Gina Miller on her love for Lord Sumption, signing law student autographs and why she only sleeps four hours a night

Legal Cheek interviews the woman who made constitutional law sexy

Gina Miller (screenshot via YouTube)

Law to its students can be dry and faceless. But on 13 October 2016, “the law became alive.”

As polarising fund manager Gina Miller entered the High Court for round one of her so-called ‘Brexit case’ (“we were very, very careful that the case had to be about the black and white letter of the law — it was not about Brexit”), she’d already been subjected to every threat, racist slur and sexist jibe under the sun.

But in a spectacular example of picking through the weeds to find a flower, Miller tells me:

What was amazing was how much publicity we were getting. It’s a positive — people were talking about the law, the constitution, they were googling it, finding out more. A professor told me: ‘Gina, constitutional lawyers are usually sat in the corner, but you made them sexy.’

Miller — an EU supporter, Labour Party member, history geek and adrenaline junkie — knew that legally her case was watertight. A big fan of the Tudor period, Miller was “quite familiar” with the history of the “simple” prerogative powers on which she was relying. Her confidence was further cemented by the faith she had in her lawyer, Lord Pannick QC.

The Blackstone Chambers barrister and constitutional law guru is, she says, one of the two “greatest minds” in the British legal system. The other is controversial Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption, who, thankfully for fangirl Miller, ruled with the majority in her case. “Obviously Sumption is a judge so we couldn’t approach him [to act in the challenge], but Pannick we hoped we could and he was straight away interested in the case,” she recalls. “Whether that was luck or timing, it was a fantastic outcome.”

Like most the country Miller was enchanted by Pannick’s fierce advocacy skills and powers of persuasion.

But for her it was more than that. “Sitting in court with Lord Pannick, it was very emotional on so many levels,” she recalls. “But on a very personal level, it brought back memories of me sitting in court [in Guyana] watching my father.”

Miller is the daughter of a top QC and the former Attorney General of Guyana, Doodnauth Singh, with whom she credits for her lust for justice. She explains:

My father had a very strong view of justice and social justice in its widest form, and I’ve always been like that too. I’ve always had that as a very strong influence and personality trait as well. The two together has meant that I have always been very interested in the place that the law has in our society.

A combination of Pannick’s sharp wit and the case’s constitutional law grounding led to a roaring claimant victory in both the High Court and the Supreme Court, despite the febrile environment in which it was conducted. Now, in a strange twist of fate, University of East London law school dropout Miller will feature on law student syllabuses for years to come. She continues:

One university professor sent me a paper he’d written that has the case and my name in it. He said: ‘you might not have finished [your law studies], but your name is now set in stone in our legal system and will be taught.’ That really brought tears to my eyes — I felt so proud to have been able to have contributed something.

Cementing her law student fame further, Miller says: “I did a talk at the Cambridge Union, and one of the students printed out the case and asked me to sign it! It’s quite an extraordinary thing.”

Having scaled the rocky terrains of the legal history mountain, Miller is enjoying surveying the view. But the next peak is in sight. She explains:

If this government misuses Henry VIII powers [ancient prerogative powers that give the executive sweeping powers] to bypass parliament, I will go to the courts again and seek to uphold the judgment in my case against the government. I am keeping a very close eye on what happens throughout the exit process. If the government does overstep its legal boundaries, I will go back to court.

Sleeping for a crazy four hours a night, Miller is what I can only rightly describe as a workaholic. “Absolutely,” she agrees, “I’m very fortunate in that I’ve never needed a lot of sleep, which means I get a lot done.”

A lot indeed. Holding the government to account is perhaps a natural extension for marketing graduate Miller, who since the financial crash has been campaigning fiercely to end erroneous practice in the financial world and to encourage super-rich City success stories to give back.

“It’s only right in my view that corporations and individuals who are successful should give back to the society that has afforded their success,” Miller says. She’s particularly into pro bono, because: “We could have a government of any colour and they would not have enough money to pay for all our public services.”

