My most memorable day was the first day of the very first hearing I attended after I qualified. The hearing was in Nigeria, in the middle of the monsoon season, and happened to coincide with my birthday. The types of cases I work on as an arbitration lawyer can last for years, and the hearing is usually the culmination of several months of hard work. It’s exhilarating (if sometimes exhausting) to finally make it in front of the tribunal to present your client’s case and watch the witnesses tell their story.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for women looking to access justice in the UK?
The legal aid cuts: without knowing what your substantive rights are, it is difficult to navigate the judicial system in order to enforce them.
Looking back on your career, how far do you think the UK has come towards gender parity in the legal profession?
I qualified in 2011 so my historical perspective is fairly limited! However, I would say that throughout my career to date, I have been lucky enough to work with women who are extremely successful in their chosen field and who are supportive of younger women. That has a huge impact. I personally don’t feel that there is any barrier in terms of opportunities for women entering the law, and I am hopeful that that this will translate over time into parity of representation at the most senior echelons of the profession.
Who, or what, inspires you most and why?
Some of the clients I meet when I volunteer as an advocate at the asylum support tribunal. They have made it to the UK, often against the odds. They have filed their appeal notices within three days. They have travelled the length of the country and made it to the hearing on time. They have brought the correct evidence with them. They meet me with a smile and a sense of humour. And they are grateful for my help even when I don’t win their appeals.
What have you discovered during your career which you would have benefitted from knowing as a student?
Too many things to mention here! My advice would be to seek out what interests you. If you don’t ask for something, it won’t (necessarily) happen.
Join us on 19 March 2016 for our Annual Student Conference to hear Andrea Coomber, Director of JUSTICE, in conversation with Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty. Sign up now.