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Kim Hollis QC

Kim Hollis QC

Our Lawyer of the Month is Kim Hollis QC. Kim was born in Lydney, Gloucestershire in 1957. She read law at Queen Mary College, University of London and graduated in 1978. She attended the Inns of Court School of Law and was called to the Bar (Grays Inn) in 1979.

Kim wanted to be an advocate as her grandfather, whom she said was an independent freedom “fighter” with Mahatma Gandhi, was a barrister and an advocate. She did her pupillage at 1 Crown Office Row where she spent her first six months doing family law. Her pupil master was representing many women who were victims of domestic violence. This was at the time when Erin Pizzey founded the Women’s Refuge (now Women’s Aid) which provided refuge for women (and their children) from domestic violence. She spent her second six doing largely Common Law work.

After completing her pupillage in 1979, Kim was offered tenancy at the Chambers of Olatunji Sowande where she remained until 1988 when her first son was born. Kim returned to practice five months later to set up her own set of chambers at Field Court in Grays Inn and remained there as the Head of Chambers until 1991 when her second son was born. At this stage she decided that having two children and being the Head of Chambers was too demanding and not in her children’s interests and joined the Chambers of Desmond Da Silva QC at 2 Paper Buildings in 1991.She  later moved to Furnival Chambers and in October 2004, she joined her current chambers, 25 Bedford Row.

Since 1981 Kim has specialised in criminal defence work, including very serious violent and sexual crimes, drugs and honour killings. In 2002, Kim became the first female Asian QC.

She is the Vice Chair of the newly merged Bar Council’s Diversity Committee. She is also the Head of the Equality and Diversity Committee of the Criminal Bar Association and the South Eastern Circuit.

Kim is a member of the small team on behalf of the South Eastern Circuit who, together with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) set up a Grading Scheme (effective from April 2007) to grade and approve external advocates for the CPS thereby ensuring that each advocate has the appropriate skills and experience for the particular case. Kim is a passionate defender of this scheme as it is a lot more inclusive than the existing system whereby the CPS only instructs preferred set of chambers which can exclude a lot of ethnic minorities and women.

In 2005, Kim won the Society of Asian Lawyers award for the Most Successful Lawyer (jointly with Rabinder Singh QC). Kim was signatory to the letter organised by Save the Children Fund which was addressed to the Finance Ministers of the G8 Summit, in 2005, calling on member states to Make Child Poverty History.

Kim is very interested in charitable work to do with children and hence her involvement in Make Child Poverty History. She is also involved in CINI UK, which is supported by Lord and Lady Slynn of Hadley. The charity aim is to cut the malnutrition of children of Calcutta, India, a city close to Kim’s heart as it was her home for the first five years of her life. CINI UK supports the woman whilst pregnant and then the woman and the child until the child is two years old to him a good start in life. The woman is educated to look after herself nutritionally whilst pregnant in order to help her unborn child. In the first two years of the child’s live the mother‘s nutritional education continues and the child receives all the necessary vaccinations. She is also involved with a charity that helps to prevent and stop child prostitution in Bombay, India.

Kim has two teenage boys.

Below is our interview with Kim:

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
KH:   This was from Olatunji Sowande, who offered me my first tenancy: if you are determined, you can succeed.

BLD: What career advice would you give to others?
KH:   It is really what Olatunji Sowande told me. Determination and hard work: if you are determined to succeed and work towards your goal, you can achieve it.

I remember being a panel member at a minority conference some three years ago. This was before Carter but when clearly there were many difficulties at the bar. A young man asked me pointedly that if one of my sons told me he wanted to be a barrister, what my honest advice to him would be. I told him that I’d tell my son with determination and hard work, he should go for it. I was thrilled when that young man approached me last year whilst I was in court. He said that he took my advice, has been called and now has a tenancy in Birmingham. Those are moments when I am really glad that I do what I do.

