From Grays Inn to Malibu: travelling the world with your law – Yasmin Chawdhery

Our author Yasmin Chawdhery

Life after University

After completing my law degree at the University of Manchester in 2004, the pressure was on to decide which path I wanted to take: whether I wanted to be a barrister or a solicitor or whether I even wanted to pursue a career in law. However, the decision was not so tough for me as I had made my decision about the profession I wanted to go into when I was aged just 14. I knew I wanted to be a barrister and it was my love of advocacy that drew me to the profession.

A Pupillage in London

As soon as I finished my law degree, I applied to do the Bar Vocational Course (BVC – now the BPTC) at The Inns of Court School of Law in London (now The City Law School). Before I had completed my BVC, I had already been offered a pupillage at 14 Grays Inn Square. Based in the centre of London, this was a predominantly family law set with a strong reputation in all aspects of family law. As I knew how difficult it was – and still is – to obtain a pupillage, the assurance that I had already obtained a pupillage gave me an incentive to work even harder during the BVC.

Moving back North

The hustle and bustle and the fast pace of London life is something I will never forget. It was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and I feel it helped me to grow as an individual. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of living and working in London, I soon began to realize how increasingly expensive the city was. I decided to return to my hometown of Manchester and continue my career as a barrister there. In Manchester, I joined Kenworthy’s Chambers, one of the most sought after barrister’s chambers in the North of England and a leading set in Immigration and Asylum Law. I continued to practice in Family Law and also added Immigration and Asylum Law to my practice.

Life in LA

By broadening my Family Law practice to Immigration, Asylum and International Law, I began to develop a keen interest for world affairs and global political issues. I wanted to experience the legal system in another country. I wrote different articles on world issues but soon found that I wanted to experience a more hands-on approach. I therefore started to do some research on taking a sabbatical year in order to work in another country. In 2009, I came to hear about an extremely impressive firm in Los Angeles, California, called Howarth and Smith. Howarth and Smith offer students from Oxford and Cambridge University a one year internship program in which British lawyers are able to experience American law. As well as this, Howarth and Smith allows British lawyers to stay rent-free in a beach house condo in Malibu. I did not graduate from Oxford or Cambridge University but I nevertheless had the experience of a practicing barrister. Therefore, I applied for a position at Howarth and Smith and I was extremely pleased when I was offered this position.

Living in Malibu

London v Malibu – hard choice?! Credit: 12thSonOfLama

One of the most surreal experiences started soon after I moved to Malibu. I remember waking up early in the morning to go to the grocery store, which was five minutes from the beach house condo in which I lived, and I was on the phone to my father in England.

Half way through the phone call conversation I said to him, “Oh my God, James Bond is right in front of me now at the grocery store buying a pint a of milk!” He replied, “You mean Sean Connery! Sean Connery is there at the grocery store?” I said to him, “no, the other one! The younger one! Pierce Brosnan!” And there he was. Right in front of me.

Pierce Brosnan just casually buying a pint of milk at the local grocery store.

There came to be many more experiences like this in Malibu and I came to realize that the area in which I lived in Malibu, Point Dume, was a private property area in which many celebrities lived.

LA Law and Howarth and Smith

As well as the surreal experience of living in an area in which many celebrities lived, I had the great opportunity of working at Howarth and Smith. The partners at Howarth and Smith, Don Howarth, Suzelle Smith and Paddy Glaspy, were all graduates from Harvard University. As well as this, Don and Suzelle would regular fly to England to lecture at Oxford University.

Whilst working at Howarth and Smith, I was stimulated by working on legal cases which involved Californian Law. It took time to grasp the American legal system, but, similar to London, LA did not wait for anyone and so this often meant researching the law after work in order to keep up with work at the law firm.

Attorney Retreat in LA

Working in the law firm consisted of working on many high profile cases; conducting legal research for the Partners in the firm; preparing various legal documents, including pleadings and legal memoranda, and preparing attorneys for appearances in court and at depositions. One of the most interesting cases I assisted the attorneys on was a case against the Iranian Government for $28 million.

As well as the interesting case work, the Partners in the firm arranged for us all to go on a Summer Attorney Retreat Program in Palm Springs California for three days which enabled us all to get to know the Partners in the firm on a more relaxed and personal level. The previous year the Partners had taken all of the attorneys to a Retreat Program in Paris. It was a great experience.

The biggest and best surprise

Once the sabbatical year was over, I returned to Kenworthy’s Chambers in England and continued my practice as a barrister. However, during the time in which I lived in America, I did not only experience major changes in my work life but also in my personal life. I met my husband, Dr Elias Hanosh, in America. Kenworthy’s Chambers were so good to me that they gave me time off to go and visit America as often as I could to go and visit my husband. After a lot of flying back and forth in between America and England, we both decided that America was the best place for us to settle since his practice is in America. I decided that I would still pursue my job as a lawyer but that it would be out here in America and not in England.

Attorney-at-Law

Living in America, I continue to pursue my interest in International law. I have taken the Bar exam out here in the States. As well as this, I keep close ties with legal events in England. In 2011, I came across an email from Carol Harris at the Bar Council of England and Wales in which both the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) and the Bar Council were offering a grant of £2500 to two barristers who were interested in attending the International Bar Association Conference in Dubai. I applied for this grant detailing all of the international legal experience I had so far. I was delighted to find out a month later that I was awarded the grant and was able to attend the conference in Dubai. This year, I also attended the American Bar Association (ABA) Conference in New York. The key speaker was the Hollywood actor Michael Douglas who is a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations. Attending the conference gave me a chance to mingle with so many interesting people at The Bar.

Though my life is nothing like the surreal experience I had whilst living in Malibu, and nothing like the hustle and bustle and fast pace of London city life, I am happier than I have ever been now. I did not plan any of these changes but I took chances and risks in order to experience new things. I feel that my education opened doors for me that I could never have imagined to walk through had I not studied hard and obtained the grades that I wanted to. I have made so many friends along the way and continue to stay in touch with the barristers and the clerks at 14 Grays Inn Square, Kenworthy’s Chambers and the attorneys at Howarth and Smith. Every day I feel like I am creating more ways to follow my dream.

Yasmin graduated from the BVC (now BPTC) in 2005. You can find out more about Yasmin’s work via her website.

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