Alumnus Sarabjit Singh QC is interviewed by Corpus Christi Law Fellow, Professor Liz Fisher
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Profile: Sarabjit Singh QC
I am a barrister and QC based in a barristers’ chambers in London. My main areas of practice are tax and public law, although I also work in what may be called ‘the more human’ areas of law, including clinical negligence and acting for survivors of abuse. My legal career started in academic fashion at least at Corpus Christi itself, when I was an undergraduate studying law there between 1997 and 2000. I think the seeds were sown earlier, however, as I enjoyed arguing with anyone available even as a child, and I also did not like anyone exercising any authority over me: therefore, becoming a self-employed barrister may have been something I was always destined to do.
Before I went to Corpus, I did not have any family background in law or in the professions more generally. My parents were immigrants from Punjab in India, and over there their background was in farming. After they arrived in the UK, they worked in a series of manual jobs before eventually running a corner shop. I attended my local comprehensive school, which I loved. It was not an academic school but it was a lot of fun, and everyone there was very down to earth and normal.
I decided to apply to Oxford because by the age of about 16 I realised I wanted to become a barrister and I had heard that Oxford was a good place to study law. My school did not really send anyone to Oxbridge so the teachers there were understandably not familiar with the application process. Neither was I. I had never been to Oxford and I did not even realise that there was much of a difference between the colleges there. I think in the end I chose a college almost at random. I was eventually interviewed by two colleges, including Corpus, and I liked Corpus a lot. It was cosy, friendly, and seemed full of potential. I was happy when Corpus offered me a place and I resolved to do well in my A-levels so that I could take Corpus up on their offer.
When I arrived at Corpus as an undergraduate, it was a bit of a culture shock initially because I noticed that many of the other students would actually study. Visible studying was a rare thing at my school, and it took me a while to adjust to the fact that university would not be a three-year-long party to celebrate the end of my A-levels and that I would need to knuckle down at least a bit in order to get a degree. Once I got used to that fact, I loved Corpus, and Oxford more generally. I would say the happiest years of my life were my three years at Oxford. Going back to Corpus now takes me right back to when I was there, and it is startling how walking into the hall, the JCR, the beer cellar, the library or the TV room brings to life events that happened twenty years ago. My time there is so rich with memories, including the beautiful buildings, the friendships, the Law Bod, the tutes (tutorials), the essays, Blackwells, Markesinis and Deakin and (oddly enough) Gloucester Green kebabs.
My advice to any student thinking of applying to Corpus or to Oxford more generally is that if you apply yourself correctly and obtain the necessary grades, you have every chance of getting in. You should not be put off by stereotypes about what Oxford students look like because, trust me, in reality they look exactly like you and me. You will love it here just as much as I did so if you have any inkling to apply, do not let any negative thoughts get the better of you and go for it. You will not regret it.
JCR = Junior Common Room, which refers to both the common room as a physical space and the undergraduate student body.
Law Bod = the Bodleian Law Library. It is part of Oxford University's Bodleian Libraries and is also the library of the Faculty of Law.
Tutes = tutorials. The tutorial system refers to the regular small-group teaching at Oxford where you, along with one or two other students, have an academic discussion with an academic (their tutor).
Blackwells = a famous bookshop in Oxford.
Markesinis and Deakin = the authors of an authoritative textbook on tort law (8th edition published by Oxford University Press in 2019).
Gloucester Green = a square in Oxford with food stalls on Wednesday and Saturday.