Leigh Day soldiers on to thirtieth anniversary

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May 04, 2017
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Anna Crowther, Martyn Day and Sapna Malik are charged with misconduct

Philip Toscano/PA

Credit to Leigh Day, the London law firm at the heart of the longest and most expensive Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing ever, for putting on a brave face.

The firm’s founder, Martyn Day, one of his senior partners, Sapna Malik, and an associate solicitor face a range of misconduct charges over their handling of claims against British soldiers in the Iraq war. The deny all charges, but if found guilty, their careers could be headed very far south indeed. Nonetheless, yesterday the firm tweeted that it was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and added a link to an interview with Sarah Leigh, the other co-founding partner.

Leigh founded the firm when she left the fellow London firm Bindmans and a couple of years later she approached Day, who had been her junior solicitor. “Like an idiot, he joined me,” she says. Of the firm’s ethos, Leigh says that she and Day were always “interested in asserting the rights of the individual. We both felt that we go to work to make a difference to people”.

No reference is made to the firm’s current woes, but Leigh says: “I am particularly proud of the environmental cases – cases for people in other parts of the world who have been oppressed by British companies. I am an absolute fan of Leigh Day. And I hope it will flourish like a green bay tree and I’m sure that it will.”

We should have an idea of its chances of flourishing in about six weeks, when the tribunal is scheduled to hand down its findings.

London mayor and Warsi awarded honorary degrees

With BPP University law school breathing down its neck – not least in the cut-throat market of bagging contracts to teach City of London law firms’ trainees – the University of Law is clearly keen to promote its list of well-known alumni.

So honorary doctorates were awarded to two big names the other day: Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London and former cabinet minister, and Baroness Warsi, a former chairwoman of the Conservative party and cabinet minister. Lady Warsi accepted her award in person, but Khan gave his “inspiring” acceptance speech via video. Both studied the legal practice course at what was then the College of Law.

Khan practised at the London law firm Christian Khan for eight years until 2005, when he was elected as the MP for Tooting, eventually taking two ministerial portfolios. After Labour lost the 2010 general election, Khan remained on Labour’s front bench, becoming shadow justice secretary and lord chancellor. His former boss, the firebrand solicitor, Louise Christian, famously tore a strip off Khan as she perceived Labour’s opposition to the coalition government’s legal aid reforms was not as strong blooded as it could have been.

“For me, being a lawyer is all about taking on tough cases,” Khan told the graduation audience. “Standing up for the vulnerable and defending access to justice, the rule of law and universal human rights. I know that the experience my legal background gave me was vital when I decided to enter politics and at The University of Law I really valued the support of my fellow students, my lecturers and my tutors.”

Lady Warsi worked at the Crown Prosecution Service before launching her own practice. She was chairwoman of the Tory party between 2010 and 2012. She said that her years spent in court “were the perfect training for answering questions as a minister”. She went on to say that her “top tip for succeeding in a legal career is to be prepared to grab an opportunity with both hands when it presents itself”.

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