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My 2:1 stopped me from becoming a top barrister, argues solicitor as he sues Oxford University

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Faiz Siddiqui wants £1 million in damages for lost bar dream

21

A 38 year-old solicitor has launched a negligence action against Oxford University for ruining his chances of making it to the top of the legal profession.

Faiz Siddiqui claims that the “appallingly bad” and “boring” tuition he received 16 years ago prevented him getting a first in his history degree. If the Brasenose College graduate had bagged more than a 2:1 he would have become a “high flying commercial barrister” rather than a lowly solicitor, his lawyers are arguing in the extraordinary case.

Siddiqui is being represented by a pretty high flying barrister himself in 4 New Square’s Roger Mallalieu, an “absolutely smashing” professional negligence “guru”, according to his chambers’ website. Mallalieu got a first in his degree, by the way — completed in 1997 at Newcastle University.

If you look at the details of the case — first reported yesterday in the Sunday Times — it’s not as crazy as it might at first seem. Apparently, back in 1999-2000 four of the seven staff in Oxford’s Asian history department — where the then bright-eyed pup Siddiqui was studying — were on sabbatical at the same time.

The resultant shortage of tutors meant that 13 out of 15 students who received the same tutoring as Siddiqui “got their lowest or joint lowest mark” on this module. This was attributed to stretched staff struggling to deliver the course to their usually high standards. In the court filings, one academic is singled out as “boring” while the court was also told that Siddiqui emailed a complaint stating that “the paper for the specialist subject was taught appallingly badly and confounded my efforts to do well on this paper”.

Siddiqui is said to have wanted to become a leading “international commercial lawyer”. It’s true that to do this via the barrister route often requires a first — although some certainly make it with an Oxbridge 2:1. However, if Siddiqui were to have tried the City solicitor path to global glamour, he would almost have certainly found that his academics weren’t a problem — particularly back in the early noughties when law firm recruitment was booming.

Today Siddiqui is no longer listed on the Law Society’s ‘Find a Solicitor’ website and reportedly suffers from depression and insomnia. He traces this back to the “disappointing exam results” and says that he has a “fundamental inability to hold down any professional day job for any significant length of time”.

Oxford is arguing that the claim should be struck out. However, its barrister, 11KBW’s Julian Milford (who went to Oxford himself and has declined on his CV to disclose whether or not he got a first), did concede that “circumstances were difficult” during Siddiqui’s unfortunate year.

A judgment is expected before Christmas.

59 Comments

Anonymous

Pretty ridixulous

(10)(2)

Gus

Interesting that if you type “Faiz”, autocorrect corrects it to “Fails”.

(4)(0)

Anon 2

@Anon – Is there a pun there that I am missing?

(0)(0)

Ramookey

16 years ago!

One point – how does he know he would have achieved his goals even with a First.

Increase chances – yes; realised his goals – no-one knows.

(25)(0)

Anonymous

Plenty of people with firsts from Russell group universities don’t get pupillages.

Ramookey: if only the law had some way to award damages based on the loss of a chance…

(10)(1)

Anonymous

True but the question isn’t whether plenty of 1st class RG grads don’t get pupillage, it’s whether 1st class Oxbridge grads don’t get pupillage (I imagine some don’t).

(6)(0)

Stefan Cucos

Not really. A good history degree does not mean a successful lawyer. There are, in addition to academics, practical considerations like being able to deal with people and giving legal advice. To be an effective advocate you do not need to have been successful academically though the judges you will be seeking to persuade will no doubt appreciate the fact that you all share the same set of intellectual allusions. Being able to get over the fact that you went to Oxford or Cambridge (if that’s possible) is a must as is an ability to actually get on with your job. Anyway, how do you know that the personal injury alleged was caused by his failure to become a high-flying barrister (on which the quantum of his claim rests) and not the fact that he feels a comparative failure among his Oxford peers.

