UEL law alumnus and Legal Advice Centre patron Imran Khan appointed QC
Criminal solicitor worked pro-bono on Stephen Lawrence murder case
The high-profile, east London-raised solicitor who fought for justice on behalf of the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has been appointed a Queens Counsel (QC).
Criminal solicitor Imran Khan, who is an alumnus of the University of East London (UEL) and patron of the University’s Legal Advice Centre, was one of just five solicitors among the 119 QCs appointed at the end of 2017.
Mr Khan said, “Growing up in the East End of London and attending a comprehensive school and then what was a polytechnic (and is now the University of East London), I never imagined that I might one day be appointed a QC.
“Though I aspired to succeed in my chosen profession I was painfully aware that my background and racial and religious origin would be considered as obstacles to any achievement.
“While I did encounter obstacles along the way from those who wanted to retain the status quo, I recognised that my background and origins were the things that made me a better lawyer and helped me in my career as well those I represented. It proved that diversity worked.”
Ms Nicola Antoniou, director of the UEL Legal Advice Centre, which provides pro bono services to people in the local area, said, “I am absolutely delighted that our patron has been appointed as QC. This achievement is reflective of his sheer brilliance as an advocate and his commitment to the legal profession.
“We are grateful for the support we receive from Imran, who always makes time for our Centre.”
Mr Khan was born in Pakistan in 1964 to a Muslim family and moved to London in 1968.
He grew up in Upton Park, east London, and studied law at UEL, which was then known as the North East London Polytechnic, graduating in 1987.
He became patron of UEL’s Legal Advice Centre in 2013. During an interview with UEL at the time of his appointment, he described it as an honour and an opportunity for him to give something back to the community.
He said, “Part of what I remember from my education at UEL was to be fearless. That comes with being young. What I also got from my education was reading between the lines and not accepting anything at face value. I absorbed this willingly and it put me in good stead for the Lawrence case.”
Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racially motivated attack in south east London in April 1993. But professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership on the part of government officials meant no suspects were tried and convicted of Stephen's murder until 2012.
Mr Khan had only been a solicitor for 18 months when he agreed to represent the Lawrence family pro bono.
Mr Khan founded his own firm, Imran Khan and Partners, in 2000. It was described by the 2017 Chambers and Partners Directory as a “highly regarded serious crime practice that acts for legal aid and privately funded clients on highly complex cases.”
Mr Khan said, “I am indebted to the many clients who saw fit to instruct me in their cases. Without them I would not have had a career and the chance to progress to become a QC.
“I am also humbled by the many judges and professional colleagues who considered me worthy of taking silk.”
The award of QC is given to barristers and solicitors who demonstrate excellence in written and oral advocacy in the higher courts, and have met the competencies set out in the framework for QCs.
The appointment of QCs is run by an independent selection panel, which makes its recommendations to the Lord Chancellor, who approves them and passes them on to the Queen.
The Silk Ceremony, where barristers and solicitors officially receive the distinction and wear special silk gowns, will be held in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster on 26 February.
Mr Khan said, “I hope my appointment will give confidence to others to pursue their dreams, as I did. I want to continue to give back to the community that I came from, such as working with the Legal Advice Centre at UEL.
“I would be overjoyed if my appointment as QC made even a tiny difference to the lives of those who are deprived and in need of assistance.”