Asma Zehra is a first-generation lawyer in Pakistan, specializing in family law. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, she details what inspired her to become a lawyer, how her new law firm is a catalyst for the careers of female advocates, and what her hopes are for the future.
“What inspired you to become a lawyer?
I always wanted to make a positive impact on society and support women’s empowerment, as advocacy was typically presumed to be a male-dominated field. It was a great opportunity for me to make a name for myself in the field and encourage other women to pursue their goals without the hurdle of not having resources. I want to use the law to advocate for those who may not have a voice or are otherwise marginalized.
Despite having my family’s financial support, I always wanted to do something on my own. So, I left my comfort zone and studied law on my self-finance to raise the bar for other young girls to pursue their goals without financial hurdles.
How do you express your experience as a first-generation lawyer, and what challenges did you face in your initial years of your career?
Being a first-generation lawyer is not easy compared to someone with a legal background. One has to work from scratch, from landing potential clients to getting an opportunity to work in reputable law firms without contacts and references. The recruitment process is one of the most cumbersome procedures to survive in the legal field as a first-generation lawyer. Based on my personal experience, hiring in several law firms requires a solid connection or a reference to get into the firm. Even grasping an internship during the intimation period needs a strong network in the profession. Therefore, the reality remains the same that there are some tedious and unending challenges for a first-generation lawyer. But with consistency and hard work, I gradually made my place in the field.
You recently founded your own law firm. What is your practice focus?
Our practice particularly focuses on family laws, which includes domestic violence, maintenance rights, child custody, and civil matters. However, in general, we deal with special laws, such as income tax and customs laws.
You also maintain a pro bono practice. Tell us about that.
Since my firm comprises young lawyers, our first priority is to provide quality work and help those who need legal help but can’t afford it. Our targeted clients are women victims of domestic abuse/violence or those deprived of their legal rights, as we strongly advocate for human rights.
What are your long-term goals for your law firm?
Since my firm is based on 85% female young advocates, my long-term goals are to establish a safe place for future young female advocates and provide them with opportunities to boost their careers. In particular, we are looking forward to working more on mediation in family cases to avoid litigation. Furthermore, I aim to provide the highest quality legal services in the most cost-competitive and accessible manners. I believe that recourse to legal remedies is a basic right for all, and so through my firm, I aim to spread legal solutions to everyone.
There is a common misconception that lawyers or legal services are only required when something terribly goes wrong, or are reserved for the very few affluent and elite, or are just utterly unapproachable. My goal is to change this common narrative.
Would you like to shed some light on what qualities an advocate should possess for a successful career?
In my opinion, a lawyer’s verbal stance should be clear, concise, and persuasive. Clients expect lawyers to get them swift justice and recourse and, at the same time, be keen listeners. These are the abilities that I believe a lawyer should possess.
In order to render effective client service, a lawyer needs to be more than persuasive and empathetic. Using positive language, drawing inferences for actions, and adapting to the client’s expectations helps lawyers keep their clients satisfied. With self-control, patience, and a responsible approach, lawyers can secure higher professional success through an increasing client base in their careers.
How can you be contacted?
I can be reached through my social media accounts and through my firm official website for any legal assistance.