(4)(7)

Knacker of the Yard

Could this chap be the Clifford Chance pool-pooer?

(2)(0)

Donald Farage

The fact he’s done this just shows what a unlikeable twat he is. And that’s the real reason why his career’s down the drain. Next in the queue of blame pls.

There’s always the option of being an overpriced rentboy.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

So they were present during your countless hours of independent study? I think this old boy just couldn’t make it. This claim will get eaten up.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Ironic; Oxford grad being represented by a Newcastle grad who did much better than him.

(98)(3)

Anonymous

EXACTLY!

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Hopefully this example will do something to dissaude those on LC who appear to have the view that attending Oxbridge is a golden ticket for the Bar.

(12)(4)

Anonymous

LOL what a joker! Yes he may have done badly because of the lack of tutors but he’s stupid to think that a 2:1 stopped him from becoming a barrister. With luck and determination he could have created something for himself rather than blaming others.

(23)(0)

Quite Bemused

I got a 2:1 from RG Uni and still got a pupillage at first asking.

Less than 10 years ago.

Can’t understand this.

(7)(0)

Donald Farage

He could have made it as a great rentboy or a professional shit-eater.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

What actually is his claim? (i.e. what cause of action?)

Why is he not 10+ years outside the limitation period?

(27)(0)

Liberturd Leftie

His cause of action is loss of chance and presumably he is not out of time because though he received a 2:1 16 years ago, the date of knowledge regarding his loss of chance most likely came less than 6 years ago.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

That’s so unconvincing it’s painful.

Of course he’s out of time.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

In view of the court’s refusal to strike out, I retract that comment. Amazed that it wasn’t kicked off into touch though.

(0)(1)

Junior barrister

Loss of chance isn’t a cause of action.

The cause of action is likely negligence (contract being statute-barred).

The extension in the limitation period under section 14A is 3 years, not 6.

(7)(0)

Anon

I think in essence, the argument is that students in general are only as good as how they are spoon-fed or guided?

(2)(0)

Disgusted

Bar to rescission- time lapse

(1)(2)

Anonymous

He isn’t trying to rescind anything.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

He trained at Clifford Chance ffs

(9)(0)

Anonymous

While I have compassion for the grievance of missing a first class honours by a small margin and of suffering from depression (I’ve experienced both), this argument is insane. You do not get clinical insomnia and depression from a 2:1. You just don’t. If you still haven’t got over the fact sixteen years later, there’s clearly something else wrong with you.

What prevented him from becoming a high-flying commercial solicitor in a time when chances of success were still much better than today? Maybe his lack of ability?

And what prevented him from bringing this ludicrous claim when there first was evidence that his degree was hurting his career prospects (i.e. when he got those rejections for pupillage)? Common sense? Maybe he still had something to lose back then?

(15)(0)

J.V. Jarndyce

I disagree that “you just don’t” get depression from achieving a 2:1/failing to get a first. The causes of mental illness are complex. When you say there’s clearly something wrong with him, I expect he would agree with you – he’s probably suffered greatly as a result of his illnesses – and he partly pins the blame on his alma mater. As to the law, it’s not a necessary condition of a claim in negligence (time-barred, unless he gained ‘knowledge of the illness’ within the last 3 years) that the negligence was the sole or dominant cause of the injury. Good luck to the audacious and privileged underdog, I say.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

Agreed re: complex causes of mental illness and re: sole or dominant cause of the injury. However, isn’t there a point in which the negligence becomes meaningless as a cause of the injury due to the constitutional predisposition of the injured? And if so, isn’t it rather likely that this point has been reached here?

How are you even going to prove that your mental illness is due to your academic performance or bad quality teaching, especially sixteen years later? Even if his psychiatrist had listed the academics as a circumstance affecting his health throughout the years, Oxford will probably have fifteen experts saying that no causal link can be established, precisely because the causes are so complex.