But for all her love and appreciation for the legal system, Miller knows corporate law, like corporate financial services, isn’t perfect. Unconscious bias still operates in the City, and it can be a hostile environment for female lawyers.

Want to whinge about it? Don’t, a hard-headed Miller tells me:

I’ve never fought against that; I have accepted it as a reality. You have to work hard and you sometimes have to do more work than you think you have to do. I don’t see the point in complaining — you have to prove your worth and then you have to walk the path so other people can follow.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek’s careers events, sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub.

66 Comments

Anonymous

The important point to take from this article: Legal Cheek becomes more and more left wing each day (and tries to impart corresponding political ideals on the readers). This is rather counterproductive, because it is not representative of the majority of lawyers or law students. Eventually people get the idea, and less and less people read these posts.

(8)(11)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

We need to leave the EU asap. Europeans have also taken TCs away from British students.

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

(13)(28)
Reply Report comment
😲

‘Thiefs’ not thieves then (not to mention ‘they are jump’, ‘I’m not racist’ and the rest)- doing wonders for the reputation of UCL Law. Do you do the compulsory English module before or after your degree?

(13)(2)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

It is, obviously, optional and carries no credit. And like many things that may serve to differentiate one from a cretin, it is oft passed up due to lack of immediate reward.

(2)(0)
Reply Report comment
Air Hair Lair

Trumpenkrieg, you don’t travel on the bus.
Why you trolling still? Ukip policies absorbed into all Govt decisions, May in the pocket of Trump, Putin, DUP and the Saudis, foreign families split up, deported and abused, you should be happy now.
Or are you scared that this house of cards is about to fall?

(4)(0)
Reply Report comment
Air Hair Lair

UCL Law! If I ever need a legal professional , I’ll get one that can fcuking spell.
A lack of prejudice would be a good trait too.

(2)(2)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

You do know EU law allows Member States legal measures to control immigration, right(Citizens’ Rights Directive )? Why is it that the EU is being blamed when in fact the UK government failed to implement and enforce EU LAW on immigration?

(4)(3)
Reply Report comment
Frustrated Writer

The Reporter was unhappy to be dragged out again, for the second time in as many weeks, to the cold, windy car park that served as his meeting point with Alex. He was more than a little irritated given how the last meeting had gone. However, he had surprised himself even with his willingness to help Alex, even throwing him the bone of an idea for the article to end all articles. He was still conflicted about that. The young, smart, fresh faced man that lived inside him from a long ago time in the distant past, almost like the angel on his shoulder pushed him to do it, whilst the grizzled, down trodden and world weary man of today, the proverbial devil on the other shoulder shook his head and groaned.

The Reporter was intrigued by the sound of a highly tuned engine, and the loud booming of hip hop music. It was an unusual sight for any vehicle to appear in the car park this late, this being precisely the reason why he had chosen this for his secret meetings with Alex. He retreated further into the shadows, knowing that the yellow, aging Fiesta he was awaiting would not produce that sound, and wanting to see who had just arrived.

The vehicle in question, a white Porsche Cayenne, appeared from the ramp and came to a halt in the spot Alex usually used. The engine remained idling and music producing a dull repetitive booming sound as the occupant looked around the dark corner. The Reporter did not move, frozen in his spot experiencing an emotion that he had not felt for years: fear. That car, that music, brought back so many painful memories.

He had been a junior writer on his way up, having already received wide acclaim for his reporting. Article after article was lapped up by editors. He was six weeks into a stint with the leader of a small but oil rich African nation, building trust and getting to know his subject before undertaking his interview for his newspaper back home. No one was as thorough as him, it was his selling point. During that time, living in the leader’s secure compound high above the capital city, mixing with the leader’s bodyguards and hangers-on, he had developed a particular affinity to the leader’s eldest son, Olabode. He was in his early twenties, just back from school and university abroad, looking forward to injecting his youthful energy and enthusiasm into his father’s leadership ahead of his eventual succession. The Reporter, not much older than Ola, as he liked to be called, had spent many a happy hour, late into the night, sharing a beer with him, playing cards and debating politics and the state of the African continent.

