Qalid Mohamed, social mobility ambassador
Where did you study law?
I read law at SOAS, University of London
Did you receive encouragement to pursue your ambitions?
My late aunt encouraged me from early on not to let my background or the absence of people who looked like me in senior positions deter me from pursuing my career goals.
When I expressed a desire to pursue a career in law during my A-levels, she probed how I planned to achieve that; a simple yet effective method of encouraging one to focus on the practical steps one could take to improve their prospects.
Did you encounter any challenges in pursuing a legal career?
I come from a modest background. I was born in Somalia. When I was two, my family and I fled the civil war.
I spent my early childhood in Kenya; first in the Utange refugee camp and later in Eastleigh, a densely populated neighbourhood in Nairobi, Kenya.
When I arrived in the UK aged 11, I could not speak a word of English, having had no prior formal education. I attended a secondary school which at the time was under special measures.
I was not conscious of how difficult it was to get a start in the legal profession. I operated with the mindset that the harder you work the luckier you are likely to get; I still do.
I later learned that having access to the right role models and mentors can impact your career prospects just as much.
I was lucky in that I have found various people, often from backgrounds very different to mine, who were generous with their time and advice, and present when it mattered the most.
What type of law do you specialise in?
I specialise in non-contentious financial services regulation. I advise global financial institutions on a range of UK and EU financial services regulatory matters.
It is a dynamic area of law, which is constantly evolving, often in response to developments in the financial markets and sometimes because of political decisions. The 2008 financial crisis and the Brexit referendum are two recent examples.
Why did you want to become a Law Society social mobility ambassador?
My journey into the legal profession did not happen without challenges. Undoubtedly, having access to the right mentors along the way aided me greatly in taking the necessary steps.
Research has shown that a lack of visible role models and low social capital can have a detrimental effect on young people’s perception of their ability and in turn access to the legal profession.
With that in mind, I wanted to find a way to encourage and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds considering a career in law.
The Law Society’s social mobility ambassador scheme was the most efficient way of doing that.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding your career?
The late Peter Boursnell MBE, a former trustee at the Social Mobility Foundation, gave me the best career advice.
He would often say to me that to be successful in life takes not only hard work, but to continually push your limits past your comfort zone, otherwise you will eventually come to a halt.
Peter’s professional and personal commitment to social mobility was inspiring. He devoted his life to helping young people make the most of their opportunities. He encouraged us to focus on growth, embedding the notion that failures and challenges provide experiences.
I keep that advice close to me as a reminder that saying yes to seemingly challenging opportunities will ultimately advance my career.
Has your idea of success changed over time in your career?
I would not say my idea of success has changed over the years.
I believe success is not a destination insofar as there is no definitive end, rather it is a journey of continuous progress; to improve on the person you were yesterday.
Do people have misconceptions about becoming a solicitor?
One misconception people have is the belief that there is a set path into entering the legal profession.
Often students from disadvantaged backgrounds think that they need to read law at undergraduate level or attend a Russell Group university.
This is a limited view which can deter talented individuals. There are alternative routes to becoming a solicitor such as doing a solicitor apprenticeship or completing a GDL conversion course.
What skills would you say are essential for the job?
I would say the ability to build resilience. No two days are the same, and whilst the work is intellectually stimulating, you are often juggling multiple priorities.
Attention to detail is also critical as is being able to distill complex information.
Finally, I would say taking care of your physical health is essential as this job is mostly sedentary.
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