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

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By Alex Aldridge on

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


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.