“I carry what I saw on death row with me every day”

Meet Laura Uberoi, senior counsel at Macfarlanes and a Law Society Council member for Central London. Laura shares her experience working on death row in Texas, her involvement in the trial of a warlord in The Hague, and why she feels being on Council is her way of giving back.
Laura Uberoi is a white woman with shoulder-length brown hair. She's smiling at the camera and her face is well-lit, with a dark room behind her.
Laura Uberoi is Council member for Central London

I always wanted to be a solicitor. I was adopted and remember thinking solicitors must be superheroes who fix things for people and find families for children like me. I wanted to be a lawyer so I could find everybody families. 

I did work experience on death row in Texas whilst at university. I thought: “What are the worst things happening in the world, and what can I do to help?” It really is everything that you see in the films. I would visit our clients, and they’d be in rows, sat behind glass using telephones to talk to us. There were cases where the clients had psychiatric reports deeming them insane. Whether or not you agree with the death penalty is one thing, but executing people who aren't sane is another.

I carry what I saw on death row with me every day. The injustice in the system is overwhelming and I vividly remember the sight of the execution chamber that I would pass on my way to visit clients. The drugs they used for the executions are administered by multiple doctors through a tube in the wall because they didn’t want any one person to be responsible. They had viewing chambers – one for the family of the victims and one for everyone else. People would watch who weren't involved in the case at all.

The experience gave me a lot of perspective in life. Now, in my career as a banking solicitor, people joke that I'm unflappable but it’s because whatever we do, lives aren’t on the line.

I was in The Hague for a while too. One of the earliest cases I experienced was a hearing for a war criminal. We had to change interpreters every 15 minutes because what they were interpreting was so harrowing they couldn’t do it for longer for the sake of their mental health. It speaks to the great work that lawyers really do. I was told the best way to be a good lawyer in The Hague was to train in your home jurisdiction, then go back when you've benefitted from a really good training, so I came back to London. When I started training, I realised after one of my seat rotations that becoming a banking lawyer was a better choice for me.

Throughout my career I’ve had enormous amounts of support and guidance. I came from a family where nobody had done A-levels. It would’ve been beyond comprehension that I would end up where I am. I’ve had lots of very kind people taking a lot of time to help me on my way, so it’s important to me that I give back in some way.

That’s one of the reasons I became a Law Society Council member. It is purely out of a love for the profession and thinking about what more I can do to give back. One of the first things I did was run a campaign to tackle drinking culture in the profession. I wanted to foster a more inclusive culture within firms. I’m also taking an interest in the SQE and how our juniors qualify, as part of my role on Council.

Council member Laura Uberoi stands with a buggy outside the Law Society entrance on Chancery Lane, LondonFinding the time for everything is a balancing act. I have two young children. When they were babies, I would bring my daughters to Council meetings, so I was still able to participate. One of my colleagues on Council says one of his best memories at the Law Society is me rocking up with a baby to a Board meeting and nobody batting an eyelid.

We address what our constituents are saying are the biggest issues. There can be a huge disparity between what is important to the junior lawyers and senior management in organisations, the large organisations and the smaller ones, or private practice and in-house, for example. Council is a balancing process. We start with the biggest incursions on the profession, which is things like rule of law, access to justice or our judicial interventions. Being in the front seat with the opportunity to enact change feels quite revolutionary.

Engaging with your Council member is one of the best ways that you can contribute to the betterment of the profession. Council members are your voice when we're deciding whether to judicially review the government, or to speak with overseas bars to ensure that solicitors can practice in other jurisdictions. We’re the voice to make sure that everybody knows how to use lawtech and artificial intelligence in their day-to-day practice, for example. There is no other place where you can have such a say on every issue that is impacting the profession.

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