Ola’s one weakness, developed abroad and fuelled by his father’s wealth, was luxury cars. He would often ride around the compound and nearby city with his flunkies in his fleet of imported SUVs, rap music blaring from the stereo. The Reporter did not approve of this facet of his personality, seeing the resentment in the locals’ eyes on his trips to the city, but chose not to say anything, fearful of losing the valuable bond with the younger man.

One day, Ola had invited the Reporter to travel with him to the bush, promising the opportunity to hunt big game, and barbecue it on the sun drenched savannah. It was too good a chance to pass up, the Reporter looking forward to dining out on the tale with his Fleet Street friends when he got home.

That day was unforgettable though for all the wrong reasons. The Reporter was travelling in the last of the three car convoy, Ola in the vehicle at the front. He did not see the RPG, but felt the explosion in his chest as the car was thrown backwards by the force of the blast. The next thing he remembered was waking by the side of the road, ears bleeding and ringing, face full of glass shards and smelling nothing but burning petrol. It was too late to stage a heroic rescue: all the occupants of the lead vehicle, including Ola, were dead.

Snapping himself back to the present, the Reporter peered more closely at the driver of the Porsche. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, but it had to be him. There was only one man he knew with that scrawny shape, and cropped spiky mop of hair. But how had Alex come to be in this luxury vehicle? He emerged from the corner and moved towards it.

The engine stopped and shortly after the music too as Alex emerged. He had a new air, a swagger almost. He was wearing a new, nicely cut grey suit and crisp white shirt, the first time the Reporter had seen him wearing something that fitted him properly. He nodded a greeting at the Reporter, who stopped a full car space away. Alex did not move towards him.

“Nice to see you”. Alex said, genially, but with some edginess. “I wanted to thank you, first of all. Your idea helped, that article really improved traffic”.

The Reporter did not move or respond, throwing Alex off his stride slightly.

“Well, anyway, I’ve got something for you”, Alex continued, reaching into his jacket pocket, pulling out a manila jiffy bag. He held it out.

The Reporter did not move. Alex started walking towards the Reporter, who extended his arm to take the package. “That’s far enough Aldridge” said the Reporter on picking up the jiffy bag, holding up his free hand. Alex stopped in his tracks obediently.

The Reporter opened what Alex had given him, suspiciously inspecting the contents by the light of a nearby streetlamp. “Where did you get this?” he asked, peering at Alex through narrowed eyes. This was more cash than the Reporter had ever seen.

Alex cleared his throat and replied, trying his best to sound confident, but falling just short. “Well, things are going better. You wanted paying, so there you are. So now you’re going start up with Not Amused again?”.

The Reporter raised an eye brow quizzically, but, holding this amount of cash, was in no position to ask further questions. And frankly, as long as the cash was real, he didn’t really care where it came from. He knew Alex lacked the wherewithal to fake notes this convincing so decided against pushing the issue. “Sure, as promised.” He responded eventually.

“Great” Alex said, looking visibly relieved.

The Reporter stayed where he was for a moment, finding himself speaking again, almost involuntarily. “I don’t know why you suddenly have money. But don’t do anything stupid, Alex. I’ve been where you are now. Don’t pour everything down the drain again”.

Alex was a little startled by the almost paternal tone of the advice, offering only a weak response. “No, I won’t. Thanks though.”.

The Reporter, already regretting his comment, turned and disappeared into the night.

(15)(7)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

This is really awful writing. Not just terrible – atrocious.

The whole joke was mocking LegalCheek’s awful content by making the comments better. It undermines the whole thing if you can’t carry out a basic proof-read.

(9)(16)
Reply Report comment
Amused

As strange as I find the subject matter (fan fiction about a newspaper editor…) this is a genuinely good read and certainly very amusing!

