Solicitor and director at Black Antelope Law, London
My passion has always been to fight for justice and becoming a lawyer was the most effective way of achieving this. I have always had the tenacity to challenge unjust decisions, no matter how small, and my desire to make the world a better place has always been at the forefront of my aspirations.
My route to a legal career was not easy. Being a first-generation lawyer of a BME background and the first in my family to complete university, I stepped into a career that from the outset seemed daunting and challenging. I did not have the benefit of legal connections and have had to forge my own path. It was intimidating; many firms still expect law graduates to have gone to a Russell Group university, which unfortunately did not apply to me. I had the privilege of qualifying as a solicitor and then co-founding Black Antelope Law in 2018 at the age of 26.
The main challenge I face as a lawyer stems from our negative portrayal in the media. There is a lack of appreciation of the value lawyers bring to society and the amount they contribute to the economy. It is not lawyers who generate litigation, it is individuals and businesses taking advantage of others or failing to deliver on expectations. Lawyers are there to make the peace and, failing that, to fight for justice for clients.
I was extremely proud to be awarded the Malcolm X Young Person’s Award for Excellence at the Muslim News Awards 2017, and to have shared a guest panel with Lord Boateng and Funke Abimbola MBE at the Law Society’s Black History Month Inspiration evening in 2017.
There is a lack of appreciation of the value lawyers bring to society and the amount they contribute to the economy
Maternal Aid Association is a grassroots student-led charity founded by Aqil Jaigirdar. Its aim is to bring about safe, effective and high-quality maternal healthcare in resource-poor settings such as Bangladesh. I volunteer in my pro bono capacity as legal officer, and help the trustees identify and comply with relevant laws and regulations. Black Antelope Law and I were delighted to be the headline sponsor of Maternal Aid Association’s second gala event in March. It raised £53,565.
I attended the University of Westminster to undertake the LLB (Solicitors Exempting) honours degree. I was paired with a solicitor from a Legal 500-recognised firm through a mentoring scheme. My mentor helped me to succeed by enhancing my legal employability through confidence-building, networking and developing key employability skills. It is important to help those who are facing similar difficulties in entering the legal profession. I am keen to continue my work as a law mentor with the University of Westminster, which has a very effective system of connecting law students with professionals for mentoring partnerships.
The problem in relation to diversity does not lie solely with law firms and whether they have policies on social mobility, diversity and inclusion. Many firms do a lot to attract diverse talent and participate in initiatives such as the UK Legal Diversity Awards, which provides them with positive publicity. Therefore, there is an incentive from a business and marketing perspective for firms to continue supporting a diverse profession. This is something I can relate to from my experience as a director at Black Antelope Law.
The real issue lies in state policies and access to the profession in terms of legal training. The regulators fail to control matters such as tuition fees. Compared to other professions, it takes law graduates substantially longer to pay off debts and get a return on investment from the time and money they have put into entering the profession.
BME individuals and other members of society who are not sufficiently represented are, despite having the ability, unlikely to pursue a career in the legal profession. There are other professions that offer the same opportunity to capitalise on acquired skills but with a better quality of life, prospects and security.
For any aspiring lawyers (solicitors or barristers), I would recommended that you undertake as much pro bono and legal voluntary work as you can. Professional networking through events and email is not a bad idea either, as it helps broaden your contacts list and raise your awareness of any potential opportunities.