Name: Sasha Wass QC
Organisation: 6KBW College Hill
Trained at: Liverpool University and Inns of Court School of Law
Year of call: 1981
What’s your most vivid memory from being a pupil?
Applying for pupillage as a female in the early 1980s was enormously demoralising. Most sets of chambers had no female tenants and although there was some tepid enthusiasm to encourage women into the profession, it amounted to no more than tokenism. I received over 10 rejections for applications from chambers who explained to me that they had already taken on “one woman” and that my application would therefore be declined.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
The wisest thing anyone said to me was my pupil master, Nigel Lambert (now a QC). From the moment I met him, he was immensely encouraging and inspiring. As soon as I got rights of audience and could represent defendants in court myself, Nigel advised me to “lose the Doc Martens and black nail varnish”. It was his tactful way of telling me that having “an attitude” would not serve my clients well.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
The most influential person in my career was Ann Curnow QC. Born in 1935 and called to the Bar in 1957 (the year before I was born), Ann set an example to every woman who came to the Bar after her. She was independent, strong, resilient, inspiring and humorous.
She was able to dispense the best legal advice depending on what the circumstances required. She knew that there were some occasions where saying less was more, telling me: “When you are defending and you feel like asking a question, go and lie down!”.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do? My advice would be: NEVER EVER GIVE UP.
Numerous people told me not to go to the Bar as it was virtually impossible to get a place in chambers particularly for a woman. Although it took me nearly three years and dozens and dozens of rejections to get taken on as a tenant in chambers, I refused to take no for an answer.
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
My best friend from law school left the independent Bar after pupillage and went to work as an employed barrister for Petersfield Council. She later changed career and went into teaching. She remains my best friend: gentle, calm and wise. I know I can turn to her in moments of need and hope she feels the same way about me.