I co-founded my own company when I was 26 so I could dictate my own narrative. I was working as a paralegal at a city law firm and found that I was not comfortable with the lifestyle elements that came with that environment. You often have to work late to meet financial goals or deadlines, which meant I had little time to give back to my community. I have also found that there is little awareness of the impact of mental health that entry-level lawyers can face.
I saw a lot of social injustice when I was young. I have witnessed firsthand how issues related to immigration, housing, and family issues, to name a few, have impacted my community and those around me. . This is one of the reasons why I wanted to enter this profession. The role of a lawyer is to act as the social glue of the community and to give a platform to fight against the social injustices that we face daily.
The legal industry has a culture of alcohol…and I don’t drink. If there’s a company networking party or event, very often you feel like you’re missing out on a career because you’re not participating in those conversations. Sometimes it feels like if you were a better drinking buddy, you’d be more likeable and more likely to get promoted or recommended for bigger business.
I run a “rebellious law firm”. Even the name of our company is different! We call ourselves Black Antelope Law, so we didn’t go the traditional route of using our last names. We support our clients in achieving their goals through a range of services that combine intelligence and awareness, communication, learning and decisive action. All the traits symbolized by the antelope!
We quickly got rid of formalities and old structures. We wanted to become more human in providing service to our customers. We want to be affordable and accessible; we favor human impact rather than billable hours. For example, we were doing online Zoom calls with clients long before the pandemic and customized our own case management system for our colleagues to use.
Being a migrant can be difficult. A client I represented was a renowned lecturer at one of the nation’s top universities. He is highly educated, has worked with the British Army and has published several books. He did everything right and the judge even called him a model migrant. But he couldn’t get indefinite leave to stay and keep his job. We won his case, but it shows how difficult it can be even if you succeed and do all the right things.
Law firms must quickly realize that they are missing cases. To some extent, there is still some discrimination against British Bangladeshis in the legal profession. Not only is this wrong, but it also means the companies are really missing a trick. When you hire a young British Bangladeshi lawyer, he can bring with him a large community that could lead to work. And it helps businesses become more inclusive and progressive, which is what other customers also want.
We need more role models. There are great stories, like the appointment of Sultana Tafadar as the first Muslim QC wearing the hijab. But we need more stories like this to raise our profile. Bangladeshis make up just 7% of British Asians practicing law and are far more likely to be a freelance lawyer rather than a partner in a large firm. It is encouraging to see that more companies are adopting equality, diversity and inclusion policies. However, this needs to be implemented at all levels to encourage more UK Bangladeshi lawyers to enter the profession.
Law could learn a thing or two from Bangladeshi hospitality. You would be amazed at what you would see if you came to one of our events. People can be overwhelmed by the reception they receive. This is another reason why we fight in law. He doesn’t seem hospitable to us. We always try to accommodate others, and the legal profession – especially businesses – often doesn’t think that way. A little thoughtfulness – a little hospitality (whether at junior or board level) – will go a long way.