Salma Maqsood, social mobility ambassador

Social mobility ambassador Salma Maqsood shares her experience of entering the profession, including the challenges she faced and how she overcame them.
Salma Maqsood is a woman of South Asian heritage who wears a black headscarf. She is smiling and stands in front of a cathedral. She wears a black coat over a black floral dress.
Photograph: Alice Mutasa

What inspired you to study law?

My mother insisted on teaching me and my siblings the history of Pakistan.

I was inspired and captivated by the stories of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, who at age 20 became the only Muslim barrister in 1897 London, a member of Lincoln's Inn.

Jinnah’s stories from my mother’s history lessons left me with the impression that the study of law equips one to bring positive change in the world.

As a woman, I found this quote of Jinnah’s most inspiring: “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.”

Did you receive encouragement to pursue your ambitions?

At the time when I chose to study law at degree level, there was an inherent culture that women did not require further education.

My father recognised my ambition to study law and helped me overcome the obstacles I faced in society. He stood by me against all the opposition and critics and has always remained steadfast by my side throughout my career.

Where did you study law?

Being Bristol born and bred, I remained in Bristol and completed my LLB law BA Hons at UWE, Bristol. I then went on to study the LPC at College of Law (now University of Law).

Did you encounter any challenges studying law?

My father had engrained in my siblings and me a strong work ethic which prepared me for the challenges faced at university.

I worked at call centres in the evening whilst attending university during the day. This required time management and strict discipline to balance both successfully.

What type of law do you specialise in?

It had always been my intention to specialise in property law but life had other plans. I qualified in February 2008 and had my first child that same summer.

When I completed my maternity leave the property market had crashed and there were very few roles for a property lawyer, let alone an NQ returning from maternity leave!

I applied for various roles and with the help of Bristol Law Society I landed a part-time role as a personal injury solicitor.

In 2013, the personal injury rules changed and I was lucky enough to be offered a litigation and commercial property role in London where I remained until I became a partner in 2018.

At this point I had two children and I wanted a much more balanced work/home life.

I had come across Barcan+Kirby LLP and had enjoyed my interaction with them. I applied for a commercial property role and was successful.

I now specialise in commercial property and have made good use of my transferrable skills at different points in my career to switch my area of practice.

Why did you want to become a Law Society social mobility ambassador?

I am a daughter of immigrants, attended a state school, did not attend a Russell Group university, had no connections to secure a training contract whilst studying and sent out over 100 training applications before securing a training contract.

Despite these hurdles, I successfully qualified into the law, changed my area of practice, raised a family and survived the 2008 property crash (all not necessarily in that order).

I worked hard throughout my career. I want to inspire others from similar backgrounds and those who face similar hurdles to show them that irrespective of background, if you persevere you will succeed.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding your career?

I will always remember the first day of my training contract, when the opening words of my principal, Mr Satish Kapoor, were “the training you will receive here is akin to that of a boot camp. If you hit a roadblock, find a way to get through it or around it and always look for practical/commercial solutions, not just the legal ones!”.

This advice has served me well, and yes, my training was just like boot camp, and I qualified well equipped to enter into the legal arena.

Has your idea of success changed over time in your career?

Absolutely! At the start of my career I was very ambitious and strived to attain partner status.

Over time I am now much more invested in attaining a healthy work-life balance and being authentic and true to myself.

Do people have misconceptions about becoming a solicitor?

People have an ideal as to what a solicitor should look like, how they should speak, what they should wear.

The reality is that solicitors are human, just like everyone else.

Anyone, from any background, irrespective of what they look like, can become a lawyer. You just need the determination to succeed.

What skills would you say are essential for the job?

Tenacity and commercial awareness.

Contact the ambassadors

If you want to ask an ambassador a question about their career or route into law, email using the address below and include their name in the subject line.

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