Who? Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), partner and joint head of the public law team at London firm Bindmans.
Why is she in the news? Acted for doctors (Justice of Health Ltd) in a judicial review challenging the government’s new contract for junior doctors on the grounds that the health secretary had no power to impose it.
Thoughts on the case: ‘It is a fantastically interesting case because junior doctors are fighting for a worthy cause – to maintain standards of care in the health service while highlighting dangerous rota gaps and a shortage of doctors. The fact it is being conducted in the full glare of the media and is entwined with politics makes the stakes very high.
‘The publication of all correspondence and pleadings by my clients on the Justice for Health website and by the health secretary on the Department of Health website makes it a very public battle, but done by the doctors so they could be transparent with funders. It is the first time this sort of money has been raised through CrowdJustice for a legal case because the public feels so strongly about the mistreatment of junior doctors. The doctors are incredibly dedicated, committed and clever. It is quite a responsibility knowing that your case may impact on 54,000 junior doctors.’
Dealing with the media: ‘The media have been overwhelmingly sympathetic to the doctors. But the reporting is not always accurate and it can be time consuming.’
Why become a lawyer: ‘I volunteered at an advice centre in Brighton and became interested in law. Most of my work is about challenging the status quo where decisions by public bodies are arbitrary, unreasonable or oppressive. People are entitled to be treated fairly, transparently and with dignity.’
Career high: ‘Winning cases in the Supreme Court when you have lost in the courts below. Vindication is always rewarding.’
Career low: ‘Reading Lord Sumption’s speech Home Truths about Judicial Diversity, which said it is a false assumption “that merit and diversity are compatible”. He believes that “the current system of selection is fair, careful and meritocratic”. If I was invited to give a 20-page lecture – with champagne and canapés – I would be happy to elaborate as to why I disagree.’