Bilal Mohammad wants to help more people like him into the legal profession
Bilal Mohammad is busy. Just six months into life as a newly-qualified solicitor at Pinsent Masons, the 26-year-old has his work cut out. Not just with the firm, but thanks to his role as a Law Society Social Mobility Ambassador. On top of that, he’s got his hands full outside the office, in one of society’s most time-consuming unpaid roles — a school governor. But the young man from Bradford wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m currently working in the projects and infrastructure team at the firm, and autumn is a busy time” says Bilal. “Clients like to wrap up deals and aim for financial close before Christmas. There’s a lot to do, but I love my job. The variety and quality of work is excellent.”
If ever someone has earned the right to enjoy his job, it’s Bilal. His journey into the law is a story of sheer dedication and commitment. Bilal recalls:
I was 15 when I did my first work placement with a law firm. It was with a firm in Keighley, Yorkshire. It was fantastic. The firm exposed me to different areas of law and gave me a fair bit of responsibility, too.
Bilal spent two weeks with Turner & Wall Solicitors learning about matrimonial, clinical negligence, tax, wills and probate law, whetting his appetite for a legal career. He was delighted to enrol at the University of Birmingham to study law with business, having made a tough decision to make sure he got the right grades.
“Some of my friends back at secondary school weren’t good influences,” he says. “I had to make a choice — stick with my friends or leave them behind and follow my ambitions. I chose the latter — it was a sacrifice but I’m glad I made it.”
Armed with resolve, Bilal obtained AAAB in his A-levels, and later graduated with a 2:1 from the University of Birmingham. Throughout both his A-levels and university, he had a number of part-time and holiday jobs, from working as an administrative assistant for HMRC and sales advisor for O2 to being in customer services for Banco Santander. But at one stage there was a doubt about whether he would be able to go on to complete the Legal Practice Course. Bilal remembers:
In my final year at university, I wasn’t sure if it would happen. It was a difficult decision. I didn’t have a training contract and at that time the financial crisis was at its height. I had a lot of debt accrued already from student accommodation fees and general expenses, like textbooks. My dad was incredibly supportive — he offered to remortgage the family home to put me through.
Thankful for what he calls his father’s “great gesture” Bilal is just as grateful that he didn’t ultimately have to call on it. In February 2011, he was interviewed by the Law Society for a scholarship under its Diversity Access Scheme. “I was so pleased to be successful,” he says. The Scheme not only meant that Bilal could do the LPC, but also gave him access to a mentor who gave him general advice about legal careers and helped with applications for training contracts. Having undertaken a summer vacation placement with Pinsent Masons in July 2012, Bilal was keen to undertake a training contract with the firm. He made his application and was successful. However, there was a 18-month gap before his intake year, and so, tireless as ever, Bilal worked as a paralegal for Pinsents during this period.
Bilal started with the firm as a trainee in March 2014 and qualified in March this year. He says his blend of previous employment and work experience has stood him in good stead:
Working as a paralegal gave me a great insight into the firm, and enabled me to meet lots of people, while my former roles helped me understand both business and public sector worlds.
Outside work, Bilal is a governor of Southmere Primary Academy. “I think it’s important to give back to the communities we come from,” he says, “and this is one way of doing that.” Another way is by virtue of his position as one of the Law Society’s Social Mobility Ambassadors. “There were 10 of us in 2015, and this year saw the appointment of another 10,” Bilal explains. “People can contact me and ask for help by sending an email with the subject line ‘Bilal’. I enjoy helping them out as much as I can.”
What advice does Bilal have for those who’d like to follow in his footsteps? “Work hard, be prepared to make sacrifices, and push yourself,” he says. He’s too modest to add one other thing: don’t hesitate to send an email with the subject line ‘Bilal’.