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Exclusive: Solicitor suing Oxford Uni over 2:1 trained at Clifford Chance

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Faiz Siddiqui bagged a magic circle training contract, but still wants £1 million for lost legal dream

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Legal Cheek can exclusively reveal that the 38-year-old solicitor who has taken legal action against Oxford University for ruining his dream legal career trained at Clifford Chance.

Faiz Siddiqui — who gained a 2:1 in modern history from Oxford’s prestigious Brasenose College — took his old uni to court earlier this week over this grade, claiming, via his lawyer, that the “appallingly bad” and “boring” tuition he received more than 16 years ago severely hindered his chances of becoming a “high flying commercial barrister”.

But despite claiming loss of earnings in excess £1 million, it would seem that Siddiqui’s legal career got off to a very strong start. Legal Cheek can confirm that the solicitor bagged himself a highly sought after training contract at magic circle giant Clifford Chance, notably at a time university fees were substantially less than they are now.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) tells us that Siddiqui does not currently hold a practising certificate, and as a result, it isn’t in a position to disclose where he trained at, or his previous employers. However Legal Cheek’s readers were a little more forthcoming, with one taking to our lively comments section to report that Siddiqui had indeed “trained at Clifford Chance”.

We put this information to Clifford Chance and the firm declined to comment.

Furthermore, Legal Cheek has discovered an article on legal research website i-law written by a ‘Faiz Siddiqui’, who describes himself as a lawyer “who trained and qualified at Clifford Chance” before working in the tax departments “of a number of leading law firms”.

Appearing in the High Court on Monday, Siddiqui — represented by 4 New Square’s Roger Mallalieu — suggested that Oxford’s teaching of Asian history wasn’t up to scratch, claiming that more than half the faculty’s lecturers were on sabbatical leave at the same time. As a result, Siddiqui, who appears to have completed his masters in taxation at London’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in 2009, argues, again via his lawyer, that he “underachieved significantly” on the course, which prevented him landing a first.

Despite the elite university stating that Siddiqui’s claim was time barred, Mr Justice Kerr — allowing it to proceed to full hearing — said both parties accepted that the course’s resources were stretched, and part of the solicitor’s case had a prospect of success.

Read Justice Kerr’s judgement in full below:

37 Comments

Disgusted

Hardly exclusive been on ROF for ages and well known fact if you knew were to look and who to speak to

(7)(29)

Alex Aldridge

This gossip has been on Legal Cheek comment threads all week. The same rumours also appeared on Roll on Friday’s message board. We spent the week verifying it. This is the exclusive story.

(56)(12)

Fuqboi

Cute pic. Call me?

(5)(8)

Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(9)

Trumpenkrieg

You like to post legal trivia all the time. Over the course of the Us election you provided constant coverage of any story with even the most remote link between Trump and law. So how is it that you are now censoring a US article reporting on a black lawyer calling for black jurors to employ their right to jury nullification to acquit black defendants who are charged with murdering and raping whites? Not legal enough? Not current enough?

(1)(4)

Anonymous

No it’s not – it was in the Cherwell, Oxford student newspaper earlier this week.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Alex (question from someone who hasn’t done pupillage or the BPTC) is it really logical for this guy to suggest that Oxbridge first would have = commercial/tax pupillage?

(2)(0)

MMTrainee

Add in a BCL and odds are more likely. First alone won’t guarantee you it.

(0)(0)

tc11

Not a guarantee no but a decent change surely?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Where

(1)(0)

A barrister

If he got a CC training contract anyway, he’s going to struggle to show causation of the loss claimed.

(12)(2)

Anonymous

Not if he has saved his failed pupilage applications, he wanted to be a barrister after all.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Not if he has saved his failed pupilage applications and the rejection letters – he wanted to be a barrister after all.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

One does not simply “get” a training contract– you can only “bag” one

(88)(0)

Anonymous

He is taking the absolute piss! Even more that he went to go and study a Masters Tax degree, when he could’ve spent time preparing for the transition to the Bar or create a solicitors-advocate role! Cant believe the courts are accepting this claim

(6)(2)

Anonymous

Further, I’m not saying he shouldn’t be emotional or angry! He has every right to if he felt his university did him an injustice in the education they should have provided, especially at Oxbridge but a whole 20years later and he was still able to “bag” an elite training contract + a masters and now claiming insomnia and/or depression, its a reach and a half! He just deserves an apology and minor compensation.

(6)(2)

Tim

I wish my legal career was ruined this badly.

(25)(0)

not a failed barrister

What a greedy little dick

(17)(1)

Anonymous

Admittedly I know very little about law, but can somebody explain how you can possibly prove cause and effect in this case. lol.

(1)(0)

ShamooK

It’s not an untypical case at all. He has to show evidence of Oxford’s teaching that year was bad below a certain acceptable standard – from other press I saw that, he already has evidence that his department had 3/4th of lecturers on leaver.

