We recently caught up with Faysal Yaqoob, an immigration solicitor at Fountain Solicitors’ busy Manchester office. Fountain Solicitors are a national firm of solicitors with offices in Walsall, Newport, Birmingham and Manchester specialising in a wide range of areas, including immigration, asylum and human rights law.
Faysal kindly shared his career highlights, challenges, and hopes for the future of immigration laws.
Why did you choose to pursue a legal career?
I chose to pursue a legal career after seeing the difficulties that those in my community went through. There would often be language and cultural barriers that meant people were unable to access services or support. This sometimes also related to the imbalance of power between those who were supposed to be there to help and those needing the help.
After seeing this, I developed a passion to want to help “the underdog” however I could and a career in law was perfect for this. As I went through my studies and my early career this feeling was solidified and I knew that a career in law was exactly what I wanted.
What has been a highlight of your career in immigration?
Just after qualifying, I recall a very desperate family that came to see me. I was faced with a family of six or seven sat in front of me crying because their applications had been refused and the previous representatives had sadly not given them the best advice. Seeing fully grown adults crying in front of their children is a very moving scene for even the strongest of us – I shed tears with them and assured them that I would help.
I took on their matters and submitted further applications for them, fought long and hard against the Home Office and secured successful outcomes. But the highlight was not necessarily the result, but what happened next.
After I invited the family into the office to discuss the result, I recall the family sitting in exactly the same places they sat when they came to see me initially all those months ago. This was by coincidence (I assure you I do not make my clients sit in seating plans!).
I immediately thought back to that family who were crying and so desperate all those months ago now looking so happy and having hope for the future. The despair was replaced by hopes and dreams. I recall thinking how I was the one who achieved this for them, how I was able to be a part of their lives forever being the solicitor who helped get their lives back on track.
Just like we cried together all those months before, we all sat together and laughed. Although I have had similar matters after this, that moment was profoundly touching and inspiring for me. I would say that it may be the highlight of my career to date.
What challenges have you faced throughout your career?
Access to the profession can be quite difficult. Being the first person from my family to have gone to university I did not have many contacts to help guide me. For me I found this made me work harder but at times it was daunting.
“..it is possible to overcome difficulties.”
However, I have found that if a person has a clear plan of what they would like to achieve, does not let failures define them but utilises them as lessons going forward and works hard, it is possible to overcome difficulties.
What do you hope for the future of the legal industry?
I hope for the industry to become more accessible to those who are from less well-off backgrounds. Although there is a move towards this, I feel that it is too slow and gradual. There needs to be active and material moves towards improving access to the profession.
What do you hope for the future of immigration laws?
Unfortunately, the current direction of immigration laws seems to be guided by unfair stereotypes of immigrants and effectively a demonisation of those who work in this field. I would hope that this changes and there is greater understanding amongst law and policy makers about the ground realities faced by migrants.
I accept that there needs to be regulation of this area, but the current Immigration Rules are a minefield of complexities and with ever-evolving case law, keeping on top of this can be hard for even the best practitioner. A move towards simplifying the laws would be a welcome change for the future for everyone, including clients, practitioners, the Home Office and judges.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming an immigration solicitor?
My advice to anyone wanting to be an immigration solicitor is to consider what they want to achieve from their work. Being an immigration solicitor requires a fine balance between professionalism and empathy, whilst being thick skinned to many things like criticism and demonisation from the highest levels of government to the lowest levels of media.
You need to be able to feel the pain of your client but be guided by your professionalism in achieving the best outcome for them. If you cannot feel the pain of your client, I feel that clients then become nothing more than a reference number for some practitioners and we can lose sight of how important the work we do is.
Our work has real life consequences for the clients we act for. Get as much experience as you can and volunteer at charities that assist migrants, as this will give you a first-hand view of the types of issues practitioners are faced with.
Most importantly, develop a passion for the area and let this passion keep you going!
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