My journey to qualification as a solicitor at NLS

My journey to qualification as a solicitor at NLS

For me, the idea of studying and practicing law originated from my passion for human rights. I grew  up watching my parents and grandmother who have dedicated their lives to advocating and helping others. Watching that, it is hard not to be inspired. When I started my Law degree with Criminology at The University of Surrey, I decided to start my own human rights society, focusing on raising awareness on the issues that young girls and women face particularly in third world countries; from domestic violence, forced marriages, FGM (female genital mutilation) to honour killings. The society eventually developed into a non-profit organisation  raising money to sponsor young girls through their schooling, particularly in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Whilst at University I volunteered as a McKenzie friend with NCDV (National Centre for Domestic Violence), which would later lead to me getting my job at NLS (National Legal Service).

I completed my LPC at City Law school following my degree, finding the practical skills and knowledge of legal practice challenging and interesting. At the same time, I was fortunate enough to work part-time and on weekends as a litigation disclosure paralegal at Norton Rose Fulbright. During my time at City I was lucky enough to win a human rights scholarship to fly to South Africa and work with The University of Western Cape. Whilst in Cape Town, I spent my time volunteering at a legal clinic in the townships.

For me, helping others has always been at the heart of what I want to do. So, when I was offered an opportunity to work with the United Nations as an intern delegate I was over the moon. I attended my first UN conference in Geneva in 2017 on behalf of a NGO working on women’s rights violations in South Asia. I have worked alongside the NGO division as a UN delegate now for the past 5 years and continues to be one of my proudest achievements.  This led to me carrying out talks on recognising domestic abuse particularly within the South Asian community.

Following the completing of my LPC, I fell into the typical panic ending up in a small one-man immigration firm in east London, which I quickly found was not for me. I jumped around, working in Clyde and Co in Marine Litigation, but longed for an opportunity to go back to helping people and making a difference. National Legal Service was novated in March 2018; just the day after I accepted a role with them; so I certainly consider that I have grown alongside NLS as I have been with them since day one

I did not start out as a fee-earning paralegal at NLS, but moved aroundvarious different teams making initial contact with clients, preparing legal aid applications and distributing clients through the firm. Being someone unable to help myself with being involved, it was not long, until I found myself also working in marketing, designing business cards, lanyards and even assisting with the design of the website as well as lending a hand with the Social media for the firm. Being able to explore these different areas within the firm allowed me to not only explore my creative side but to do so whilst still developing professional skills. After just a few months at the firm I started my official role as a fee earner in the family department.

I of course could not leave the travel bug. I was therefore thrilled to be lucky enough to travel to Greece to volunteer as a Legal Advisor with Goodwill Caravan, a humanitarian non-profit organisation that covers refugee emergency care primarily for accommodation and food. As a volunteer lawyer, I had the opportunity to work on asylum and detention cases with full training and supervision. I had access to some of the most remote detention sites and assisted in processing the cases of some of the most vulnerable refugees.

I have counted myself lucky that I work for a firm like NLS that supports its staff in Charity and Social responsibility.

Being able to work for a firm that helps vulnerable people is so important to me. With NLS helping thousands of victims of domestic abuse every year is something that I take great pride in.

My journey to qualifying as a solicitor was not always easy. I have been so fortunate with the opportunities I have had, but there are always setbacks. For me, one of the largest is not being successful in securing a training contact at NLS after being at the firm for 2 years. However disappointing that was for me; in hindsight I strongly believe that everything happens for you at the right time and that I continued to gain vital experience working as a paralegal that has just made me a better solicitor today. I was supported by wonderful colleagues and my amazing supervisor who reminded me to never give up, and rightly so. I was offered a Training contract by NLS in May 2020, whilst in the thick of the pandemic. I will never forget the day I got the email to confirm I was successful; it was one of the best days of my life. Although celebrating was limited to a glass of Prosecco from my front door while my friends stood at separate corners of my drive, it is still one of my favorite memories.

I completed my first year of my TC in lockdown and it flew by. During my second-year lockdown restrictions eased and we began going back into the office once or twice a week.  I’m sure many who changed jobs or trained during the pandemic will attest to how hard it is to train remotely. So when we returned to the office, I not only go to celebrate my success with my friends and colleagues, but found myself learning even more.

My last three months of my TC were spent in a care seat. I had never worked in care before and had no idea what to expect. Luckily, I was under the supervision of our wonderful Head of Family who welcomed me so openly on to her team. I never thought I would take such a liking to care having worked predominantly in domestic violence and private children during my time at NLS. I decided to stay on in care upon my qualification. I qualified as a solicitor on the 6th of June 2022 and am now working towards gaining my advanced family accreditation.

My journey has not always been easy and despite the bumps along the way I have learned so much and would not change the course of my journey for anything. I have met some amazing people who I know will be lifelong friends and have been so lucky to have watched NLS flourish so much in the last 4 and half years of being here. It has been a pleasure to grow with the firm each step of the way and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Ammarah Balouch – Solicitor

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