Muslim lawyer says lack of minorities in legal profession

A lawyer who received the ‘Services to Law’ prize at the British Muslim Awards has said there is a “massive under-representation” of ethnic minority groups in the legal profession.

Winner: Bilkis Mahmood says positive drive needed to diversify the legal profession.
Winner: Bilkis Mahmood says positive drive needed to diversify the legal profession.

Bilkis Mahmood, Senior Partner at Blackstone Law, qualified in 2003. But it was a difficult beginning for Ms Mahmood who, although had ambitions of becoming a lawyer at the age of 16, after completing her A-levels decided to get married.

After having three children, Ms Mahmood went back to her studies to fulfil her and her father’s ambition of seeing her become a lawyer.

Ms Mahmood told The Yorkshire Post that there was still a “massive under-representation” of ethnic minority groups, in the legal profession.

She added: “In the legal profession there’s a lack of opportunity and recognition. My own personal view is although the law society is encouraging law firms to have a diversity policy, I don’t feel it’s efficient. There is still a bottleneck and very few people are actually appointed, there is a firm belief that law is a traditionally male, white orientated profession.

“It’s changing, but it’s changing very slowly, I think it needs to have a really positive drive on so many different levels, the law society obviously being just one level, there is a lot more that law firms can actually do.”

Ms Mahmood has set up a non-profit part to Blackstone Law whereby they give training contracts to trainees from a range of ethnic minority backgrounds. She hopes that it will help them get their foot in the door.

“They’re finding it very difficult to get their foot in,” said Ms Mahmood.

On winning the award, Ms Mahmood said: “I honestly did not think I’d stand a chance, particularly because I was up against some very experienced and high profile solicitors and barristers.”

Ms Mahmood, from Leeds, recalled the challenges she faced starting her legal career. “I had a lot of support but it was still difficult. My children were relatively young,” she said.

The culmination of her studies hold bittersweet memories for Ms Mahmood, whose father passed away during her final exams, which saw her qualify in 2003.

Citing herself as an example, Ms Mahmood said Muslim women aspiring for a career in law shouldn’t give up. “It’s about having a positive approach,” she said.