LAWFUEL – The Lawyer Newswire – The Times Lawyer of the Week – Sailesh Mehta, a barrister at 2 Hare Court, is chairman of the Society of Asian Lawyers, which is behind an initiative to have FTSE 100 companies question top City law firms on the ethnic make-up of the teams of lawyers working on the UK’s biggest deals.
What do you hope will be achieved by this initiative?
To encourage City law firms to put fairness and diversity at the heart of their business. If I ask them to do this, they will listen politely and sometimes not so politely. If BT, Coca-Cola or Barclays Bank asks them, they will act immediately. I firmly believe that the initiative makes good business and moral sense.
What was your worst day as a lawyer?
When defending in a triad kidnap case, my lay client’s defence was that he knew nothing about the kidnap, even though he was arrested in a room where the victims were kept bound and gagged. I called a witness who, apropos of nothing, said my client phoned to tell him “the kidnapping has started”. Even the sleeping juror woke up. I keep a framed transcript of this evidence on my wall in case my view of my own abilities becomes too inflated.
What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer?
I came to the Bar with no connections and no support. Therefore, my first brief in my own name, without anyone else’s name Tippexed out, was more important than my first murder brief 15 years later. On my first international mission as vice-chairman of the Bar Human Rights Committee, I met prisoners of conscience who had been imprisoned for years simply for asking for democracy. Their inner strength, dignity and refusal to hate their captors, even when tortured, will always stay with me.