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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Top lawyer’s journey from being bullied in former workplace to director at award-winning law firm

A top lawyer who has spent the past twenty years working in Bradford has spoken on her journey from being bullied at a former workplace to now becoming director of an award-winning law firm, representing children in law proceedings.

or at least enter the medical field as a dentist or optometrist. With an affinity for the arts during school and sixth form, she chose to study law instead.

Now, more than two decades into her career, she is a partner, director, and solicitor at leading-law firm Switalskis, has co-written a textbook that provides an essential guide on forced marriage legislation in the UK and has supported hundreds if not thousands of women and children through family lawsuits. In 2020, she became accredited to represent children under the Law Society’s Children in Law Panel.

Growing up in Lancashire before moving to Leicester in her formative years, it wasn’t until a job at Howard & Co Solicitors that brought her to Yorkshire.

Ms Jogi said: “It was the South Asian parental expectation that made me choose law. I did my degree in the mid-nineties, young people now have the option to do vocational courses or art degrees but, in my time, those sorts of subjects were not advocated. You did a degree that would lead you to something specific.

“I was truly fortunate that I did okay in my degree. I absolutely hated law as a degree subject, it was dry, and I questioned whether I wanted to become a lawyer.

Ms Jogi credits Yunus Lunat for her start.

“It wasn’t until I completed my LLP that I thought this was for me – after putting my degree into practice.”

After graduating from De Montfort University in Leicester in 1997, Ms Jogi got her first job in the law sector at a high street law practice doing everything “from washing up and vacuuming to seeing clients and practising law”, she said.

It was during this time that she met, Yunus Lunat, who is now partner and head of employment law at Ison Harrison Solicitors in Leeds. “It was Mr Lunat, who worked in Barnsley at the time, who suggested that I joined their firm.”

Following an interview, Ms Jogi was offered a trainee contract at Howard & Co Solicitors under the strict understanding that once she qualified as a solicitor, there would be no-post qualification role for her.

The solicitor earned her LLP in 2001 but stayed on at Howard & Co for an extra year as a trainee solicitor, earning £10,000 less than she would have in a qualified role because she was “more concerned with securing continued experience” than leaving the job and potentially “becoming idle”.

Ms Jogi stayed at the Barnsley firm for just over two-and-a-half years, before leaving to pursue a qualified role in Leicester in 2002.

In Leicester, she only managed to work at the firm for three months before deciding to call it quits after her boss would bully, belittle, and demean her daily. “In hindsight, my experience in Leicester was horrific,” she said.

She added: “My employer was deeply unpleasant, everything I did was subject to scrutiny. The way I spoke was an issue, the clothes I wore was an issue, I was twenty-seven at the time, and because it was a new role, I thought I couldn’t respond or answer back, I thought maybe she had a point. It is only now that I realise that she was a nasty bully – this kind of knowledge comes with age and confidence.”

Soon after, she secured a role at Switalskis Wakefield – one of two offices. Today, the firm has twelve firms across the country.

The solicitor describes Switalskis as a “shoe that fitted perfectly.”  Unfortunately, her role in the Wakefield office was covering maternity leave, meaning that after six months her time was up. The solicitor said: “After six months, I was tight-lipped, hoping that nobody noticed that the six months was over.”

The now late Stephen Switalski, the founder and leading partner of the firm at the time, called Ms Jogi to his office. After exchanging pleasantries, he offered her a full-time role at the company – with one catch, she was to work in the Bradford office.

Ms Jogi has “never looked back” from her move to Bradford.

She describes leaving Wakefield “under resistance,” being brought to the district with her heels dragging. However, “having come here, I’ve not looked back,” she said.

“It is not Bradford as such but the people of Bradford. I am a Gujarati speaker, and Bradford has a high Pakistani community.

“By virtue, of working on cases from women’s organisations and refuges, I saw a lot of women from the Pakistani community who only spoke Urdu or Punjabi.

“I had some command of Urdu, but it got to the point where I needed to better my understanding, and I now consider myself being 90% proficient in the language. I learned the language from clients and interpreters. Professionally, I bloomed in Bradford.”

In 2012, Ms Jogi became a partner at Switalskis and later on a director of the firm. Working in family law, she has focused on child law since 2020.

Over the years, the solicitor has helped countless women and families who have gone through domestic abuse or violence, abuse by family parents-in-law or forced marriages.

She recalls helping one woman who was brought over from Pakistan to live with her husband and in-laws. At first, they were happily married but he soon “lost interest.” After giving birth to a child, the extended family took control of the baby girl and following a trip back to Pakistan, she was left abandoned without her child.

In this case, Ms Jogi’s role was not to argue the legalities of her client being stranded in a country without her child, but for the client to regain partial custody of her little girl.

Ms Jogi now represents children in court. 

A success story, the mum and dad split child visitation 60-40. There is no winning or losing in law, it is what the court deems the best outcome for the people involved. Speaking about this,

she said: “I don’t profess to have a golden touch. Lawyers like me will talk about success stories but there are equally heart-breaking ones where you think ‘Could I have done something differently?’”

Following the publication of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, Ms Jogi co-wrote a book, Forced Marriage: A Special Bulletin, with Louise McCallum and Clive Heaton. Over thirteen years later, she still believes that forced marriage is an issue, not just in Bradford, but across the UK and that it remains a hidden issue.

She said: “The number of people coming forward is not reflective of the problem. “To this day, I certainly deal with cases where parties say, ‘I really didn’t want to get married but I felt like I had no choice.’

“When one talks about forced marriages, one often thinks of the most extreme kind of example, the locking up, the beating, the threatening to kill or murder because the forced marriage cases in the press show this.

“The majority of forced marriage cases involve a lot of emotional force going on and a lot of people do not realise that they are being emotionally forced.

“For example, a tactic of saying ‘if you don’t marry this person, then you can’t go to university’ is deployed but a lot of people see it as a negotiation tactic, not a feature that falls within the forced marriage legislation.”

Focusing most of her time on childcare proceedings, Ms Jogi represents children in public cases and private proceedings. “Private proceedings, which usually involves a lawsuit between two parents can become quite complex and the court may decide that the children become a party in the proceedings meaning they need a solicitor representing them.”

The lawyer added: “I have represented quite a few young women aged between fourteen and sixteen where the local authority has obtained a forced marriage order, meaning that I would represent them in court proceedings.”

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