Future Lawyer Blog

Exclusive Interview with Zain Ismail: I Hope To Own my Own Steak-House One Day

zain graduate copyMeet the Law Society President who arranged for Baroness Lady Hale to speak at City, organised the Law Ball, published an academic journal and gained sponsorships from magic-circle firms— all while studying for his LLB at City.

First-year undergraduate Christianah Babajide speaks to recent Law Graduate Zain Ismail- President of the largest society on campus during 2015-16 and newly elected Vice-President Education at City University’s Students Union. He recaps the main events and awards his society has received alone under his unique leadership and tells us the secret to juggling extra-curricular activities — with a demanding law degree.

  1. To begin with, could you tell us why you picked to study Law at City University of London?

I originally applied to study law at the University of Manchester, however, I did not achieve the required grades. Also due to the high cost of living, I then decided to remain in London and City was my best option. City University London offers a wide range of modules across the LLB, especially during the final year. This was certainly one of the deciding factors that influenced my decision. Looking back, I am glad I chose to study at City because I have been able to achieve so much here— both in my academics and outside my studies.

  1. What do you think would surprise most people about the LLB course at City?

The jump from first to second year in my opinion. The second year was the hardest for me, so please be prepared to work a lot harder and push your boundaries further!

  1. In past years, City’s Law Society has been low-key and failed to meaningfully engage with the student body. But under your leadership, membership has sky-rocketed, the CLS has many connections with prestigious law firms and the student body has weekly events to attend. How did you manage to do it all – whilst studying the law?
Law Society Committee 2015-16

Law Society Committee 2015-16

Thank you, I am really proud at how the Law Society has improved so much in just one year. The only way I have been able to do it all is through the help of others! The Law Society had a huge lack of presence on campus during previous years and many law students, as expected, were extremely disappointed with this.

I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic team who supported my vision and worked extremely hard to push forward ideas into action.

It was very hard at times, especially trying to kick start the society activities and boost membership.

Collectively, with a Committee of seven and 30+ volunteers, we managed to all share some responsibility and support each other throughout. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my committee.

  1. As President of the City’s Law society, can you name some proud moments?

I have many proud moments for sure! However, the launch of The City Law Society Journal (first issue) is my proudest. To see the amount of effort and work put into the project was the best feeling ever, alongside being immensely praised by LLB Programme Director, Dr David Seymour.  I was also extremely proud that the law society was able to host Baroness Hale, the Law Lady Lord, at City University. The turnout was amazing and more than I expected it to be! More than 300 students came to listen to her speak on women ascending to the Bar and all from various universities – some even as far as the University of Manchester.

Zain at the Law Society Journal launch

Zain at the Law Society Journal launch

  1. The Law Society launched The City Law Society Journal in March 2016 and the Journal is sponsored by magic-circle giant Freshfields, Ashurst, Accutrainee, Aspiring Solicitors and The City Law School. As the Founding Editor-in-Chief, can you tell us what it took to produce the first issue of this academic journal?

As my colleague, right-hand man and one of my closest friends put it, “blood, sweat and tears”. There was over 650 emails back and forth, a lot of chasing up in order to stick to strict deadlines, updating the sponsoring organisations with progress and huge work around the design of the journal. It was difficult from the beginning in order to bring writers, editors and sponsors on board all through to the launch event which was a huge success. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who were involved in this project once again!

  1. At the end of the academic year, The City’s Law Society won ‘Most Improved Society’ this year and you were also awarded for your individual role as President, what are you expecting from the law society in the upcoming academic year?

awardsHonestly, many things! The Law Society has had a great year with huge support from the Students’ Union, The City Law School, law firms and external organisations. I would expect the Law Society to grow even bigger, continue to be the biggest society on campus and continue to do amazing activities. The society has a strong foundation to achieve great things and I am sure the new Committee will not just be as good but even better!

  1. You have a strong background of extra-curricular activities. How have you managed your degree workload alongside being the President, Finance Officer, Trustee as well as Student Ambassador at City?

