Kawsar Zaman, social mobility ambassador
My parents emigrated from Bangladesh in the 1970s and I grew up on council estate in East London.
As the youngest of seven siblings, I was the first, along with my twin brother, to go to university.
Financially we always struggled to make ends meet, particularly after my father passed away.
But I was always determined to succeed, strengthened by each hurdle that came my way.
My first day of secondary school fell on 9 September 2001.
The terrorist attacks in America were a key factor that set in motion my desire to read law at university.
I remember coming back from school that day and walking past a placard reading "World War III is coming".
As a young British Muslim, I recognised the focus was always on our community, answering questions about why some Muslims were being radicalised and committing terrorist atrocities in the name of religion. These questions were being asked but not answered.
Law seemed like a natural path to investigate those issues in a legal and wider societal context at university and beyond.
I attended my local state comprehensive where I was encouraged to go to local universities rather than aim high for the best educational institutions in the country.
Obtaining a mini pupillage at 2 Hare Court through the Social Mobility Foundation marked a pivotal moment.
During my mini pupillage, I observed the high profile so-called 'honour killing' case of Banaz Mahmood at the Old Bailey.
I knew, after that, I wanted to be a lawyer.
I managed to enlist the support of the right individuals who advised and supported me when I needed it the most.
I graduated with a first in law from the London School of Economics as a 2 Hare Court scholar before reading for the BCL at Oxford University as the Tun Maththir Scholar of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and then the LLM at Harvard Law School as a Fulbright scholar.
And yet my potential and my achievements would have never materialised had I not met three inspirational figures:
- Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb
- Jonathan Laidlaw QC
- Helen Law
They invested their own time and effort to advise me, to help me think through difficult choices and make informed decisions through college and university.
I would not be in the position I am in today, but for their extraordinary support.
I believe we need to do much more to motivate and generate change in our communities, particularly, within the legal profession.
I often come across an attitude that 'things will change over time'. But that is not good enough.
We need to improve social mobility and fair access opportunities for disadvantaged candidates in the same way we campaign on issues such as climate change.
It is a threat to our society and country when the potential of our next generation is not fully realised.
It is a loss not only for the individual and communities concerned, but for our country as a whole.
My advice for aspiring solicitors is to always persevere and think of your ultimate goal.
I have faced a countless number of personal, academic and professional challenges, but I have taken each as a development opportunity to grow and constantly improve myself.