Before I settled on law I wanted to be a conservationist. I had read Peter Matthiessen’s book The Snow Leopard, in which he diarised his journey through the Himalayas, and wanted to follow in his footsteps.
I’ve always been a worker and couldn’t wait to qualify. I can remember in my final year at university thinking I still had two years before I could put the law into practice.
My first case against the police was quite serious. It involved a guy who lived next door to the firm and had been targeted because of the colour of his skin.
When I was at Imran Khan & Partners I dealt with so many different cases in my first month. Every day people would call with enquiries – taser cases, judicial reviews, assaults, human rights cases, breaches of privacy, search warrants. At the moment I’m representing a blind man tasered because it was thought his stick was a samurai sword.
The respect that the police need to give communities has vanished. The police have to deal with that urgently or they won’t receive the respect they in turn need to do their job.
It’s changing, but a lot of lawyers are still scared of saying anything on Twitter. But a tweet is personal, and people see it that way. So long as you’re not breaking a client confidence, affecting a case or making, say, a racist comment, I can’t see the problem. I have 1,012 followers.
My first appearance in court I found quite natural. Provided you know the law and your client’s case, you’ll be fine. You just have to remember that you’re in front of a judge or recorder who was once in your position.
Solicitor-advocates are the future. When you look at what’s happening to legal aid it’s clear that both barristers and solicitors will not be able to survive on those rates. Solicitors are involved from day one, solicitors know what their client really needs and wants. That can be missed by barristers who are more narrowly focused on the law.
I launched the Police Action Centre in August this year as a non-legal forum and information centre for people who faced an issue with the police.
I’m a campaigning lawyer using the legal side of issues to further the campaign through the courts. The community and activist groups I’m part of, such as the Stop and Search Legal Project and Stop Criminalising Hackney Youth, means I have people’s confidence. A lot of my cases come from the campaigns I’m involved with.
Sophie Khan is solicitor-advocate at McMillan Williams Solicitors