Celebrating South Asian Heritage Month 2023

South Asian Heritage Month 2023 is all about celebrating the stories that make up our diverse and vibrant community and raises awareness of the richness of South Asia’s history and culture. It’s an opportunity to recognise the diverse experiences and valuable contributions of South Asian trailblazers and communities. 

With this year’s theme being ‘Stories to tell’, I’m pleased to share the stories of colleagues, Kiran Birring and Maham Khalid on their experience as South Asian lawyers.

The Law Society’s annual statistics report 2021 found that 18% of solicitors with practising certificates are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. 12% are Asian or Asian British solicitors. South Asians, as well as other underrepresented groups, bring diverse skillsets, viewpoints and experiences to the workplace. Acknowledging the different starting places and experiences of South Asian lawyers is therefore essential to achieving equality.

And when other personal characteristics, such as disability or sexual orientation are involved, the journey involves navigating a different path yet again. I’m therefore delighted to be marking South Asian Heritage Month at Moore Barlow and hope we can work together to improve racial equality and inclusion across the legal profession and wider society.

I hope South Asian Heritage month brings a chance to listen to our colleagues’ stories, understand their journeys into law, and educate each other on the rich diversity of SouthAsian culture and to celebrate the important contribution of South Asian solicitors.

Meet Kiran Birring, Solicitor

Like many I’m a second-generation migrant which I believe is a journey that balances the rich tapestry of cultural heritage handed down by our ancestors with the pursuit of an identity that feels authentic to our lives as members of a multicultural society. As a grandchild of immigrants, I have inherited the legacy of my grandparents’ sacrifices and dreams. My grandparents came to England from India at a very young age with very limited knowledge of the English language. It was down to their sheer determination that they adapted to a new cultural landscape whilst facing language barriers and employment and economic challenges. All that I am today, is due to the fact that I can enjoy the fruits of labour put in by my grandparents.

I have the opportunity to celebrate and cherish our cultural heritage as I can benefit from a fusion of traditions and customs from two worlds. As I grow older, it is important to me that I cherish family recipes and speak the Punjabi language (although I am not as fluent as I wish) to honour my roots. As we all know work can be stressful and on a Wednesday evening I switch off and partake in a fun Bhangra cardio fitness class held by my husband which is enjoyed by members of the public of all backgrounds. In case you weren’t sure ‘Bhangra’ is a lively and energetic folk dance and music style that originated in the Punjab region of South Asia. This type of dance has gained international recognition and popularity over the years – if you haven’t been to an Indian wedding you’re missing out!

My motivation to becoming a lawyer

As many individuals living in Sikh households are aware, there is a pressure to study hard and maintain well recognised respected professions. I believe this is due to our grandparents and parents not having the opportunity to study and they are living out their dreams through their grandchildren and children. Growing up with the expectations of our grandparents’ and parents’ dreams can be seen as motivating as well as pressurising. Although I come from a background of cousins who are lawyers, doctors and dentists, luckily for me I was not pressurised to fitting into the ‘norm’ when it came to jobs. I was able to make my own choices and my parents fully supported my decisions as long as I was happy. It just so happened that I decided myself I too wanted to be a lawyer (which my grandparents are very proud of).

The importance of private wealth law

As I am a private wealth lawyer, it is important to me to raise awareness of what this entails. In the Indian society, the concept of death and inheritance has known to be intertwined with cultural norms and traditions for centuries. It is surprising to find that a significant number of Indian people especially from traditional backgrounds do not prioritise creating a Will. By breaking away from cultural norms and embracing the practice of making Wills this can bring numerous benefits such as estate planning in securing the future for loved ones.

Meet Maham Khalid, Paralegal

My journey into the legal profession has been intense, transforming, and deeply rooted in my South Asian heritage and steadfast love for justice. I confronted and conquered impostor syndrome along this difficult journey, coming out the other side stronger and more motivated than ever. I am grateful and humbled to be working at Moore Barlow today and to be able to contribute to improving the lives of others, just as my respected role model, the late Asma Jahangir, did throughout her exceptional life.

The influence of Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir was pivotal for me to understand the legal system. Coming from Pakistan, a country mired by political injustice and patriarchal values, I sought solace in seeing a woman such as myself make such a big difference in Pakistan. Asma Jahangir was a source of comfort for those fighting for human rights, for women trying to make a name for themselves and for vulnerable individuals. Her work ranged from co-founding the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that was dedicated to promoting human rights in Pakistan, to speaking out against injustice by being politically active and taking up cases for marginalised and vulnerable individuals, including religious minorities.

A woman who was a role model to many, Asma made a name for herself and gave me hope that being a woman, especially a Pakistani was something to be proud of and could be used to bring about change for those who need help. Justice was my passion, to fight for those who did not have a voice, I sought to be just like her. I then decided to do my A levels in Pakistan and was therefore able to gain a place in the LLB class of 2021 at SOAS. I therefore packed my bags and left the country all by myself, determined to work hard and do something worthwhile.

My journey into the legal profession

The journey to success was paved with hard work and steadfast dedication, which culminated in the honour of graduating with first-class honours and receiving recognition for my academic achievements with a bursary from the University of Law. As I finished my LPC LLM and prepared myself to face the rigours of the real world, my journey continued.

I struggled with imposter syndrome along the road, but my determination to have a positive influence on other people’s lives never wavered. I finally landed a job at Moore Barlow because I decided to showcase the team my Pakistani roots, my passion for justice and the reason I am here today; to bring about positive change in the world. Today, I am part of an award winning team that helps advise and guide those who have suffered life changing injuries, supporting them through their rehabilitation process, and fighting for the justice they are deserving of.

As I become aware that I have turned my passion into a purpose, matching my life’s work with the ideals exemplified by my role model, Asma Jahangir, my heart swells with appreciation. I now stand with a strong sense of purpose, emboldened by my heritage and motivated by the desire to bring about change, just as she did when she bravely stood out for the voiceless.

In summary, my journey into law has been an amazing experience, enriched by a strong Pakistani woman’s life and legacy. Her unyielding determination has pushed me to embrace my identity as a woman, a Pakistani, and an activist. As I continue to weave my legal route, I honour her memory by carrying on her tradition of pushing for justice, uplifting the marginalised, and making a significant difference in the lives of those in need. My path to becoming a lawyer is inextricably linked to the daring steps of my role model, who guided me towards a meaningful and fulfilling career of making a difference.

Interested in joining Moore Barlow?

We’re always on the lookout for the next generation of talent with the right skills and, most importantly, a ‘can do’ and positive attitude. We’re equally interested in hearing from experienced people that want to take their career to the next level.

We are a vibrant law firm with a reputation for providing practical solutions and excellent service to our clients. Providing great legal services starts with having the right people. Having the right qualifications and skills are clearly important. Having a can do, no challenge is too big attitude, aligned with being a team player with a positive outlook is a must at Moore Barlow.

Often we are providing services and support at the times when our clients are dealing with big, often life changing, challenges – personally or professionally. Having empathy together with a practical solutions based approach is really important.

Explore our latest vacancies