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Human rights barrister Toby Cadman speaks to QM Law students

Stacey De Souza, LLB Senior Status Law Student: 

Earlier this year, Toby Cadman spoke at Queen Mary University of London. As a barrister, he specialises in international war crimes, extradition, human rights and terrorism. He has defended and prosecuted in Bosnia, Syria, Kenya, Bangladesh and currently in Pakistan. What that means is that he spends 65 per cent of his time outside of London and even less time in court.

30 June 2014

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His job has evolved over the years into a balancing act of lobbying, drafting and advising. Each of his accomplishments tick a box on my very long list of eventual to-do's. I was beyond excited to hear him speak and to be inspired by his life changing stories of fighting for justice. I went expecting to leave with newly instilled hope and confidence that I could one day be singing his song.

Instead, Mr Cadman spoke honestly. He described his law career as something that he 'fell into' at the age of 33, something which he believes he's been successful in because he was 'lucky'. He emphasized time and time again throughout the hour that being a barrister in the UK, let alone being an international lawyer is difficult in today's economic climate.

He told stories of his own pupils, qualified and brilliant, but unable to afford transportation to court. He spoke of barristers he believes to be far better at what they do than he is, who are currently unemployed. He admitted to the dubious morality involved in his practice and the need to set those morals aside. He unpacked the weaknesses of the international legal system in which states are gripping tightly to their sovereignty and the UN's bureaucracy is doing little to loosen that grip.  

About halfway through I was beginning to feel dejected. His point though was not to intimidate, it was to warn anyone interested in this aspect of law what awaits them on the other side of their degree! Mr Cadman's talk was enlightening. As someone not interested in commercial law or working for a city firm myself, I am eager to know what my options areā€¦ even if they are challenging!



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