Alison Macdonald - human rights barrister

For the premier of our p//h balanced series we decided to interview Alison Macdonald, a human rights barrister, and exceptionally stylish woman. Alison has been long time supporter of palmer//harding, as far back as 2014 when she bought her first p//h shirt. We remember it well as, at the time, the team consisted of just Levi and Matthew, who hand delivered it to her law offices in Holborn. Since that time the p//h team has grown a lot larger and so has Alisons’ collection of palmer//harding shirts. However these lists pale in comparison to Alisons list of accomplishments as a barrister.

Alison Macdonald's defines professional success as “finding something that matches your abilities and temperaments”; and, expresses that finding true value in what you do and realising that not everyday will be fun is important to feeling happy and challenged in your career.

Balancing practices between public international law, international arbitration and criminal law at Matrix Chambers and appearing before both international and domestic courts, Alison has a unique role in being a barrister who “works at the confluence between criminal, public, and commercial law.”  Her experience includes distinguished cases in front of the European court of human rights and she is a specialist in the field of international business risk and corporate governance, such as modern slavery, bribery, money laundering and sanctions. 

From graduating top of her class at Oxford to her appointment as Queen’s Counsel in 2017, Alison has always been a leader and and pioneer in her field. She said she “wanted to do it like the boys” after deciding to cut her maternity leave short to ensure she did not fall behind from her male colleagues. Her dedication and hard work has not gone unnoticed, as she was listed in the Chambers Global as a leader in the field of public international law, and is named in the Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration- Future Leaders 2018.

Her favourite part of practicing law is the ability it gives her to travel around the world and immerse herself into many different cultures and governments. Alison says, “the knowledge crystallises in my head and I do what I need to do.” She also reveals that her favourite quality about herself is her ability to not let other people’s opinions and expectations depict her agenda and happiness. However, she shares that she has recently developed this mindset as she has gotten older and more confident.

Culture runs deep in Alison, who has many hobbies outside of her demanding job. At nighttime she enjoys taking photographs of architectural landscapes, most recently subjecting personal offices and window boxes. She says that she finds people’s attempt to personalise their small office space very interesting, and admits that if she wasn’t a barrister she would enjoy working in a dark room developing photographs. 

A stylish woman in her own right, Alison’s views towards fashion is not only sartorial. During our chat she shared that she recently became very interested in corporate social responsibility cases involving modern slavery in the fashion industry. She hopes to help companies who want to do the right thing and ensure that this important issue is given more attention and justice. Alison’s devotion and commitment to both her own happiness and towards her field truly makes her an exceptional inspiration for the palmer//harding woman.