“I didn’t have role models early on but thankfully that’s changing”
I support people who have had traumatic injuries. These injuries can be like a nuclear explosion in their lives. You can’t go back to your old life after an amputation or a brain injury. I focus on getting proper rehabilitation, support and funds in place to help clients with their long-term needs and achieve quality of life. I was recently part of a team that secured a seven-figure payment for a client who sustained a traumatic brain injury. I feel proud that we’ve helped them and that they can now buy a house that’s suitable for their needs.
I work for a large firm and I love it here. I worked really hard to get here. But a part of the reason that happened was through my exposure to a new network of friends and peers during the Legal Practice Course (LPC) compared to what I was used to. If I hadn’t met them, I wouldn’t have seen how they did things and the different routes into law wouldn’t have become more obvious.
I needed visible role models early on, but there weren’t any. I don’t think there was ever a question of me going into something like corporate or commercial law. I was so out of touch with it! When I started out, I never had a role model in that area of law. No one who looked like me practised in those areas of law. No one talked about the importance of role models 15 years ago in the way we are today.
Even now I’m not very good at asking for help. Maybe it’s a defence mechanism from growing up. But that experience is why I love doing community work and mentoring people. I’m part of the Law Society’s mentoring programme, doing my bit to make the profession as open and representative as possible.
My South Asian heritage is what’s given me the spark, drive and motivation to get ahead. I was taught to throw myself into education, do my best – for myself, my family and my community. But when you look at my culture, gender, and socio-economic background, you’re looking at quite a challenging progression in a very traditional profession.
I feel the need to be loud! I shouldn’t need to mask my South Asian culture, our festivities or my Sikh religion. Nor should being a woman or being from a working-class background stop me – or anyone else. That’s why I get on any platform I can. I love a roundtable! I was on recent Law Society roundtables for social mobility, the race for inclusion and women in leadership. I will carry on until things become more equal for any under-represented group.
Many of us are standing on the shoulders of hard-working immigrants. People like my parents faced huge challenges and barriers when they got here. My dad came to the United Kingdom at 13 and my mum at 20, with no relatives, not knowing much English, nor knowing how the country worked. Their sacrifice gives you a huge sense of responsibility.
I found it jarring to come into a male-dominated profession. I come from a really matriarchal household. My mum totally ran the show! Her positivity and determination were inspiring. So, it was challenging for me to go into a workplace that was the opposite. Organisations must do more to address this situation, but it doesn’t just fall at their door. Societal barriers hold back women and our South Asian heritage is part of these issues.
Some women have told me that they’re living in a 1950s household. Gender norms can be more entrenched in South Asian culture. There can be issues with women working long hours or full time after having children. My husband knows he wouldn’t get away with that behaviour! Seriously though, we’ve got a lot of work to do to help women really reap the benefits of this profession.
We’re at a historic moment. I. Stephanie Boyce is the current president of the Law Society. She’s the first president of colour – and also a woman! Stephanie will be handing over to Lubna Shuja in October, who will be the first South Asian president, a small firm owner and a woman too! That’s incredibly exciting. It makes you think, if they can do it, so can I.