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  • Published: 31 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9781473544734
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

In Your Defence

True Stories of Life and Law

Riveting and insightful account of life at the bar and eleven cases that demonstrate the strengths, weakness and realities of our legal system. 'As thrilling as a detective novel.' -The Times

'As thrilling as a detective novel.' The Times
'Powerful, moving and often captivating.' Financial Times
'A compelling read for anyone who cares about fairness, justice and humanity.' Observer

The Sunday Times bestseller


Sarah Langford is a barrister. Her job is to stand in court representing the mad and the bad, the vulnerable, the heartbroken and the hopeful. She must become their voice. Sarah weaves their story around the black and white of the law and tell it to the courtroom. These stories may not make headlines but they will change the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways. They are stories which, but for a twist of luck, might have been yours.

With remarkable candour, Sarah describes eleven cases which reveal what goes on in our criminal and family courts: these are tales of domestic fall out, everyday burglary, sexual indiscretion, and children caught up in the law. They are sometimes shocking and they are often heart-stopping. She examines how she feels as she defends the person standing in the dock. She also shows us how our attitudes and actions can shape not only the outcome of a case, but the legal system itself.


What readers are saying:

***** 'Absolutely fascinating . . . thought provoking, powerful and a compelling read.'
***** 'This book broke my heart at times but also contained humour and such poignant insights into the criminal justice system.'
***** 'Sarah writes incredibly well - she's informative while maintaining suspense and tension, and conveys so much emotion in her writing

  • Published: 31 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9781473544734
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

About the author

Sarah Langford

Sarah Langford has been a practising barrister since 2006, both in London and around the country, principally in criminal and family law. She studied English at the University of the West of England. She worked as a barmaid, legal secretary and note-taking clerk before completing a law conversion, in which she gained a distinction. She was awarded a scholarship from Gray's Inn of Court and went on to train as a barrister. She lives with her husband and two small boys in London and Suffolk.

Also by Sarah Langford

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Praise for In Your Defence

Riveting, powerful and deeply moving, an insider's account of a little-known world that is well observed, beautifully written and full of heart.

Henry Hemming - author of M:Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster

Editor's Choice: Brilliant, highly illuminating.it's hard to imagine a better written or more insightful account of life at the bar than this.

Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

A great insight into the human side of law.

Miriam Gonzalez Durántez

I loved it. Sarah's focus on her own thoughts and observations made it a refreshing take on life at the Bar and made it distinct from other case memoirs I have read. It was all the better for it.

Robert Buckland QC MP - Solicitor General for England and Wales

A thorough, gentle, beautiful interrogation of what the justice system is and should be. Compelling and profound.

Ella Risbridger - writer and blogger

Full of vividly drawn characters and subtle twists, this hugely enjoyable and empathetic tour of life as a barrister left me both astonished and moved.

Hermione Eyre - journalist and author of Viper Wine

A book about the law that is really about human nature, written with a novelist's psychological depth and gift for language. Superficially, we are taken inside an alien professional world - into a barrister's life. In fact, we are being walked around the world we live in.

Ed Smith - author of Luck:a fresh look at fortune

Compelling, humane and insightful. This book is that rare combination of both gripping and wise, and has something to teach us, not only about the law, but about our relationship with the truth and the meaning of the word justice.

Davina Langdale - author of Brittle Star

The wig comes off. More than just a cracking collection of courtroom short-stories -Langford bares her soul.

Matthew Parris

A wonderful book from a vivid new talent. Revealing, moving, funny, sad, uplifting and beautifully written, with the observational skills of Alan Bennett and the heart of Charles Dickens. Every chapter is an elegantly constructed short story complete with plot twists that alternately deliver a knife to the guts or a glimmer of hope that makes you think humanity has a chance.

Tim Shipman - political editor of the Sunday Times and author of Fall Out

Sarah Langford shines a light on the hidden world of the criminal and family courts, on the many layers of grey in those who appear, be they defendant, victim, teenage mother or divorcee. She shows how difficult it is to navigate truth and justice, and how the blameless often get the blame. Essential reading for an insiders' insight behind the wigs and gowns.

Penelope Gibbs - Director, Transform Justice

Thought-provoking, moving and wise. In Your Defence reminds us that whatever side of the dock we're on, we are bound together by more than what sets us apart.

Elizabeth Day - author of The Party

In Your Defence is an anthology of beautifully rendered stories of legal practice, each striking at the beating heart of our justice system. The storytelling is compelling, reading like page-turning fiction, but speaking in every chapter to fundamental truths about the meaning of justice for those trapped in the wheels of our criminal and family courts. Sarah Langford breathes vibrancy and compassion into the dusty tomes of the law, capturing and exposing the raw humanity lying beneath the system, and offering a necessary reminder of the impact of the law on those whose lives are chartered by its whims.

The Secret Barrister

With masterly insight into the pressures and strains experienced by the family and criminal courts, as well an account of their humanity, Sarah Langford describes with modesty and elegance why she is proud to be a barrister. She should also be very proud of this book.

