This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Read our cookies policy for more information.


Case studies

Sabeeha Khan

Name, current role and centre

Sabeeha Khan, Pro Bono Co-ordinator, Leeds

Area of law


Previous employer

Almost twenty years as a criminal defence solicitor, I have also worked as a Regulatory Lawyer and a Legal Development Worker for an asylum charity.

A day in the life...

I qualified as a solicitor having completed my training contract (or articles as they were known then) in a high street practice. I was offered a job in that practice in the probate department but turned that down having been also offered a job as a criminal defence solicitor. I took the job and was literally thrown in at the deep end. Started working on a Monday, in court for a contentious hearing with a highly anxious client on the Tuesday. No pressure there…!

I survived the day and continued over the next few years representing clients for offences ranging from theft of sandwiches to murder. The one nugget of advice I would give to aspiring criminal advocates is that you need to develop a thick skin. The reason for this is that you will at certain stages of your career make a mistake whilst on your feet and consequently be metaphorically kicked around a court room by a Judge who took exception to your line of questioning of a witness or your closing argument. That old adage what doesn’t kill makes you stronger is of particular relevance to criminal advocates! Once you’ve made a mistake on your feet and dealt with the consequences, I promise you will never make it again!

I have spent numerous hours in the police station, advising clients following their arrest. In years gone by clients would often be interviewed in the middle of the night, sometimes all night, only for you then to have to go straight back into court to conduct a full days hearing. Tough and draining but fabulously fun and exciting. You never have a dull day as a life as criminal duty solicitor.

I left the criminal law for a few years and started practising in a large city firm as a Regulatory lawyer- mainly on health and safety cases often where there was a fatality at the workplace- falls from heights  are the number one cause of death on building sites. This would lead to an inquest at the Coroners court which could often be very harrowing as the family of the deceased would often be present. This would be followed by Crown Court proceedings where either the company or its directors, or both, would be before the court for manslaughter proceedings.

I then decided to have a complete change and started working for a local charity in Leeds, called the Manuel Bravo Project, who provided free legal advice to asylum seekers. This was an incredibly rewarding job where the stakes were enormously high. To know that you were part of a decision where the client was not forced to return back to their country of origin, where they would otherwise face certain death, was a truly uplifting experience.

Best moments


Winning unwinnable trials in the Magistrates court, securing bail for clients who truly deserved bail because the evidence in the case was so weak and because the client was innocent. Being a criminal lawyer requires dedication and empathy. Some people through no fault of their own are dealt a cruel pack of cards in life and to know that somewhere along the line you have helped in allowing justice to be served is a satisfying moment and reinforces my initial reasons to become a lawyer.

Advice to students

If you want to pursue a career in crime (you know what I mean!), try and get as much relevant work experience as possible. Magistrates and Crown Court are open to the public, no reason why you can’t just go to your local court and observe proceedings, you can learn a lot about procedure just by sitting and watching and it always makes for an interesting day out. Try and shadow a Duty Solicitor, for then you will really get an insight into the way solicitors take instructions from their clients (the do’s and don'ts of instruction taking - believe me there is an art), and then watching that play out when called before the court.

For all the hardships a criminal solicitor has to face, long hours,  not so attractive pay, it’s got to be one of the most fulfilling and satisfying job you will ever do. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.