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Called to the bar in 1986 and practising from the chambers of Robin Stewart QC, Coleman worked in the areas of criminal (both for defence and Crown Prosecution Service), and civil law (insolvency, medical negligence and property). From 1990 Coleman was lecturer on the Bar Vocational Course at the Inns of Court School of Law. During this period he wrote and published in the legal areas of: advocacy; contract; civil litigation; evidence; and negotiation.
The move into education allowed Coleman time to develop his creative writing career. He started making regular contributions to radio series Weekending and The News Huddlines, wrote the sitcom Hair In The Gate which starred Alistair McGowan, and co-wrote Control Group 6. He then contributed to television comedy series Spitting Image, Alas Smith and Jones, Clive Anderson Talks Back and Dead Ringers. Coleman also contributed to ITV series including The Bill (for whom he has also acted as legal consultant), Heartbeat and Crossroads; and wrote the comedy drama film High Table starring Dawn French for Tiger Aspect/BBC.
Coleman wrote the sitcom Chambers, set in what was described as "perhaps the country's least spectacular law chambers". Launched on BBC Radio 4 it ran for three series of five episodes, but also transferred to BBC Two after its first year for two hit television series, using many of the same scripts in a different order for its 12 episodes. The series starred John Bird, James Fleet, Jonathan Kydd and Sarah Lancashire. He is collaborating with Richard Bean on Young Marx, a biographical comedy about Karl Marx, due to be the premiere production at the new Bridge Theatre in October 2017.
Coleman joined BBC Radio 4 from 2004, presenting the legal analysis programme Law in Action. From 2010 he began contributing more widely across all of BBC News output, including both radio and television news, as well as specialist programmes including Panorama and Pick of the Week. He is also a columnist on legal issues for The Times, having also written for The Guardian and The Independent.
- 1992: BBC Radio Light Entertainment Contract Writers Award
- 2004: inaugural BBC Frank Muir Award
- 2009: Bar Council’s Legal Broadcasting Award (for Law in Action)
- "Clive Coleman". GordonPoole.com. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
- "Chambers". British Comedy and Drama. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
- Chambers at BBC Online
- Clive Coleman (27 August 2013). "Syria: Would foreign intervention be legal?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
- Clive Coleman (7 March 2014). "Lawyers stage second walkout over legal aid cuts". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
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