My legal life: James Stewart, founder of All Rise Workshops

I attended the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Away from the pressures of an LLB (Hons) degree in Law, I pursued my love of music by fronting an edgy new-wave band called Brian and the Nylons. Despite finishing second in the 1987 University Battle of the Bands, we had to focus on our legal careers. But (stop press) the Nylons will playing live this year following a 30-year hiatus. 

James Stewart

After attending the College of Law in Guildford, I embarked on a transatlantic odyssey to Toronto where I assisted a criminal law attorney, Clive Bynoe. Following my articles at Macfarlanes and a two-year shift in the banking litigation department of Wilde Sapte, I married Judy, who was a senior registrar at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Because of our busy jobs we struggled to find quality time so we decided to go off grid. I picked up a TEFL qualification and we spent a magical year working in Argentina for six months (teaching English and working as a sports journalist on the Buenos Aires Herald, where I got to interview Maradona) and then travelling around South America.

I lost Judy to breast cancer in 2002 and my knee-jerk reaction was to seek change. I moved into the charity sector, working as a legal adviser at Breakthrough Breast Cancer and then the British Red Cross Society. I loved my time at BRCS covering a vast range of legal requirements. Following the tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, I was seconded to work for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, making sure the legal structure was appropriate to support the society’s humanitarian operation in those countries.

‘I believe that every child should leave school with an appreciation of their legal rights, how to access the justice system and how laws affect them’

I had always wanted to teach and educate. By this time, I had remarried and was ready for a fresh challenge. I had taught in South America and at the University of Westminster to ILEX students. I loved the feeling of supporting young people.

I have always wanted to start my own business. I had introduced a few legal activities into my school’s co-curricular programme, and the students loved the mock trial, props, wigs and debating. A seed had been sown.

I was also aware that any understanding or knowledge of law in schools was very limited. I believe that every child should leave school with an appreciation of their legal rights, how to access the justice system and how laws affect them.

I was also aware, from working at schools in socially disadvantaged areas, that an introduction to the legal system could make a real difference in terms of social mobility and life aspirations. All Rise delivers a range of interactive legal workshops to help children have a better understanding of the law. Ultimately, it may lead to a more diverse workforce in the legal profession.

My simple message with every workshop is that children should dream big. So, when you hear from the head teacher of one school, that following a recent workshop one child (who came from a challenging socio-economic background) revealed he wanted to be a judge, as he was passionate about expressing his opinions and had a strong sense of right and wrong, that distils what I am trying to do. That is why I am calling on law firms from all over the UK to sponsor a workshop so we can reach out and make a difference to children everywhere.

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