Being different can be an advantage

Published 19th July 2017

By Nasteya Mahamud, First 100 Years Student Ambassador

Born in Somalia and raised in Kenya and Sweden before completing her education in the UK, Jamila Hassan’s childhood was unlike that of most of her peers. Besides being multi-lingual and multi-cultural (she is fluent in Somali, Swahili, Swedish and English), Hassan knew from a young age that she was committed to social justice. She worked with female refugees in Kenya and volunteered with community organisations in Sweden and the UK.

While she was in Sweden, she founded an award-winning organisation that worked to empower marginalised individuals. Her unique life experience has shaped her career. Hassan is a barrister at Goldsmith Chambers. She specialises in immigration, human rights and public law, with expertise including judicial review and family law.

However, being different has not always been easy as Hassan discovered during her journey into the profession. Those from non-traditional backgrounds encounter a variety of challenges due to their socioeconomic backgrounds. Hassan considers passion and determination to be key to overcoming obstacles. She also discovered the importance of having role models. Hassan credits the mentorship she received from High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs for helping her navigate her way through Bar school and pupillage.

Hassan is of the view that the Bar, and the legal profession as a whole needs to evolve, if it is to represent the diverse society that our justice system is an integral part of. As a mother and a working woman, she is lucky to be part of a supportive team, which has enabled her to develop her practice and achieve work-life balance. She understands the challenges and would like to see a comprehensive programme established to support pupils and junior barristers with care commitments.

At the end of the day, Hassan believes that being different can be an advantage.

“Ask yourself, what can being different do for me and what can I bring to the table as someone who is not the same as everyone else?”

That is her advice to aspiring lawyers from non-traditional backgrounds.