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In this Article, Hana Ingram interviews Zaina Liaqat, a recent graduate from the University of Huddersfield.
Hi Zaina! Could you start by giving a brief background on your legal studies and work experience so far?
Hi Hana! First I would like to thank you for reaching out to me and providing me with this amazing opportunity.
I have recently graduated from the University of Huddersfield with a First Class with Honours in Law, and I am currently working as a Paralegal for Drummond Solicitors.
During high school I worked to obtain the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. It was during this time that I discussed my future plans with the expedition leader. She recommended me to Haighs Solicitors and I managed to undertake a week long placement with them.
Furthermore, during sixth form I entered the ‘Pathways to Law’ scheme and I won a mini-pupillage with Exchange Chambers and a week-long placement with Thompsons Solicitors.
In addition, during my first year at university I gained employment at the Ministry of Justice as an Admin Assistant in Leeds Magistrates Court. Also, in my second year at university, I became a Legal Advisor at the Huddersfield Legal Advice Clinic. I was also an active member of the Mooting Society at university and advocated in many internal and national moots.
After completing my degree, I obtained four mini-pupillages at Parklane Plowden Chambers, Park Square Barristers, New Park Court Chambers and 18 St John Street Chambers. I am also an active member of the Leeds & District Medico-Legal Society.
I have been a Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR) mentee in the past and I am currently being mentored by an excellent barrister at New Park Court Chambers.
Did you always know that you wanted to become a barrister rather than a solicitor, or was this something you realised while studying your LLB?
After I had completed my placement at Haighs I was sure that I would like to spend more time advocating in court rather than being sat at a desk in an office all day. Shortly after I had completed my mini-pupillage with Exchange Chambers, I realised that advocating and being self-employed were two things that drew me towards the Bar. So, I was sure about pursuing a career at the Bar even before starting my LLB.
Do you have any advice for students who are also looking to go down the barrister route, such as the types of internships or placements they should be looking for and the skills they should be cultivating?
The most important advice I could give is to create a well-established profile on LinkedIn and constantly post law related content. Whether that is about any work experience you have gained or any blogs you have written based on an area of the law that interests you. This will attract a network of barristers, solicitors, and mentors towards you. Networking and keeping in touch with members of the Bar is very important because opportunities will arise that you may not have formally applied for.
My next piece of advice would be to stay very involved with your lecturers at university as they may nominate you for any scholarships and schemes to fund the BTC or for being a mentee. You should also join any law/mooting societies to build your advocacy and confidence skills during moot competitions. Networking builds social skills that you will need as a barrister to liaise with other professionals and clients.
Finally, staying organized is a key skill that potential bar students should cultivate. Keep a diary of key dates such as mini-pupillage deadlines and events hosted by chambers. Make sure to apply by the deadlines to maximize your chances of obtaining work experience.
Can you describe your previous work as a mooter at the University of Huddersfield in terms of what this role entailed and the experiences you had advocating before judges?
This role entailed working in a team to prepare court bundles and skeleton arguments, and then presenting them in front of a judge.
I represented the first appellant in a criminal moot, presided by HHJ Roger Thomas QC. I successfully submitted that the first appellant could not be considered a ‘child of the family’ and subsequently not the ‘half-sibling’ of the second appellant. Therefore, she could not have committed incest under s.25 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. As a result, I won as the junior counsel for my team. My individual feedback from the judge was “a quick thinker and an advocate to be taken seriously.”
In addition, I represented the respondent in a commercial mooting competition, presided by DJ Karen Woodhead, involving the negligent delivery of PPE during the Covid-19 outbreak which turned out to be damaged, unfit for purpose and did not follow government guidelines. My lead counsel and I were announced the winning team as we successfully utilised statutes and case law to prove our case. My individual feedback from the judge was “Well dressed and composed. Audible and confident.”
This year you took part in a mooting competition at the UK Supreme Court – what role did you fulfil within the moot trial, what difficulties did you face in arguing your grounds of appeal and what were your main takeaways from competing?
I was recently selected to advocate on behalf of the appellant in an appeals case for murder, presided by Lord Justice Richards of Camberwell. I pleaded diminished responsibility for the appellant who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. I successfully requested a re-trial which was granted due to improper directions of the trial judge, who had erred in law. Therefore, my team won on both grounds of appeal and my performance was described as “excellent.” The director of mooting said that it “justified his selection of me as an advocate in such a prestigious competition”.
The main difficulty my team faced was in persuading the judge to accept that the trial erred in law when he defined the phrase ‘substantially impaired’ for the jury. Being a counsel member for an appeals case is difficult because you’re essentially asking the judge to disagree with another judge who is also extremely competent. We asked for a re-trial, which are not easily obtained as they can cause delays in the real legal system.
My main takeaway from participating in this competition was that stepping out of your comfort zone will lead you to greater successes.
In your Linkedin bio you state that you are interested in pursuing Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Law; what made you decide to focus on this area of law, and do you think it is important for law students to narrow down their professional goals early on?
I chose these areas after delving into some cases during placements and mini-pupillages. I found my time at Thompson’s Solicitors very compelling. The visual presentation of the injuries made me relate to the harm that was inflicted upon the client. Therefore, it was easier for me to empathise with the client and work harder to achieve the outcome they deserved. However, during my Commercial placements, I did not feel that I could relate the same to the financial disputes because I was not analysing real human body parts that had been injured for life. The contrast in the level of investment I felt towards these two very different legal fields confirmed my interest in Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Law.
I think it is important for law students to narrow down their professional goals after they have taken part in a few placements. This will prepare them for pupillage or training contract applications, in which they will be asked what area they would like to specialise in and how that links with the placements they have undertaken.
When do you plan on starting the Barrister Training Course (BTC)? Would you prefer to undertake further internships or pupillages before completing these studies?
I plan on starting the Bar Course in September 2023. I am open to new opportunities relating to the bar such as scholarships and memberships. However, I am working full time as a Paralegal, therefore I currently have no capacity for full-time internships