Law lecturer and solicitor Rob Wilks is passionate about deaf people’s experiences of the legal system. His PhD examines the impact official recognition of British Sign Language would have on disability laws and the deaf identity.
"I’d wanted to be a solicitor since I was 14, and it was only when I joined the Royal Association for Deaf People as an Advice Worker after finishing the Legal Practice Course that I had the chance. I was seconded to a Law Centre to complete my training contract and qualified at the age of 26.
"I love the variety of work that law offers: no one day is the same. Also, the intellectual demands of keeping up to date with an ever evolving subject matter, and of applying the law to the facts presented.
"Over the years, I have advised in excess of 2,000 deaf individuals on a range of social welfare issues, predominantly in employment and discrimination matters. The highlight was settling a case for £30,000 against a well-known banking institution.
"It is a tough profession to get into and to work in. You are under constant demand from regulators, principals and clients, and you really have to be able to juggle more than one thing at a time and to ensure you meet deadlines and maintain client care standards. If that doesn’t faze you, then you’ve picked the right career!
"If you have someone teaching you who has 'been there, done that and got the t-shirt', then you will benefit two-fold: you will learn the law from an academic point of view, and you will be provided with snippets of “wisdom” from someone who has applied the law to every day real situations and people."