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Alumni Profile: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by The University of Law in its graduation ceremony this month (April 2017). He accepted by video message broadcast at the ceremony, in which he inspired this year’s ULaw graduates.

By Editorial Team. Published 27 April 2017. Last updated 26 January 2022.

Sadiq was elected Mayor of London in May 2016, winning the largest personal mandate in the history of British politics. Before this, Sadiq served as the MP for Tooting in south London, going on to become Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and the Shadow Minister for London. Sadiq studied at The University of Law Guildford and worked as a solicitor before entering politics. Here, he shares more of his essential career advice. 

My advice to anyone on their graduation day is to take it all in. You’ve sacrificed a lot to get to this point so enjoy it, be proud of your achievements and feel motivated for what lies ahead. The hard work, to make a difference, starts now. 

At my own graduation day, I remember feeling a real sense of pride at what I had accomplished, excitement for the career that lay ahead of me and, above all, gratitude. I grew up on a council estate in South London and my parents both worked very hard to save up so they could buy their own home and give me and my siblings a good state education. We all benefited from that education, and their support. 

At ULaw I really valued the support of my fellow students, my lecturers and my tutors. They kept my motivation levels up through many long days and late nights of revision.

To be a good lawyer, you need to have a burning desire to make society a better place, and that can only be achieved by getting out and helping others. This can be volunteering in your local neighbourhood, giving legal advice to those who cannot afford it through free legal clinics, or even becoming a local councillor. Just get involved and enjoy every minute of it. When I was a student, I volunteered at my local theatre, helped out at community law centres and did all I could to help my local community. This, without a doubt, gave me the grounding and experience I needed to become a human rights lawyer.

For me, being a lawyer is all about taking on tough cases, standing up for the vulnerable and defending access to justice, the rule of law and universal human rights. My advice to any aspiring politician or lawyer would be to live up to those values in every part of your work, and help make the city and the country a better and fairer place.

I know that the experience my legal background gave me was vital when I decided to enter politics. I was a Member of Parliament for my home town in Tooting before becoming the Mayor for all Londoners. As a human rights lawyer, I defended people who were victims of discrimination and that made me more determined than ever to fight injustice wherever I see it.

My main focus now is ensuring that we get the best possible deal from the Brexit negotiations. I’ve had genuinely positive meetings with key European leaders and these discussions have left me in no doubt that there is a good deal to be done – a deal that works for London, Britain and all of Europe. There is still a huge amount of uncertainty about what the future holds in the aftermath of Brexit and we will face major challenges and big questions over the next two years. But I’m optimistic – London, and the whole UK, will remain the best place in the world to do business and, of course, to study. That’s why I’ve said loud and clear to the world that despite the referendum vote London remains open for talent, business and ideas.

The vast majority of students who come from abroad to study in London and the UK leave as ambassadors, spreading the message across the globe that Britain is a fantastic place to live, work, study and visit. It is so important to me that all our international students and academic staff know that London is open. I value the enormous contribution they make to our city and I will continue to work with higher education institutions to ensure their needs are properly understood by the government as they negotiate the right settlement with the EU for our international students and staff.

The past year has been absolutely incredible. I’m proud that, with the hard work of my team at City Hall, we’ve been able to bring in some real change for Londoners – we’ve already made transport more affordable, got the Night Tube up and running, taken the first steps on the long road to fixing London’s housing crisis, unveiled the boldest plan in the world to tackle air pollution, increased neighbourhood policing and created an ambitious vision for our 24-hour economy with our new Night Czar. My overriding goal is to do everything I can to make sure our great city is a place of opportunity for all Londoners and, of course, there is still a lot more to be done.

When I look back on the past year, I’m most proud of how Londoners of all backgrounds and visitors to the capital have, time and time again, come together for big community celebrations. From Eid and Diwali, to Chanukah, Pride, St Patrick’s Day and Africa on the Square, to name just a few, these showcase London at its open, outward-looking and inclusive best. That’s what makes me proud to be a Londoner, and proud to be the Mayor of the greatest city in the world.

Baroness Warsi was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate this year; read our exclusive interview with her here.

Read our exclusive interview with Baroness Warsi who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate this year.


Start your career as a solicitor like Sadiq; our Legal Practice Course (LPC) can get you there.