The Lawyer Inquiry: Sailesh Mehta

Sailesh Mehta practises as a barrister from Verulam chambers. He is general secretary of the Society of Asian Lawyers and sits on the Bar's human rights committee. He was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in 1963, and now lives in London.

What was your first job?

Dishwasher in a canteen. On day two of the job I was asked to make a chicken sandwich for a customer. Being a vegetarian, I suggested a cheese & salad sandwich instead. I was sacked.

What was your first salary as a lawyer?

u20 for a bail application for a man charged with stealing two marmoset monkeys. My client insisted I should also have got bail for the monkeys.

What would you have done if you weren't a lawyer?

Probably a trader. At the age of six I started a lucrative business in pencils and slates at the village school in India.

Which law could you live without?

I'm always a victim of Sod's Law and would abolish it if I ever became ruler of the universe.

What car do you drive?

Large, petrol-guzzling Bluebird – four major crashes, sounds like a lorry and drives like a tank.

Who inspires you?

Human rights activists fighting murderous regimes, who risk their lives that others may enjoy freedom.

What's the best thing on television?

Brookside and Beavis & Butthead.

Which film do you wish you had appeared in?

The Little Shop of Horrors.

What makes you seethe?

Rude judges.

What is your most-worn piece of clothing?

Wig and gown. After taking 15 measurements and numerous alterations the wigmaker could not get it to fit my irregular head. In court, the wig moves independently of the rest of me.

What, in your opinion, is the worst piece of architecture.

South Bank Centre and any other modern tower block.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone entering the profession now?

I would repeat the advice shouted at me by a partially deaf judge during my first Old Bailey case: "Chest out, chin up and speak clearly!"