David Rhodes writes the cover story for Counsel magazine

“The best lawyer in the English-speaking world”, was Lord Devlin’s description of Sir Sydney Kentridge QC.

In this month’s Counsel Magazine cover story, David Rhodes features Thomas Grant QC and his new book The Mandela Brief: Sydney Kentridge and the Trials of Apartheid (John Murray 2023).


David explains, “It’s a book about what it’s like to be a lawyer when the pressure is really on: defending the political opponents of an evil regime when every cherished maxim of human rights is under attack, when the rules of the game are stacked against you, and the lives of your customers are at stake.

Sydney Kentridge is the only lawyer to have acted for three Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Chief Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. He secured Mandela’s acquittal for treason when his conviction would have carried the death penalty. Mandela later spoke of “The brilliance and courage of Sydney Kentridge that I witnessed day after day… Her manner was always low-key, controlled and relentlessly rational. His cross-examination was devastating.

David has a long-standing interest in the criminal justice system of apartheid South Africa and the career of Sydney Kentridge in particular. He provided research assistance to Thomas Grant QC in writing the book for the past two years.

To listen to Sir Sydney’s appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island records in 2013, click here.

The Mandela Brief: Sydney Kentridge and the Trials of Apartheid by Thomas Grant QC is published by John Murray 2023.