Then you would need to show some harm – like rejection letters from chambers.

It is not an untypical case at all and there is a serious legal point to be tried here. I wish Legal cheek wouldn’t join the bandwagon in mocking this man but highlight the fact that students, who now pay fees upwards of £9k, do have a claim if they received subpar teaching.

(10)(5)

J

So that’s breach and loss, but anonymous was asking about causation.

Given the very tough stats re applications for pupillage I’d have thought this would be tough. Can he demonstrate statistically that somebody in a precisely equivalent position, but a 1st instead of 2:1, has a higher % of acceptance? So loss of chance?

Better still, an (unlikely) rejection letter stating, “we would have given you pupillage but for your 2:1”.

Are the 9k students suing in tort or contract?

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Also worth noting that a 2.i doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting pupillage, though admittedly does make it harder.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

read the comment again, and consider whether your addendum was needed.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Well said

(0)(1)

Anonymous

It’s about proving breach. Which Oxford have admitted (they continued to rubble course when there were no teaching staff with expertise in that area – all 7 were on sabbatical).

I think losses will be heavily restricted because of difficulty in proving them.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

He got admitted, so should have then used his prestigious TC to gain a rep, complete his higher rights and then cross qualify.

(3)(0)

Scep Tick

The judgment basically holds the legal process in contempt. How can someone bring a claim so far after the six years expiry? On his own case he must have known he had lost the chance to get a better job when he only got a 2:1.

There’s not much point in trying to save costs when you get judges who basically force a defendant into a lengthy defence of a hopeless claim.

(5)(1)

Anonimus

Overriding objective? More like overruled objective…

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Oh boo hoo, he had to make do with a 2:1 from Oxford. If he thinks that hindered his chances at the Bar, he really is a monumental twat.

(13)(1)

The Bard of the Black Bog of Aughnagloom

Ah couldnae reed a word after ‘bagged a magic circle’ . Ah just couldnae take any more bags O magic circles. Twas making me dizzy.

(8)(0)

Benandonner of the Black Bog of Aughnagloom

Nae bo’er Birdie for ye can read all about it in thae Guardian 5 days agoo

(1)(1)

Anonymous

For his case to be successful in my opinion, the first hurdle is proving he was capable of achieving a 1st under normal teaching conditions. Second hurdle, if he can address the first one, he has to prove that a majority of his cohort were deterimentally impacted by the “boring” lecture(s).

That aside, I’d like to know what exactly was boring; the lecturer(s), material or both.

(0)(0)

Anonimus

Third hurdle – that even though a 1st makes it more likely that he’d have got into chambers, would it be a significant enough difference to qualify as a loss of chance? Bearing in mind the difficulty of getting in anyway, and the fact that it may have been added to by other factors eg work experience, his application itself etc…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I’ll attempt an intelligent analysis of a very interesting case in the time I have available:

1 A Dr of History yielded to pressure to teach a module in Indian History which centred on Gandhi to 16 students, even though this was an unwisely high number for one Dr, who had other commitments, to take

2 A student, Sasha, was so concerned about the quality of his teaching, as it unfolded, that she set up a tutorial network herself among students.

3 A particular part of the Oxford style syllabus appears to be called “Gobbets”. You prepare for and get examined on Gobbets. If I recall correctly, only 10% of the Gobbets that appeared in the exam paper were actually covered by the Dr in tutorials.

4 Sasha ended up getting a first and becoming a barrister. However, she made a complaint about the Dr and the Gobbets issue which, if I recall correctly, progressed through a number of eminent academics in serious bureaucratic positions for about a year.

5 I think it is fair to say that the idea that the Dr should not have been put in the position of teaching 16 students alone was conceded and, from memory, one feels that Sasha’s complaint about bad teaching was upheld.

6 The Claimant – C – was in a more complex position than Sasha. He was ill during the tutorials and the run up to the exam period, and he went through the procedure to apply for what I call a potential uplift to his grade on medical grounds.

7 He was awarded a 2.1 and it seems that Oxford have a tutor write a letter to you when you get your result. The letter stated that C ‘s result in in the particular module was disappointing. The wording happened to alert C to the idea that his medical uplift may not have been taken into account and he complained.

8 Coinciding with Sasha’s complaint, I think, the uplift issue was looked into. C was, in fact, uplifted from a 2.2 to a 2.1 for the relevant module. C did not know about Sasha’s complaint.

9 A short time later C applied for and was rejected by a prestigious US University for a Masters. He became concerned about his reference. I think it is fair to say that he wished to try and improve it, and he asked for references to be written assuming he was “at the top of his game” bearing in mind the medical problems and, adding for the first time, in ignorance of Sasha’s complaint, that the relevant module had been appallingly badly taught.

