After completing her legal studies with us, Mehvish Zaidi-Goheer focused on her family and was unable to complete her training contract for several years. However, this didn’t stop her from becoming a sole practitioner once she finally qualified. Now Mehvish is a senior partner of Capstone Law (London), specialising in high end litigation claims and disputes. Below, she discusses family struggles, her career, how legal technology is changing the industry and her advice for future lawyers.
I was very much encouraged by my father to pursue a career in law. Apparently I never lost an argument with him as a young girl, so he could clearly see my potential. My father will always be my role model. He has always been an advocate for women’s education, having come from the sub-continent pre-partition and seeing the struggle there, especially for women. He wanted me to be very well educated, regardless of any career I may or may not choose, as he always felt an educated person was a complete person.
After university I chose to study at the College of Law (now The University of Law), despite receiving offers from other institutions, due to its outstanding reputation. There was an enormous sense of prestige associated with it. Similarly, when considering undertaking further studies in legal technology, I was delighted to see The University of Law continued to be forward thinking and progressive by offering an MSc in Legal Technology - a relatively new area of study.
There is something special about The University of Law, as I decided to study my master’s here 17 years after completing my GDL (now the PGDL) and LPC. This time, I completed my MSc online due to family and work commitments, and again, it was incredible. One of the most effective methods used by the University to set students up for success is by allowing them independence. They understand every student is different, and so structure their courses in a way that suits this. This allows students the freedom to study in their own time and it’s just as beneficial as studying face-to-face.
Honestly, my early career ambitions were minimal. I got married straight after I completed my LPC, a year later my son was born, and a few years after that, my daughter. My full focus was on my children and family, even though I was still working in-house at a chartered accountancy firm. Because I put my family first, I didn’t get the opportunity to complete my training contract until many years after my LPC. I want young people to know that this path is okay too. Often, we have to make a choice between one or the other, and whichever you choose will always be the correct path for you. You have the option to pursue your career or family later in life, although the choice for women is undeniably harder, with many more challenges in their way.
My route was harder than most. My daughter was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013 and was put on emergency dialysis. My priorities and mindset changed for life. I was not, and will never be, the same woman I was prior to her diagnosis. I’m actually much stronger now. I continued to work during my daughter’s illness; I prepared trial bundles until the early hours of the morning, attended to her dialysis machines whenever the alarm sounded, and ensured my home was still happy and strong despite our suffering. After years of hardship, struggle, and countless operations and hospital admissions, she was blessed with a kidney transplant.
My ambitions over time have evolved significantly, sparked by the tremendous success I had for my clients and my 100% success rate at trial and mediation. I qualified under very difficult personal circumstances as my daughter was very ill during this period; I worked extremely hard both at work and at home, so to finally qualify was a real victory for me.
Once qualified, I decided I wanted to set up my own firm. Although the pre-requisite to apply for a sole practice is to be three years qualified, I took the plunge and applied several months shy of the requirement and applied for a waiver. I was invited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be interviewed about my application. A few days later I received news that my waiver and application had been granted, and I was authorised as a sole practitioner. In 2022, my sole practice status changed and I was delighted to be authorised as a limited company, allowing me to expand and grow my practice as I had always envisaged.
I’ve never lost a case in my entire career, starting from when I was working as a paralegal in 2006. I pride myself on my success and the drafting of my work, which has been praised during trials by Judges and my colleagues.
As a working mother there is nothing more I aspire for than to maintain and achieve a good work/life balance. Times have changed, there is no need for lawyers to work solely within an office space. A keen area of interest for me is legal technology. Having now studied the technical and practical side of it during my master’s last year, I see how it enables lawyers to work remotely and become more efficient, all whilst still being able to access the required documentation to undertake their day-to-day work.
Whilst the legal profession is one steeped in traditions, it is undeniably time for the profession to modernise itself and allow technology to assist lawyers in providing better services to clients. The use of legal technology further allows us to achieve and maintain a solid work/life balance, which must be practised across the profession.
I became interested in legal technology whilst I was working as a sole practitioner. It started with basic interest into software, such as Case Management Systems, to ensure efficient time keeping and billing. I also realised whenever I was undertaking pro-bono work or offering free legal advice to vulnerable members of society, it concerned access to justice. I then saw how, combined with legal technology, it was allowing more people to gain legal advice and services they wouldn’t have otherwise received. I started developing a platform to facilitate this and ZedteQ Legal was the result.
I do feel there is a need for change in the profession. If technology can assist us to become better lawyers, with more time to assist our clients instead of admin work or identifying and collecting documents required for litigation, this will only enhance efficiency within the profession. As it stands, we’re quite far off from having AI systems solely conducting litigious matters; however, the software that is currently on the market makes the future of legal tech very exciting. I think Artificial Intelligence modules will now start being offered as part of law courses and, over time, it will become compulsory. For students who are forward thinking and want advice as to the next big thing, I can tell you it’s lawyers with an understanding of legal technology.
I genuinely believe firms who only seek to hire the students with the best academic results don’t always get the best lawyers. Being book-smart doesn’t mean an individual is able to practically work as a lawyer, or understand and empathise with their clients, and thus offer tailor made advice and services. It isn’t one size fits all with legal services and clients.
At my firm we place more importance on your interview, when we speak to you personally and get to know you. A CV can be so limited. I like to have a chat with the candidate, ask what areas they’re interested in and so forth. I often think people are surprised by the friendly interviews and how a senior member can be, in my opinion, so compassionate. I was once in their shoes and it made me feel horrible, worthless even. I don’t think it’s needed. I would rather have happy, relaxed, hardworking, and diligent lawyers and staff members, loyal to the firm and who respect their colleagues and clients.
No-one should come to work anxious or nervous because of their workload or a difficult colleague, and no-one at the firm should make anyone else feel that way. Again, I have been there. I believe the previous narratives built around lawyers and law firms needs an overhaul; I’m hopeful the future generation of lawyers will take control of their mental health and look after themselves, their peers, and their juniors. Capstone Law London is already making those changes. We work hard, but in a supportive environment.
Everyone has different circumstances, and this shouldn’t affect your chances at qualifying or gaining legal experience. I’m now offering opportunities to those individuals who completed their LPC many years ago but, due to personal circumstances or family life, were unable to pursue their career. Somebody gave me the opportunity to undertake my training contract with a very ill child, and I am where I am today because of that. It would only be right to pay that opportunity forward.
Interested in learning more about legal technology? Take a look at our MSc in Legal Technology and discover how tech can shape the legal landscape.