“I don’t want this to be a sob story,” says Nabarro paralegal and future trainee Jasleen Kaur. “I want to encourage other people, who might not feel like they can do it, or have been in a similar situation to mine.”
Kaur is referring to her emigration to the UK from Afghanistan in 2005. Aged 14, she spoke no English and was living in a guest house for recently arrived asylum seekers, having fled her home country with her parents and two brother for religious reasons. Now, just under a decade later, she sits in a meeting room at her firm’s London Wall office, vast windows looking onto the City skyline.
“When you come to the UK, you go to the Home Office and they allocate you to a housing association,” she explains. “We were sent to Huddersfield and the local council provided us with a home.”
Before a home in Huddersfield came a guest house in South London’s East Dulwich. It was here, just days after her arrival in the UK, that Kaur began to learn English.
“It was hard to find my feet,” she admits. “You don’t know anybody and you don’t know the language.
“We stayed there for 18 days and I realised I could do something, rather than just wait for the time to pass. I had to do it, it was an opportunity. I could sit at home and think about the past or I could make the most of the opportunity.”
She tentatively began learning English, using children’s books in the guest house to learn the alphabet and exchanging the odd word with social workers around the house.
After moving up North, Kaur started at her local secondary school, developing her English with the help of her mentor. Her aim through school was to get into the best possible sixth form college, a plan which was nearly scuppered when she contracted tuberculosis of the brain.
“We hadn’t had any vaccinations when we were younger,” she says matter-of-factly. “I was in and out of the hospital for a year during my GCSEs – the nurses at the hospital used to help me with my maths homework.”
Despite the setback, she succeeded in going to best local college and from there went on to study law at the University of Huddersfield. Kaur knew she wanted a legal career via various work placements, and a placement in the commercial property department of the local council piqued her interest in property firms.
“It [the built environment] is the stuff you see every day, it affects so many people,” she enthuses. “It was the tangible aspect of it that motivated me.”
After several unsuccessful applications, Kaur found herself on Nabarro’s vacation scheme. “It was around this time last year that I was sat in a Nabarro presentation, listening to what it would be like,” she says. “Now I’m here.”
The offer of a paralegal job came on the last day of her vacation scheme and she returned to the firm just a couple of weeks afterwards, at around the same time she was told she would be a future trainee at the firm.
Optimistic to the last, Kaur says: “Every law student struggles. At one point, after you have rejection after rejection, you wonder if you are ever going to make it. I tend to focus on positivity.”