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01 Apr 2010

Corker Binning’s Andrew Smith – Lawyer of the Week in The Times

Andrew Smith , assistant solicitor, Corker Binning, named Lawyer of the Week in The Times.

Lawyer of the Week: Andrew Smith

Linda Tsang

Andrew Smith, a solicitor at Corker Binning, acted for the late Mohammed Lodhi in the UK’s longest-running extradition case (the first involving the United Arab Emirates) that started in 2000. Mr Lodhi died six weeks before the High Court ruled that the Home Secretary was wrong to have ordered his extradition to a country where he faced a real risk of torture.

What were the main challenges in this case and the possible implications?

As there is hardly any independent reporting of human rights violations in the UAE, but plenty of speculation, gathering reliable evidence was a problem. The decision does not mean that the UK will not extradite someone to the UAE but is a reminder that our courts still protect against extraditing an individual who faces a real threat to their safety.

What was your worst day as a lawyer?

I used to work as a tax lawyer in the City. On a conference call when I was not long qualified I was asked to give my opinion on an obscure tax-structuring scheme. The words and numbers on the papers in front of me melted away; I opened my mouth but no words came out.

What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer?

After Mr Lodhi died, the court indicated that it might not give judgment. I felt that a real injustice would be suffered by his family, who had been fighting for a decade. So I wrote a skeleton argument overnight about why judgment should be given. It was immensely satisfying to see those arguments succeed.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

My father, who died many years ago. He was not academic at all, but had a practical commonsense intelligence that I wish I had inherited. Also my English teacher at school, Martin Cawte, who gave me the confidence to believe in myself and to apply to Cambridge.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I had debts of £10,000. I had also studied public international law, which opened my eyes to how interesting law could be. So once my debts were cleared I decided to focus on an equally stimulating area of practice.

What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law?

It’s easy to be seduced by the big City firms. The training, pay and opportunities can be excellent but are not for everyone. At this firm, I am rewarded by the very personal nature of criminal work, and the variety — working on a complex financial fraud one day, then researching human rights violations the next.

If you had not become a lawyer, what would you have chosen and why?

Probably a chef — although that would have meant working even longer hours.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I’ll be happy if I continue to have interesting cases that inspire me to come to work every morning and fight for my clients.