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From Afghan refugee to city commercial lawyer

by Jasleen Kaur
14 January 2016

Jasleen Kaur shares her story of overcoming the odds to become a lawyer.

I am currently a first seat trainee at Nabarro LLP, sitting in the property litigation department. I started my journey into law very differently to those in my cohort.

I arrived weary eyed on a bright morning in August 2005 along with my parents and two brothers having fled our home country, Afghanistan, for religious reasons. The journey to Nabarro has not been short of hurdles, and when I arrived, I didn’t know where I would end up, the only thing I really wanted to do was to start a new, safer life with my family.

After being granted asylum, we were given accommodation in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. A few months after arriving, I enrolled at Moor End Technology College and threw myself into it. I tentatively began speaking English with the help of my mentor. As my confidence grew, my language skills got better. I set my eyes on attending one of the best sixth forms of the north, Greenhead College but I knew that I would have to work hard and get good grades in order to get in.

My plans were nearly scuppered when I contracted tuberculosis of the brain, it became much harder to concentrate and stay focused at school. With the support of my family and new found friends and the help of the hospital nurses, I achieved the grades I needed to secure a place at the sixth form. 

It was at college when I first studied law and was intrigued by it, as I enjoyed the challenges and the problem solving aspects of it. Having secured a short placement at a local regional firm, my interest in a legal career grew deeper and I now wanted to exploit other areas of it and work at different firms. 

I applied for a number of smaller firms volunteering to work one day a week or during the holidays to gain more experience. Having worked at regional firms, high street firms, the local council and the Citizens Advice Bureau, I knew it was the right career for me but I wanted to challenge myself further. I attended an open day at a large city firm, and knew from the moment I stepped into their large shiny offices in midst of the City that it was where I wanted to be.

However, the application process wasn’t easy. It is hard for a person who has grown up in England and has had a 'normal' life, to think of experiences and achievements to answer the challenging questions in the lengthy vacation scheme application form. I didn’t even have many achievements to boast about, nevertheless, I carried on.

After numerous unsuccessful applications for three years, I was on the verge of giving up my dream of working at a City law firm, when I attended the Nabarro presentation during my LPC at Kaplan Law School. 

I found out about the Diversity Access Scheme that they ran (which they now run with BPP) to allow students facing challenges in entering the legal profession. It instantly gave me hope. I applied for a vacation scheme through the Diversity Access Scheme in November 2013 and the rest is history. 

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