(1)(1)

Re time bar issue

The normal rule is that it IS time barred – UNLESS: it relates to a breach of duty. If there is a breach of duty, then you can bring a claim. (From my understanding, this is normally the route for example, by which care homes housing children get sued, or surgeons for negligent surgery, for example)

He is alleging that there has been a breach in a contractual (and / or tort ) duty to provide an education / reasonable standard of care in providing qualified teaching staff.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

If he truly had the potential to be a “top barrister” then a 2:1 from Oxford University wasn’t what was holding him back.

(18)(0)

Lord Keith Of Kinkel

Even if he can somehow get round issues of limitation and negligence, causation is clearly going to torpedo his ridiculous case.

Is Mr Mallalieu acting on a CFA – if so he must be very desperate for work…

(3)(1)

Anonymous

He should’ve applied to Irwin Mitchell. Would’ve been a star-flying lawyer by now, even.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

I dread to think what dangerous medication a man who presents at a Doctor’s surgery gets prescribed if he turns up with this sort of story, saying his declining career is making him depressed and sleepless. My guess is that, rather than saying “take up running to clear your head and improve your blood flow, this will help put your situation in perspective and make you appreciate yourself” a Doctor will think “Kerching…” and will reach for Diazipam and, heaven forbid, lithium, at the tax payer’s great expense.

Doped up thus, the poor gentleman will not be able to see the wood for the trees.

He then sets off for a profession which is also known for saying “Kerching”, rather than saying “You must be mad if you think that a High Court Judge will sign off on a judgment that says a university is at fault for ruining your career prospects…it would set a nightmare precedent for the education system because their insurance policies will not be anticipating it. For your own good, take up running, appreciate yourself, and forget about it”

My guess is that he will get some publicity and, in due course, a big costs order against him. If the university know the rules of the game, then they will instruct a legal team that will make their costs as high as possible.

Does anyone disagree ?

(6)(2)

Junior barrister

I disagree with your assumption that his lawyers have advised him that he has a good claim. We have to represent whoever instructs us. Sometimes you advise that the prospects are poor but the client wants to go for it anyway.

(For the avoidance of doubt I also think the assumption that medication has impaired his judgement is highly speculative).

(4)(0)

Anonymous

TLDR, perhaps, but I have enjoyed constructing the case :

Giving the chap’s Counsel the benefit of the doubt, the evidence would be:

Every person at Brasenose who has got a first in the relevant degree who applied to one of the commercial sets at the Bar for pupillage five years either side of x got one.

Every one of those people who decided to continue at the Bar was able to do so at a Commercial set and everyone of them is still a tenant.

Brasenose knew that the commercial bar was a foreseeable ambition of those who were studying the relevant degree.

Brasenose knew that a first class degree from their College was a guarantee to pupillage at a commercial set where this direction was selected by a student.

Brasenose knew that to allow four tutors leave at the same time jeopardized the likelihood of students earning first class degrees, and so getting a passport to their chosen career, and this proved to be the case for x out of x students like the client.

Client, like x number of other affected students, had to pursue a second choice career calling once the passport of the first class degree had been taken away from them by the College’s negligent HR department.

The 6 year limitation period does not run until the client’s attempt to mitigate the loss of his 1st class passport has definitely failed. (Assuming client left Brasenose age 21, Counsel just needs to establish that time is not running for limitation purposes until age 32 – this would mean he is one year short of a six year time guillotine falling. Did the chap apply to the Bar again during that time and get rejected from the top commercial sets for not having a first ? Could the chap say that time only starts running once he actually becomes depressed beyond a certain point of functionality)

Oxford could start to sweat if client has rejection letters from the top sets mentioning that his lack of a first has ruled him out of a pupillage award on the first occasion, and subsequent occasions, without interview.

If he went to Clifford Chance, as someone in thread says, he would likely have had to have a gap year or two , because solicitors firms like CC, have a longer period between application and start date than the Bar. This suggests that CC could have been a second choice.