Helen Ward, Lady Ward - Partner of Stewarts LLP

I loved this book. It made my heart sing. Written by a woman in the law with compassion, wit and legal know-how, these true life courtroom stories tell it like it is. All life is there, showing the importance to justice of lawyers who understand the human condition, Brava, Sarah Langford.

Helena Kennedy QC

An incredible and beautifully written anthology of the highs and lows of life at the Bar. Moving. Read it!

Imran Mahmood - author of You Don't Know Me

Unveiling what are all too often mysterious and impenetrable layers of the law, Sarah Langford bares her soul to her readers, enabling us to share with her the harsh realities of defending people who have often been knocked down in the marathon race to survive their troubled lives. She's a terrific writer.

Lindy Woodhead - author of Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge

An incredible and beautifully written anthology of the highs and lows of life at the Bar. Moving. Read it!

Imran Mahmood, twitter

The heart to the brains of @Secret Barrister's book. Together the soul of the Bar.

Mary Aspinall-Miles, QC, twitter

A vivid picture of the courts at work... surprisingly uplifting. A thoughtful, elegant book. Langford weaves the chaos of lives at moments of crisis into a neat and satisfying whole... Each chapter unfolds a set of messy facts where the outcome is unclear, the justice of the case opaque. Is Langford's client guilty? Should he go to prison? Will, or should, the mother keep her children out of the reach of the father? The resolution is often as thrilling as a detective novel. And sometimes it is moving: the last chapter had this reviewer in tears. In its quiet way Langford's book is also a portrait of a particular version of Britain...I hope the lord chancellor reads it, and learns from it.

Thomas Grant, QC, author of Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories, The Times

Vivid... surprisingly uplifting. A thoughtful, elegant book. ... it is often as thrilling as a detective novel. And sometimes it is moving: the last chapter had this reviewer in tears.

Thomas Grant, QC - author of Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories, The Times

Sarah Langford's brilliant account of our justice system's inner workings is a compelling, moving and powerful work. Its a gripping series of stories. But also a quietly powerful manifesto for change. Every citizen concerned about fairness in our society, and particularly the fate of the most vulnerable, should read it. And politicians must take to heart the lessons this dedicated lawyer teaches us.

Michael Gove

A riveting account of cases she's fought over nearly 10 years in the family courts. These are harrowing stories: of newborns taken by social services, of bitter divorces, of children trapped in the turbulence of addiction, gangs, or both, an unprecedented collection, moving, enraging and desperate, all told in Langford's cool, compelling prose.

Charlotte Edwardes, Evening Standard

Sarah Langford has reinvented a genre ... [as a barrister she has turned] her experience of 11 criminal cases into short stories that are as compelling as fiction, with the added fascination of being essentially true ... Immensely powerful.

Jenni Russell, Sunday Times

This compelling book tracks eleven cases through the criminal and family courts...tales of despair and hope that could be about you or me. Sarah Langford's stated objective is to bring 'to life ideas which otherwise so often appear in abstract: fairness, justice, truth'. The result is a resounding and thought-provoking success....Insightful and often haunting ... Langford starts her journey as a single woman; she ends it married and soon to be a mother. Between times she has been changed. And, over the course of her book, so are we... There are unforgettable descriptions ... As much as these are engrossing stories, written with flair, and in clean, tight prose, Langford has serious points to make...

William Brodrick, Literary Review

By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, and succeeds in giving an articulate, compassionate voice to those who would otherwise struggle to be heard. The prose is engrossing, and the book is only too easy to devour in great gulps ... Langford tackles the frustration and fears of the profession with honesty and energy.

Olivia Potts, Spectator

A MUST READ: 'A barrister's stories of her cases that read like the best fiction.'

Sunday Times

Sarah Langford's book of 11 criminal cases gives us an everyday feel of what goes on in court... Salutary and moving too.

The Times

A compelling read for anyone who cares about fairness, justice and humanity and should be on the reading list of all politicians and policy-makers.

Catherine Baksi, Observer

This page-turner gets to the heart of whether or not the legal system delivers justice, impartiality and fair judgment.

Law Society Gazette

This is an absolutely fascinating insider account of life at the bar by defence barrister Sarah Langford, told, with a novelist's eye, through the stories of 11 ordinary people she's defended. As Langford journeys through and challenges her own unconscious bias, she'll make you take a long hard - and not entirely comfortable - look at your own.

Sam Baker, The Pool

[Langford] combines the demands of her job, the stories of those she represents and her own views and emotions with great skill...powerful, moving and often captivating.

Barney Thompson, Financial Times

I greatly enjoyed Sarah Langford's In Your Defence (Doubleday), an insider's account of life as a barrister. Justice and the law provide the lens: the subject is really human nature.

Ed Smith, New Stateman

The law is endlessly fascinating, in is history, rituals, manners, language and, above all, in the people whose lives revolve, temporarily or in the long term, around its practise. In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law by the barrister Sarah Langford tells the stories of some of those caught up in its complex workings. It is riveting . and quite alarming.

Susan Hill, Spectator

Books of the Year

The Times

Eye-opening.an illuminating warts-and-all portrait of the law in action.Langford cares passionately about her clients and shows us the rarely reported human face of the law

Mail On Sunday

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