Why law students shouldn’t be discouraged by anti-lawyer rhetoric
Top solicitors and barristers provide words of encouragement for aspiring lawyers
High profile solicitors and barristers have hit back at anti-lawyer comments by Boris Johnson, with messages of encouragement for students hoping to enter the legal profession.
During the last few weeks, Prime Minister Johnson and his government have hit headlines over his negative comments about lawyers. The PM even suggested that lawyers opposed to the Rwanda policy were “abetting the work of criminal gangs” involved in taking people across the Channel.
Such extreme comments may understandably dissuade students from entering the legal profession.
But top lawyers have urged aspiring lawyers not to feel discouraged. Red Lions Chambers criminal barrister Joanna Hardy led the way in hitting back at Johnson’s comments, with this tweet:
If aspiring lawyers feel discouraged because of anti-lawyer rhetoric then please – and I cannot stress this enough – don’t be.
Holding the state to account on behalf of the marginalised or vulnerable is just about the best thing you can do with your law degree. And your voice
— Joanna Hardy-Susskind (@Joanna__Hardy) June 17, 2022
We reached out to fellow lawyers within the profession, who have echoed this sentiment. Adam Wagner, human rights and public barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, told us:
“The reality of being involved in high profile litigation with a political aspect is that it does sometimes generate some personal heat. It is always easier to attack the messenger than face up to the fact that you have acted unlawfully. These kind of cases are still well worth doing as you can make a real difference, and the legal profession is generally hugely supportive and colleagues will rally round any lawyer they see is being attacked for doing their job. But that doesn’t excuse politicians making irresponsible and frankly dangerous statements about lawyers.”
Joanna Bennett, solicitor in the actions against police and state team at Bindmans, added:
“Pursuing a career as a solicitor in the civil liberties field has been rewarding and humbling. Whilst it has not always been easy, far from it, I feel privileged to be able to help those wronged by the state to hold the state to account. It’s not a glamourous job but fighting the good fight rarely is. Not everyone will support the work that you do but ultimately, if you are passionate about the work, the pros outweigh the cons.”
Estelle Dehon QC, public law barrister at Cornerstone Barristers also said in a statement to Legal Cheek:
“My experience is that becoming a lawyer can be one of the most meaningful ways to respond to the challenges that face us, especially the climate crisis and its impact on people and communities. Anti-lawyer rhetoric does not change that; in fact it makes the need for fearless lawyers even more acute and the choice to pursue a career in law even more meaningful.”
Shoaib Khan, barrister and human rights specialist at SMK Law Solicitors, said:
“We must stay focused on the work we do and why we do it — the people affected, the lives protected, the humans saved from pain and suffering. Around the world, human rights defenders and lawyers face daily threats to their safety, families and lives, yet continue to change lives. We cannot allow these cowardly, regrettable attacks in this country to deter us from our work or discourage those who want to become lawyers. This can be amazing, exhilarating, at times literally life-saving, work and a real privilege to do. There is nothing more important than people wanting to do it despite the personal attacks and criticism. In fact, these attacks show how important it is to have dedicated, fearless and passionate people becoming lawyers and continuing this hugely-rewarding work.”
Professor Leslie Thomas QC, barrister at Garden Court Chambers, also added:
“We so-called ‘leftie lawyers’ should feel no shame and hold our heads up high. If the Government and media recent attacks on us dissuade you simply remember we are simply using truth and the rule of law to hold power to account. And that of itself is a fantastic tribute to being part of this worthy profession.”
On Tuesday 19 July Legal Cheek will be holding a free virtual student event for aspiring human rights lawyers. Registrations will open early next month.
As if the vast majority of law students working in the City, doing wills next to a kebab shop or failing to get a pupillage/TC get anywhere near to ever ‘holding the state to account’.