However, I think the case will fail the lesser known “High Court Judge sign off test”. Will a High Court Judge sign off against Oxford University and make this chap and his Counsel the Levellers of the modern Legal era, ready to bankrupt every university that overbid their career enhancement credentials in the last 15 years ? No, not for me.

(10)(0)

Junior barrister

This is not the law on limitation:

The 6 year limitation period does not run until the client’s attempt to mitigate the loss of his 1st class passport has definitely failed. (Assuming client left Brasenose age 21, Counsel just needs to establish that time is not running for limitation purposes until age 32 – this would mean he is one year short of a six year time guillotine falling. Did the chap apply to the Bar again during that time and get rejected from the top commercial sets for not having a first ? Could the chap say that time only starts running once he actually becomes depressed beyond a certain point of functionality)

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Hi Junior Barrister,

On limitation Counsel has to come up with a position that sustains the claim. This way of doing it would be based on the “date of knowledge” slider in the Limitation Act. The idea would be that the chap did not know that his lack of a first class degree had jeopardised his career at the Bar until after a certain period of time his efforts to get in with a 2.1 had failed, and/ or until he had sufficient data from the years following his graduation that every first class candidate from Brasenose who applied for Commercial pupillages and tenancies got in.

The Comments are more interesting if you try and construct the case. The article says that Oxford think that the case should be struck out, so points along those lines are obvious. It is less obvious why two lawyers should think that this is worth a candle. I have given the chap’s Counsel the benefit of the doubt in my comment above.

Hope you come back and see if you could construct a more plausible scenario if you were acting for the underdog.

(3)(0)

Junior Barrister

The two essential elements of entitlement to rely on section 14A are attributability to the defendant (which has been described as knowledge that something has gone wrong) and knowledge that sufficiently serious damage has been suffered (this is a simplification – I am not inclined to provide a full advice!). You are focusing on damage, but I don’t think it’s properly arguable that the claimant neither knew nor ought to have known that he had suffered damage until many years later (there being provision for constructive knowledge under section 14A (10)). I assume that the argument here is attributability – ie, that the claimant only recently discovered that his rubbish mark was (allegedly) attributable to Oxford’s mess-up, ie that the department was understaffed and other students all did badly too.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Thanks Junior Barrister, that was very sporting of you.

My only other comment would be, vis a vis date of knowledge, that had client not waited until such time as he became depressed and lethargic, it would be open to the Judge to say “you are not beaten yet”, wouldn’t it ?

The Higher Rights comment below is a good parry to the claim. Not perfect though. If I am not mistaken, you need experience to base higher rights on. Some firms do it, eg Herbert Smith, but I expect the stats of joining HS and getting a commercial barrister practice are tiny compared to the Brasenose first class stats that the client is chasing.

To fuel the fire, on that basis, I am going to give the Higher Rights comment below a thumbs down. What fun !

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Was it just the mark on the Indian history paper which forms the subject of his complaint that let him down? To get a first-class degree in Modern History from Oxford do you need to get a first in all papers? Or do they take an average or what?

(0)(0)

Pantman

I’m pretty sure it’s ‘ker-ching!’.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I don’t agree with your analysis that the Doctor is self interested £££ and therefore prescribing medications. Especially as we have salaried GPs who don’t make money off prescribing medications (in fact, they actually make money / “commission” style incentivised payments from stopping patients from taking expensive medications and procedures until absolutely necessary at the last second – under their long standing negotiated GP contract. But that’s a different story / cost – cutting scandal).

I do agree with you that he has probably been unable to take reasonable, decent advice on board from other people. Perhaps his GP has tried. It is likely that his family and friends who are “on a level” with him have also tried – and been honest and frank about it too – I imagine telling him something along the lines of getting a 2:1 is absolutely not the end of the world don’t be so hard on yourself.

Whether the guy himself takes that on board is another story.

