Partner, Redbridge, Essex
I was born and brought up in Birmingham and attended the local grammar school King Edward, Camphill. It was very academic so we were all driven to excel and go into higher education. The legal profession seemed glamorous so I chose that path.
I completed my LPC at the College of Law in Guildford in 1995. It was hugely competitive trying to secure a training contract. I recall sending out 100 or so handwritten applications and was offered only a handful of interviews. I had not attended a ‘traditional’ or red-brick university and so struggled to secure interviews, while my counterparts who had studied at those universities were snapped up. I don’t recall being deterred too much though and simply soldiered on with steely determination. I feel that we were much more resilient in those days and we pushed ourselves hard to ensure we qualified.
I completed half of my training in the insurance litigation department of a medium-sized City firm. The second half was completed at a local north London firm where I completed seats in several high street practice areas, including Immigration law (the department I qualified in to). I had the best of both worlds since the firms were so different to each other, but I was more suited to a high street firm.
After qualifying in 1998 I worked at a West London firm which specialised in immigration and human rights law. I worked closely with barristers and dealt with many human rights and asylum cases during the peak of the conflicts in the Balkans and parts of Africa. In 2003 I branched out into residential conveyancing and have remained in that field ever since. I am now a partner and head of residential conveyancing at Links Legal Solicitors, with offices in the City and in Redbridge, Essex.
Covid-19 brought about a massive and very sudden shake-up in the way we work as solicitors. At Links Legal we have adapted rapidly and very efficiently to allow for the challenges presented to us by the virus, largely because we are a progressive and technically savvy firm. Many of us are still working from home, only attending the office to see clients to have documents signed and for urgent meetings. Chain transactions posed a large problem during lockdown but firms worked together to try to overcome obstacles. It was very much a case of a ‘we are all in this together’ attitude among the profession, so there was always some flexibility when dealing with the more difficult transactions.
Covid-19 has enabled us to look at different ways of working, something that many firms probably needed to do. There is now a realisation that we do not have to be sitting at a desk in the office all day to ensure productivity. Remote working has been hugely successful. We have been able to arrange video meetings with clients and look at alternative ways to ensure due diligence and so on.
I would like to see firms continue with remote working and flexible working arrangements. It also helps to create a good work-life balance, which many lawyers are in desperate need of. With the threat of a second wave of Covid-19 coming our way, it is really important for firms to seize this opportunity to adapt their businesses accordingly.
While growing up, my father was always my role model. He instilled in me the importance of education and striving hard for your goals. He was absolutely delighted when I chose a career in law and, being a very knowledgeable, current affairs man, we would have regular discussions about the law and all the injustices in the world.
As an Asian solicitor, looking back at the experiences I faced trying to enter the legal profession, I do feel that Asians looking to qualify as solicitors today have far greater options. There are many more firms and the diversity within firms has greatly increased. Being a second-generation Asian, I have many Asian friends and family members who work in the profession, so the connections are there for the new generation wanting to qualify. We did not have those opportunities, my father having come to the UK in the 1960s from Bangladesh, a first generation Asian. Qualifying in the mid 1990s was a completely different experience.
Tahmina Mannan is a partner at Links Legal, Redbridge, Essex