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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

From watching Suits to wearing one, an apprentice solicitor speaks on his journey into law

From watching Suits to wearing one, a young apprentice solicitor speaking on his alternative way into the law profession.

As National Apprenticeship Week comes to an end, Asian Standard has spoken to a 22-year-old solicitor apprentice from Bradford about his untraditional journey into the law profession.

Abdul Jabbaar Ahmed has worked at BKP Solicitors for the past six years, starting as a fresh-faced business admin working his way up to an apprentice solicitor and is almost halfway through his seven-year degree-level apprenticeship which will see him as a fully qualified solicitor at the end of the course.

Mr Ahmed has already been recognised for his work at BKP Solicitors, being highly commended at the Yorkshire Asian Young Achiever Awards (YAYAs) 2021 for his work in the private sector.

Mr Ahmed was highly commended at the Yorkshire Asian Young Achievers 2021 Awards.

After leaving school with five GCSEs, Mr Ahmed had no plans on staying on to complete his A-Levels or go to college. Instead, he landed some work experience at his uncle’s, Balaal Khan, law firm, BKP Solicitors, and after his trial, they kept him on full-time.

In the first three years of working at the solicitors, Mr Ahmed completed a level two and level three course in business administration before being enrolled in a seven-year solicitor apprenticeship programme.

Most of the course is through practical learning, with 20% of the working week spent studying. Apprentices are assessed by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) which is split into two parts: a written exam and a practical assessment to assess skills such as client interviewing and giving advice to clients.

Mr Ahmed has already undertaken the Police Station Representatives Accreditation Scheme (PSRAS) which means he is qualified to supply advice and assistance to clients at the police station, paid for by the Government through the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).

Mr Ahmed said: “I had no plans of going to sixth form or college. I spent some time completing work experience at BKP just to see what an office environment was like. They initially took me on as business admin, I had no experience in dealing with clients, I was learning on the job, really.”.

The trainee solicitor added: “The work experience was different. It wasn’t something I was used to. It was on the job learning, in school I felt like I wasn’t learning much because it wasn’t practical, but things get in my head quicker with on-the-job learning.

“Once I was offered the apprenticeship, I jumped on it. When I was in school, I just wanted to leave. I did not see myself doing an office job but after seeing what it was about, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.

Mr Ahmed is in year three of his apprenticeship programme.

Mr Ahmed, who did not enjoy school because of the routine and mundanity has taken to working at the firm because of the new and exciting challenges each day brings.

Mr Ahmed has tried his hand in immigration law but sees himself working in the criminal field, which he says is “more exciting.”

The apprentice solicitor said his favourite thing about the job is “dealing with people from all walks of life. “Every day is a new day; it is not routine. You deal with people from all walks of life. There are different situations and challenges every day,” he added.

Apart from his uncle, Balaal Khan, who was one of the first people to go to university in his family, and the first solicitor, Mr Ahmed got some of his inspiration to enter the legal field from Suits, the American legal drama that shot the now Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, to fame.

The apprentice solicitor added: “When I was in school, Suits was something I watched regularly and was interested in.

“After shadowing the solicitors at the firm and seeing what they were doing, I realised criminal defence was similar to the work they do on Suits and a field of work that I want to practice in.”

Balaal Khan of BKP Solicitors is an expert in criminal, traffic, and immigration law.

Mr Ahmed works full-time, with Tuesdays dedicated to submitting coursework. He consults with clients, research cases, attends meetings, and reviews legal transactions.

Mr Ahmed didn’t have to adjust too much during the pandemic, as most of his learning was remote beforehand.

The 22-year-old mentioned: “There are some live tutor sessions you can join weekly. Other than that, there are online reading materials and videos you can watch. The learning is independent, and it is on you to complete the work and learn about the individual.

“During the pandemic, nothing changed in terms of university work as I had been doing everything online anyway.”

However, office work changed as people were instructed to work from home whenever possible. “Home and police station interviews and court cases were conducted from home via video call”, the apprentice solicitor added.

Mr Ahmed’s uncle, Balaal Khan, said: “It is good to give back to people who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity.

“Abdul was a young lad with a lot of passion, but he didn’t like the environment in school, so he was the perfect candidate to bring on. He started as a business admin, but we saw that he could do much more which is why we brought him on as an apprentice.

“Helping people from the local area is s something I’ve always wanted to do, to give people the opportunity to make a better future for themselves.”

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