specialism. A reasonable athlete himself ("I won the 100 yards at Eton"), he acted in most of the major doping cases in athletics, and acted for Tottenham Hotspur when the team was excluded from the FA Cup, and had six points deducted for financial irregularities back in the Eighties. "But this was the Nineties, and we argued that it was unfair." He won, despite it being almost unheard of for the decision of a sport's governing body to be overturned. (His reward? "I met Alan Sugar, had lunch at the club, and was given a signed photograph of the team.")

But sporting disputes accounted for just a part of his time. Regarded as one of the most versatile barristers of his generation, Beloff took on and won libel battles, commercial disputes, local government cases and employment tribunals. He acted over the years for clients who included Kevin Maxwell, the Church of Scientology and Gillian Taylforth.

In addition to his heavy caseload (as many as 56 cases in a year), Beloff was joint head of chambers at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square. One of its tenants - brought in by Beloff some years ago on recommendation of the current Lord Chancellor - happens to be the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Booth QC. "Lord Irvine rang me 10 years ago about this young lady barrister," he remembers. "He said, `she's frightfully able, would you look at her?' I was mesmerised because, without being extraordinarily vain, she was positive about her qualities, and that's difficult to bring off."

But with all this on his hands, Beloff's life was not his own. "It's a ruthless, competitive profession,' he says. As a fellow barrister put it, in 1994: "[Beloff] does too much work for his own health - about 15 hours a day." But then, in 1996, he became President of Trinity College, Oxford. Many people would have settled for that, but instead of giving up his old job, Beloff decided to combine the two. So, these days, he divides his time between Oxford and London's Holland Park. After a dinner in college, he says, "I can usually be released by 8.30pm, and be back at my house in London by midnight, for a day in chambers."

During term time, his legal practice is slightly limited because he has made a commitment never to miss a meeting of the college governors.

Beloff spends an increasing proportion of his time giving legal opinions. He is drafting a new code of discipline for accountants, and recently drafted General Medical Council guidance for doctors on patient confidentiality.

But he still acts for a wide range of notable clients. One is a vicar who was defrocked by the Church of Wales. Another is Shepherd Neame, the independent brewer which is challenging the Government over increases in beer excise. When Geoffrey Robinson MP got into hot water about his overseas trusts, he consulted Beloff. But perhaps the highest profile client is Mohamed al Fayed: for some years, Beloff has advised on the Harrods' owner's applications for British citizenship.

The Trinity job provides plenty to interest him. As well as running the college, Beloff is a trustee of the Oxford Union, and of Cherwell; he organises debates at Trinity; and invites a wide range of guests to college dinners. So will he give up the Bar? "I could be tempted, but in a single week I could earn as much as in a whole year at Trinity."

Beloff, plainly, is not the sort to take life easy. "I can never sit still," he says. "The idea of crashing out or listening to music for hours and looking at the ceiling - I never did that." Still only 56, he has an alarming message: "Time is running out, and I must cram in a good deal."

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015