Managing director at Davenport Solicitors, London

Vandana dass

Vandana Dass

My parents pushed me towards a career in law. Like many Asian parents, they wanted me to be either a doctor or lawyer. Luckily, I enjoyed law at university and law school. I liked putting arguments forward to help people and I wanted to make a difference.

I trained at Duncan Lewis & Co, undertaking three seats: immigration, employment and family law. The experience was invaluable. Training in a smaller firm gives more exposure and an opportunity to learn. I was selected to travel to India to help generate business to develop the business immigration department. I had my own cases and was able to carry out advocacy work. I then chose to specialise in employment law and moved to Curwens. After three years I moved to Lyons Davidson.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to have my own firm. I grew up watching my father run his glamorous fashion business and I wanted to be my own boss. I had many ideas and wanted to be more than a solicitor. I just felt that I could not execute them while working within other law firms. I had been practising for six years and wanted to make employment and HR law more accessible to employers. I felt that employers were reluctant to seek advice from a solicitor pre-litigation. I wanted to be able to provide a seamless service so that they were receiving pre-litigation and litigation advice from solicitors which was commercially sound and cost-effective.

Being Asian and a woman has not made it easy to establish a career in law. You rarely see Asian women partners in firms as there are still barriers to progress

Setting the firm up was not easy. I did not know anyone who had set up their own law firm and most of the solicitors I knew did not want to take the risk of working for themselves. I went to my father for guidance as he had experience of setting up successful businesses. I also found the Solicitors Regulation Authority very helpful; it provided guidance on anything I was unsure about. Finally, I had the support of my family, which helped make Davenport Solicitors a reality. 

Setting up Davenport Solicitors has to be one of the most memorable highlights of my career. It has enabled me to be a solicitor and businesswoman. It has been an amazing journey to see an idea become reality and then to be awarded the London Asian Business Award in the Rising Star in Law 2018 category.

Business immigration is constantly changing. A challenge solicitors face is staying on top of these changes. They can include the law, policy or even application forms. However, the biggest challenge many solicitors are dealing with at the moment is the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. We are being contacted by clients on issues relating to Brexit but are not able to provide concrete advice because we do not have enough information.

With every business, the first two years are always difficult. You have to establish yourself and build a network. There is much competition, not just from niche law firms but also larger ones. But I believe that we provide a service that our competitors do not. We are a niche firm and, being an SME business owner, understand the challenges SME business owners face. We can provide them with the advice and assistance they require to obtain the results they want. 

Being Asian and a woman has not made it easy to establish a career in law. You rarely see Asian women partners in firms as there are still barriers to progress. Sexual harassment is still an issue. It is very difficult for women to voice their concerns, especially when starting their career. There is still a mentality in some firms that women will not be able to perform as well just because she has children. 

The profession needs to do more to embrace diversity and help women and BME lawyers to become partners/directors in firms. It also needs to help women who have had career breaks due to childcare return to work as paralegals, trainees and solicitors.

Diversity in the legal profession is necessary. Legal professionals should recognise the significance of creating a comfortable working environment for everyone, irrespective of background, culture or lifestyle.