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A Day in the Life of Shazia Haider-Shah

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What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am a solicitor advocate. I work in collaboration with solicitors in the office to prepare cases for clients for presentation to the court. I do the court advocacy, advise the client on their case, report back to them and draft up any orders as necessary. I keep in touch with the client, and alongside my colleagues I work towards the trial or settlement - both of which I will do.

A typical day:

Get to court, meet with client, advise on what to expect for the day, liaise with or negotiate with the other representatives, present the case, complete a detailed attendance note, draft an outcome letter, feed back to the office, plan the next steps. Pickup papers for the next day, drive home, usually on the M1 and get in for around 6-7pm. Motivate myself to get to the gym, maybe even go to the gym, come back, make dinner, watch 30 minutes of TV, clear up and sit down (at 10pm) to my brief and bundle or continuing trial prep for the next day, try and limit this to 2 hours and to get in to bed by 1am.

How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?

I’ve been in this role for 6 years, but I have been a solicitor for 20 years. Advocacy has always been my favourite part of the job and as the years have gone by, I have wanted to do more and more of it. In 2012 I qualified as a high court advocate and worked towards achieving my goal of becoming a full-time solicitor-advocate. 

Any memorable stories from your career so far?

I once had to watch a woman take a pregnancy test in court because she insisted on proving that she was not pregnant. One of the best outcomes was a former alcoholic parent, who succeeded in having her child returned to her care, going on to mentor other such parents and helping them to keep their children at the end of care proceedings. I used the expression “old fart” in court once. I was so shocked and embarrassed at myself that I started crying and had to ask the judge for a moment.

What is the best and worst part of the day for you?

The worst is having to waste time at court, waiting to be called on. The best part is knowing that a client feels a hundred times better because of my support.

What keeps you motivated?

Achieving justice for children and families - I truly believe in what I do. I am so privileged to have a good life; I had a secure childhood and upbringing and lots of opportunities. It’s not the same for everyone and I feel strongly that I should do what I can to help people who have not been as lucky as me.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee, please.

What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?

It’s tough. Long hours, mountains of reading and hardly ever a full weekend, but if you have the heart for helping children and families and you believe in justice, then you will be very happy because you will get true job satisfaction.

What song do you listen to the most?

Anything that I can sing along to. These days I am listening to 'Toast' by Koffee 

Who inspires you within the world of family law?

Working women - especially those with young children. Lady Hale is hugely inspirational as she is a woman who brings sense and realism in to the field of family law.

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

I love to catch up with friends; a day at Old Street Baths is a favourite pastime. I love to go to the theatre and watch live music, and I love the outdoors.

What book would you recommend to others?

Feel the fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers or Becoming by Michelle Obama. 

What would be your alternate career?

I would be a backing singer. One of the three ladies behind the main act. 

If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?

Access to justice. Everyone should be entitled to a lawyer, not just those in care proceedings. Having a good lawyer means a case will be managed efficiently, and ultimately the parties - especially the children - will benefit.