The Treasury Devil
Once Jonathan Crow decided on a career at the Bar, he developed a clear vision of the course his career would take and the milestones he wanted to reach. His ultimate goal was to become a judge, and he considered appointment as Queen’s Counsel (QC) a step on that path. While Crow did go on to become a QC, it did not happen in the way he envisioned it would.
Crow applied to become a QC in his late 30s, but his plans were derailed by none other than the Attorney General of the day, who asked him to withdraw his application and take up instead the position of Treasury Devil.
As Crow explains it, the Treasury Devil or Treasury Counsel serves as a ghostwriter to the Attorney General, the legal advisor to the government. The word ‘Devil’ is used as devilling is the term which describes the work done by a junior barrister for his or her leader. After four years as Treasury Counsel, Crow became First Treasury Counsel, an office he held from 1998 to 2006. As the Treasury Counsel also represents the government in cases where it is a party, Crow appeared in a wide variety of cases, some involving areas of law he had not touched prior to his appointment.
While Crow calls it a privilege to have served as the Treasury Devil, he was initially of two minds about taking the position. This is because he always thought of the Treasury Devil as someone who did more advisory work, rather than full-time litigation, which was his preference. He had also acted against regulators and government departments on several occasions. This is perhaps what put Crow on the Attorney General’s radar in the first place.
A reason for Crow accepting the position was because it was convention for someone who had occupied that office to be offered a judgeship upon the completion of his or her service. However, at the end of his tenure as First Treasury Counsel, Crow realised that he was not quite done with practice. Instead of becoming a judge, he found himself breaking with convention and returning to private practice.
While Crow’s career at the Bar may have taken an unexpected turn or two, it has proven to be both remarkable and illustrious.