I also agree with you that he will probably fail in his claim and face a costs order.

The wider important point arising from this is this: Universities DO in fact need to provide a standard of education in terms of comprehensive coverage of a syllabus during teaching hours – lectures, tutorials and staff contact hours. The UK university system is a poor relation in terms of what is offered at US/ Singaporean / European / Asian universities. They must fulfil their side of the bargain.

What is interesting about this case is that Oxford University appear to have actually admitted that there WERE in fact shortcomings in the course teaching that year – ie. an absence of qualified teaching staff with expertise in that topic area. – That fault needs to be acknowledged legally, even if its a nominal £1, or the cost of the module (1/4 of the years tuition fee) with 8% interest added, but its a contractual right that needs to be vindicated.

Whether the court agrees with all the alleged losses that flow is unlikely.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

That is an interesting disagreement about Doctors.

There is a programme on BBC I Player called The Doctor who gave up drugs.

The Doctor sets up a non drugs based practice within a surgery in Essex and meets with a word of mouth following and some success. He shadowed one of the regular doctors there. In the 40 consultations that he and the BBC shadowed, 39 of them involved a 10 minute closure with the prescription of pills.

Second point is that if you look at the NHS guidance about coming off these addictive and harmful anti depressants, the guidance is ‘do not cold turkey’ , take lesser doses.

Third point is that lithium was originally designed to be ingested by sheep to make them taste bad to predators, and there was evidence that it turned lab mice from heterosexual behaviour to same sex behaviour, if I am not mistaken.

The BBC do not go down that line with the alternative treatment, but the fact that the Programme was made in the first place, and did not mention that Drs are now on commission to cut drugs is interesting when contrasted with your articulate view.

For me, the proof of the pudding will be in the stock market strategies of the pension funds that invest in these drugs companies. Are they now investing money elsewhere because they are afraid of the measure you have raised causing profits to fall ? They should be if the direction of your narrative is correct, and the direction of my narrative is wrong. 🙂

(0)(0)

Mebbe Al-Zuqyadiq

He was obviously discriminated against, my brave Muslim brother.

(5)(4)

LawNOrder

took me a second there

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Brilliant. Top bantz.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

“Boo-hoo, I didn’t get what I wanted in life after all these years and now I want to blame everyone else except myself”

(6)(0)

Dr. The Rt. Hon. The Lord Harley of Counsel, Order of the 50m swimming badge etc etc

Works for me!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

This must be a joke. A 2:1 from Oxford is no where near a wall into the bar. He has better chances than most, not the university’s fault if he isn’t suited to the profession. But really, 1 Million pounds for something so frivolous, it’s a good thing he isn’t a lawyer, he would be utter shit.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Anonymous 2.20 see the post of Anonymous at 2.19. That could be how the case is made out.

(0)(0)

Confused

How is this man’s counsel justifying running this argument? It seems plainly vexatious…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Straight out of Boston Legal

(1)(0)

Denny Crane

🎼Pow pow b’dum pow-pow b’dow!!!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

He could’ve gone for higher rights after his TC and then gone for pupillage. Not persuaded he has prospects of success.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Hmmmm…

I am a student at Plymouth University and from personal knowledge am aware of at least 2 students that left with a 2:2 and now work as barrister in commercial sets.

(0)(4)

Anonymous

I got a 2-1 also, it was in economics and business studies. I might have got a 1st with better tuition, but on balance drinking heavily, relentless clubbing and womanising were probably more aggravating factors.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

No longer listed on Find a Solicitor? So is this a different Faiz Siddiqui?
http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/person/199059/faiz-siddiqui

Date of admission and being listed as non-practising are consistent with this being the claimant.

(0)(0)

Donald Farage

The fact he’s done this just shows what a unlikeable twat he is. And that’s the real reason why his career’s down the drain. Next in the queue of blame pls

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Did anyone cotton on to the fact he qualified at Clifford Chance?

(0)(0)

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