I moved to the UK from Pakistan at 18 in the middle of my A-Level studies. Growing up in Pakistan, I was told a legal career was not suitable for women. However, when I arrived in the UK (with my whole life packed in a 40kg suitcase), I realised that the world was my oyster. I was rid of the career restrictions, and I was free to take risks and do what I really wanted to do: be a lawyer.
As the only person in my immediate and extended family to pursue a legal career, I had no idea where to begin. I decided to recommence my studies virtually and I independently took my exams in Pakistan. In the meantime, I attended open days at universities to get some general information and started making applications for law schools. To develop my language skills (as English is not my first language), confidence, and network, I started working part-time in retail.
Soon after graduating, I started working as a paralegal in-house at a housebuilding company. I enjoyed direct contact with corporate clients and the versatile nature of commercial law. I became certain that I wanted to continue down this route and, I was keen on only applying to specific places that aligned with my career objectives and cultural values.
My journey with Pinsent Masons began in law school when I was on a virtual legal events binge. I had acquired a brief understanding of the firm’s culture and values but to learn more, I attended an insight evening at the Birmingham office.
At this event, I learnt about the core competencies that Pinsent Masons looks for in its trainees and about the firm’s D&I initiatives, such as Project Sun and Project Sky. After interacting with some trainees, associates, and partners at the event, I gained a sense of the warm culture and proceeded to make my vacation placement application.
Following a successful assessment centre, I began my vacation placement in June/July 2023 where I sat in the Commercial Litigation team.
I had a wonderful time working with my Trainee buddies and Supervisors who were a great source of support. They ensured that I had maximum opportunities to learn by completing various tasks and attending business development and client meetings. Through these experiences, I not only gained an understanding of key legal considerations but also of how law firms operate as businesses. Throughout the placement, I reached out to various teams such as the Employment, Corporate, and Intellectual Property teams to learn about the nature of work they are involved in to gain a better understanding of the wider operations of the firm.
As part of the several webinars organised by the graduate recruitment team, I attended an ‘Introducing the Networks’ webinar, which provided me with an insight into the various inclusion groups. Following the webinar, I connected with several members of these networks including F.R.E.E and Female Futures.
It was interesting to learn about the objectives and history of the F.R.E.E network and their plans. I also attended an Eid celebration organised by F.R.E.E at the office. This was something I enjoyed as I did not get to celebrate Eid with my family this year. What stood out to me was how the network’s objectives were coherent with the overall inherent culture of promoting inclusion at Pinsent Masons. For example, the network worked on a project around funerals for different religions which aimed to raise awareness and ensure that everyone felt comfortable, supported, and included.
I also spoke to a partner in the Corporate Team who is a member of the Female Futures. We had a very meaningful discussion about how the network has developed over time and its aim to drive gender equality within the business. The Female Futures network supports colleagues through mentoring, networking, and training and prioritises educating the wider workforce on the barriers working women face. I provided some ideas about potential projects the network could work on which were welcomed and appreciated.
By engaging with these networks, I was assured that culture is not just a buzzword for Pinsent Masons but an integral part of its key operations and people.
Upon reflecting on my experience, I am certain that there is no better place for me to develop as a lawyer and I could not be happier to have accepted a training contract offer.