10. I am not sure, from memory if anything material happens until 2009 now.

11. In 2009 he is involved in applying for a Masters in Tax Law. I think the jist of it is that having a mere 2.1 becomes a problem in the circles he is moving in and he positions for a re grade of his initial degree. Apologies to C if that is not correct.

12 If I remember correctly, this is rejected. He evidently was enrolled in the Masters anyway, so I don’t think he took any further action.

13 Sometime later he returns to Oxford for a reunion with some of his friends. One mentions the legend that someone who did the relevant module got a regrade to a first class degree after complaining about it at the time. C cannot believe this because he has been plagued by the consequences of that course, and he wastes no time in investigating further.

14 C traces Sasha, who, it seems does not confirm this upgrade outcome (though she did get a first), and who does not wish to be a witness for him, but does give him some of her complaint documentation from the time.

15 C aggrieved with Oxford University’s handling of his matter has a bit of too and fro with them and issues a professional negligence claim.

16 It seems that both Leading and Junior Counsel are engaged by C – it looks like Direct Access. Oxford evidently defend with similar artillery – Bevan Brittan – a well known national solicitors firm, and a barrister called Milford.

17 Litigation commences with particularization of issues, fact finding for claim and defence, and disputes about how to frame the issues for trial.

18 The knock out legal application Oxford have made, which has resulted in all the publicity, including LC’s coverage, is made late in the day by their legal team. From memory the litigation is around 2 years old at today’s date.

19 The knock out blow is difficult to attain because the threshold for allowing a claim to go to trial is relatively low. C hurdles it and can go to trial.

20 C’s best case appears to be that the particular kind of professional negligence in education is what I remember as being called something like “systemic negligence”. Ie if Gobbets were not covered and if the tutor should not have been teaching 16 students on his own, that is negligence. You don’t need any expert witnesses for this kind of negligence, like you do for other kinds in this specialized legal field.

21 There is an argument as to when the date of knowledge from which the 3 year time limit to bring a claim starts to run. Is it around 2001 when C complained and mentioned the appalling teaching, or is it in approx 2013 when C was told the information by his old friend at the reunion which led him to Sasha.

22 Oxford failed to knock the claim out on the 2001 date being key this time. It seems that there is an analysis of limitation whereby you can have knowledge which falls short of the knowledge of needing to take litigation but being enough knowledge to complain about something. C arguably falls within that until the reunion. There is also a discretion to disapply a time limit.

23 The preliminary judge found that the claim is well prepared enough for trial and there is a triable point on damages.

I would observe that underpinning this claim is the idea that a 1st class from Brasenose, rightly or wrongly, is an easy passport to greatness. This would be the bar, like Sasha, or the American Masters degree etc. Lose that, and you come within what sociologists call the broad mass of labour and you may never climb up the slippery pole so high.

Perhaps some readers do not know that Clifford Chance take around 120 trainees a time, it is Single Cream of the crop, not Double Cream of the crop.

I think there must be a risk that Oxford behave with courses like this all the time, and C senses that. If that is correct then, arguably, with his Clifford Chance experience trumping Bevan Brittan and barrister Milford he has forced a mistake from Oxford.

If Oxford do do this with their courses, they are doing it to the wealthiest and best connected students in the country. C may fail, but good grief, Bevan Brittan and barrister Milford have allowed C to open a flank for the second wave of students who have only recently been badly taught, have they not ?

Oxford are going to need a clever High Court Judge to stop the floodgates opening, I would guess, and if C has the resources to appeal this would be fascinating.

For the keen eyed, It is potentially an insight into tactics gleaned from an international practice drawn from the richest individuals and most powerful corporations, versus the tactics of a national law firm.

The influence of Gandhi pervades…”just because you are in a minority of one, does not mean that you are wrong”

I hope that helps those who have not got time to read the 22 page judgment attached to the LC article.

🙂

(22)(1)

Anonymous

thanks for summarizing. Makes it far less black and white than the press make it out to be.

(4)(0)

Scep Tick

Problem is that, on C’s case, C knows as soon as he gets a 2:1 that he’s got a potential loss, and when he misses out on the US court that he’s got an actual loss. Judge does not deal with that limitation aspect properly at all.

(1)(0)

Bumcheeks McGuffin

Oh, go and study and stop pontificating as if you know what you’re talking about, silly timewaster law students! You’ve got to get yourselves match-fit and qualified for the boring drudgery of life as a 60 hour a week junior legal f***wit in some chambers or firm until you become saggy enough to become a QC or partner and by then, all hope is lost for your soul and you’ll wonder why you did it all. Burning sense of justice? Money? Status? You’ve already got that last one – your ambition to be a lawyer godammit has already earned you the status of an a**ecandle.

(0)(2)

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