Top criminal defence barrister reflects on his time at Keele

Keele alumnus Earl Pinnock graduated from Keele in 1989 with a degree in Law and American Studies. He is currently a criminal defence barrister and prosecutor at No5 Barristers' Chambers, where he has worked for over 16 years.

Photo of Earl Pinnock in barrister robes

“I had tremendous enjoyment at Keele. I made some great lifelong friends, who I still meet up with annually”.

“One of the things I really liked about Keele was the diversity of students. There were a lot of students from the African continent, Malaysia, Hong Kong. I was given the opportunity to meet people from places I would never have been able to meet from my background in Birmingham.”

“I also worked alongside my studies at Keele. I had a lovely job at the University Library where I worked a couple of nights a week. I also worked in a nightclub in town as a glass collector – so it was nice to be able to get involved in the local community.”

Whilst reflecting on his academic achievements, Earl said that one of the most positive elements of his time at Keele was the opportunity to study a combined degree. Earl knew that he wanted to study Law, but also wanted to further explore his passion for American studies.

“I knew I wanted to study Law, but I wanted to explore other subjects, too. It was very rare to have the opportunity to study a mixed Law degree, and Keele was only one of four or five universities back in the 1980s where this was possible.”

When Earl graduated, he decided to have a break from studying, and began teaching Law at a further education college in Birmingham.

A few years later, Earl joined No5 Barristers’ Chamber, where he still works today. He routinely appears in high-profile cases, including the largest ever NHS dental fraud and what is reputedly Britain’s largest burglary - the Tamara Eccleston burglary. His dedication to criminal justice was recently recognised when he was named Barrister of the Year at the 2022 Birmingham Law Society Legal Awards.

Earl said: “I chose to be a barrister because I wanted to wake up to a day of working knowing that what I can bring to the table can make a difference in someone’s life – and the criminal bar is very much about that.”

In the last six years, Earl has become a prosecutor alongside his role as a criminal defence barrister. “Prosecution has become a new string to my bow, which I really enjoy and regret not having done sooner. I would encourage people who are considering coming into the field to mix their practice early on - prosecuting and defending has helped me to appreciate both perspectives.”

When asked what advice he would offer to current Keele students, Earl said: “I would say that it really helps to allow things to happen by chance. There’s a lot to be said for being focused and driven, but you have got to have some flexibility in your career plans – you can’t predict what is going to happen in the future.

“Your career path is not a straight line. It can zig-zag and bend, and you’ve got to try and go with the flow and gain something positive from the journey.”

When asked about his favourite Keele memories, Earl was keen to tell the story about the day he first arrived on the Keele campus: “In terms of abiding memories, I remember turning up on my first day wearing a pair of dungarees which were very much in fashion then – and I met my now best mate for the very first time. The first time he walked into our accommodation, he howled with laughter when he saw my dungarees! We laugh about that moment to this day.”

Earl Pinnock in suit