(6)(2)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

Whatever you wanna say about KK/LC they’ve have a very good run of interviews recently. Miller, Gonzalez, Neuberger, these are big names who wouldn’t agree to be interviewed for no reason

(14)(4)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

Did you ask Miller how she felt the day Parliament authorised the triggering of Article 50, thereby rendering all the time and money Miller spent on that challenge utterly pointless?

(17)(2)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

All castles will eventually fall no matter whether they are built of sand or marble. It does not mean that building them in the first place had no point.

(2)(5)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

That was never the point outside of the Brexit morons’ victimhood fantasy nightmares. The point was to ensure that the process was carried out correctly and that constitutional law was followed. Brexit morons are only salty because the case demonstrated that the Tories were acting unlawfully and trying to bypass parliament. It’ll be the same story with the Henry VIII powers – the government are trying to create a mini dictatorship but their sycophants will scream and cry when it’s challenged like the stupid frightened little children you all are.

(9)(7)
Reply Report comment
Air Hair Lair

The Bbc and papers all pretend Miller is a lone rich liberal elite who funded
the challenge from her enviable wealth. FALSE.

This challenge was crowdfunded, Miller was not the instigator, she was the
Spokesperson.
Thats braver than tapping murderous threats at your keyboard.

(4)(1)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

Could you please interview Ted CRUZ?
He was a litigation partner at Morgan Lewis. Why did he quit legal profession? How many hours does he sleep… etc.

(4)(0)
Reply Report comment
Air Hair Lair

On top of election fraud, attempts to bypass parliamentary decisions, illegally discriminating against disabled people, we now have Amber Rudd in contempt of court.
The BBC would’ve destroyed any Labour Govt If they’d done any of the above.

(4)(0)
Reply Report comment
Ted Hughes

He’ll be having a bevy with journeyman footballer Marcus Puncheon..
He’s not a copper so he won’t be holding a truncheon..

?

(0)(0)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

dont understand why we have free movement of people who come here to claim benefits with no criminal record check and no skills ………how much does this non – productive and unprecedented immigration cost us?

——– meanwhile we have an unfair immigration system – and we do not make it easy for teachers / doctors / nurses from say, Canada the US, the phillipines, china, africa, new zealand to come here and actually WORK….. no thanks to these people…… but if you are totally unskilled with an unchecked criminal background, then yes please

(1)(1)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

….the ultimate irony is that Gina Miller as a person of Brazillian / Guyanese origin, and other skilled / unskilled Brazillians / Guyanese wanting to come to the UK for a better life to live and work are discriminated against and undermined when compared to EU migrants ……..

EU migrants have absolute freedom of movement and entitlement to benefits….non – EU migrants are scrutinised and have to demonstrate an ability to work and a clean criminal record as a minimum…..the playing field should be level…..everyone should reach the same minimum standards….. this is almost absurd, Gina Miller is a remarkable woman but shes fighting for the wrong side and against herself….

(2)(2)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

we clearly have differing opinions, but there is no need to resort to the type of abuse that has sadly stifled the EU membership debate on both sides…… I was not rude or personal about people who have a pro – EU stance ….

Please explain to me why it is “obvious” that I am a “fucking idiot”??? Lack of reasoned response?? Truth hurts that we have an irrational, discriminatory and unfair two-tier immigration system??? (On one hand, EU citizens with unskilled and unqualified entry and no criminal record checks ———- and on the other hand, a typical skilled applicant from Guyana or Brazil or Canada or New Zealand or India who has to prove that they have a job to support themselves before coming here and a clean criminal record, which are reasonable requirements)…..

(1)(1)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

For your blanket presumption and tendency to over-simplification.

Your previous statement has not shown anything t the contrary therefore I’m standing by mine.

(1)(0)
Reply Report comment
Anonymous

By ‘it all’ you obviously mean the staggering ignorance you’ve demonstrated makes it an exercise in futility to engage in debate with you.

Best posting yet. Still not enough to make me reconsider though..

(0)(0)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.