BLD: If you were to choose another job/role, other than what you are doing, what would it be and why?
KH: It has to be being an actress because I have always wanted to be an actress but it was not the done thing at that time within my Indian family. You were expected to get a professional qualification. As my grandfather was a lawyer, I have also wanted to be an advocate. Anyway I get to be an actress in court and have a captive audience in the jury!

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive) and why?
KH: It has to be Mahatma Gandhi. It is not just because he was a lawyer, it is because he had the clear vision of what was right and wrong without self-interest and he pursued it to the end. He has made such a positive difference to so many people’s lives within his own lifetime and beyond inspiring world leaders, even today.

BLD: Given the Carter review and a host of other challenges facing the profession, what future is there for the aspiring black and ethnic minority lawyers?
KH: I hope that despite all these things that the future is rosier than it has been in the past. I find it disconcerting that when the doors are just beginning to open, that the criminal and family bar (where most minority ethnic and women lawyers largely end up) is under attack. The timing is unfortunate and I really wish that we had been where we are today 10-15 years ago. Then we would have had a lesser fight and struggle as far as a more diverse bar and judiciary is concerned.

BLD: You have been quoted as stating that women barristers routinely face discrimination by being passed less financially lucrative sexual offences cases. What then is the position regarding discrimination for ethnic minority lawyers?
KH: The government has agreed that there is discrimination and sexual offences are hard, high, intense work where we are routinely not paid for reading unused material. This position about payment has now been corrected.

For ethnic minorities, we have the Equality Code which should assist as far as equal opportunities are possible. We are not through yet but there are cracks in the ceiling. The CPS grading is coming into force in April, I hope it will help to smash the ceiling in criminal prosecution. We must be aware though that discrimination is not only at the bar.

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
KH: Apart from my sons, diversity issues, as far as the bar is concerned. In 2004, Linda Dobbs made me the Head of Diversity for the Criminal Bar Association. I am really grateful for this as it has been fantastic and I really love it.

BLD: What are your dislikes?
KH: Arrogance. Nobody is perfect and those who are arrogant  usually have a misguided sense of their own worth which often leads to acute  and unnecessary suffering as far as others are concerned.

BLD: Tell us your professional high point(s).
KH: Obviously obtaining silk. It was my families dream and when I rang my aunt in India to tell her the news , she burst into tears saying “you have made your grandfathers name “ He died at a relatively young age due to the treatment he had suffered as a result of his involvement in the Independence movement with Gandhi in India. I am privileged to be in a position where I can  continue equal opportunities work in a small but meaningful way.

BLD: What was your worst case/worst moment as a lawyer?
KH: When I realised that a client for whom I had worked hard in the Court of Appeal had set me up , by stealing an expensive watch from a fellow inmate and then telling the governor of the prison when he was caught that I had given it to him . I suddenly realised what a murky world I had entered and how easy it was for a naive enthusiastic lawyer to be used and duped by her clients.

BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
KH:  It has to be Posh Spice’s underwear case! I prosecuted the case where her luggage was stolen on arrival at Heathrow. Months later friends were sending me cut outs of newspaper reports from all over the world including China! That case was just fun, otherwise I think that the honour killing cases I have been involved in, and a number of cases involving  sexual allegations against Indian priests I would rank amongst the most interesting especially as I had the opportunity to assist the court/ jury in understanding a different culture or religion.

BLD: Any professional regrets?
KH:  None at all.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
KH: Shake up the criminal legal defence system by educating people about the worth of criminal defence lawyers in particular and the valuable work  we perform on behalf of society in ensuring that all defendants are entitled to representation and a fair trial , whatever their crime. The value of work is routinely placed on a par with our clients who are charged with murder, rapes and other crimes. We are paid the lowest rates of all the specialist bar and often receive bad press, and yet we provide so many services including being social workers and psychologists. It should always be remembered that every defendant has an anxious family somewhere and is somebody’s partner or child.

BLD: Please tell us about your family life.
KH: I have two boys. My older son is currently at university studying Politics and my younger son, who wants to be a rock star, will soon be doing his GCSE.


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