The moment I realised this is what I enjoy doing most is when I decided to get involved in as many things as possible. From these extra-curricular activities, I have gained & developed leadership, communication, project-management, collaboration, time management and team-work skills. As expected, I would be up till late most days of the week. Managing your workload can be difficult as ultimately it is down to you. I was fortunate enough to be in a cohort of great people who are always willing to help. My close friends & family are the reason why I continued to push myself to do as much as I can and study just as hard!

  1. City University London is happy to have you as our newly elected Vice-President of Education at City’s Students’ Union – Congratulations on your new role! What would you like to achieve in your time at the office?

Thank you! There are a number of points I was elected on, however, my main focus will be revamping and making our programme representative system more efficient, working towards increasing lecture capture across all courses and organising networking events for students.

  1. City University is ranked highly for student satisfaction but we are always looking for areas of improvement. How can the Students’ Union and societies on campus work together to respond to the needs of its members?

Over the coming years, the University and Students’ Union will be working towards and pushing to help create a better Community at City. The Students’ Union and Societies can work collectively on events, projects and the local community to respond to the needs of the whole student community. It is also key for the Students’ Union to partner with University Departments, all Schools and external organisations to achieve the needs.

  1. You have managed to secure many work placements at law firms and attended many legal workshops, all which include tests and interviews with legal professionals. What are your top tips for success at interviews?

Firstly, always be yourself and don’t panic.

Secondly, prepare well and make note of all the examples you could use to show-off your skills. Remember: interviewers are not always there to trick you; they want to help you too. Aspiring Solicitors offer a range of fantastic services to students, such as mock interviews, so please take advantage of this!

  1. Do you have any survival tips for completing the LLB, that first-year students starting at City in September 2016 would appreciate?

Get yourself out there, speak to your tutors, lecturers, other students and staff! There is a lot of reading, writing and sleeping to be done so please push out of your comfort zone(s) and always look to improve. One thing I have learnt over the years is to make the most of your contacts, whether this be with studies or projects, so I would encourage you to do the same!

  1. Your society single-handedly organised a Law Ball in Central London for its members. You had a professional photographer, DJ, fun photo-booth, a delicious three-course meal – all within very classy scenery at the Royal Horse Guards Hotel. This must have taken months to organise – how did you manage it?
Even the academics enjoyed it! Dr David Seymour & Emily Allbon

Even the academics enjoyed it! Dr David Seymour & Emily Allbon

The 2016 Law Ball was a fantastic end of year celebration for all. I managed to meet some fantastic people throughout the year and one in particular at the Law Ball!

I supported this project through working with the Students’ Union and The City Law School to secure sponsorship and ensure the health & safety of attendees remained the top priority throughout the planning.

I also lead on registration and ticket sales. However, the majority of credit is due to ex Vice-President Mahmuda Firdawsi. I tasked Mahmuda to take a lead on this event as a whole and I am sure many would happily say without Mahmuda this event would not have been as successful. Thank you Mahmuda!

  1. Halfway through the event, your colleagues called you out and presented you with a Law Society T-shirt signed by everyone. How did you feel receiving that gift?

I was absolutely ecstatic! I felt so happy to work with and be surrounded by great people who left some heartfelt messages. Honestly, this was the best gift ever!

Zain's surprise presentation at the Law Ball

Zain’s surprise presentation at the Law Ball

  1. You had your Graduation Ceremony on the 20th of July. Looking back at the three-year course- was it worth it?

It certainly was! I have had the best 3 years of my life and having the opportunity to stay at City for another year, to represent students’ is a huge blessing in disguise.



  1. So, what’s next for Zain Ismail?

I am hoping to either begin a Graduate Scheme or complete the LPC (or continue within City’s Students’ Union). I guess I am not too sure yet, however, my ultimate dream is to run my own steakhouse one day!

Quick fire questions;

  • Favourite app? Subway Surfer
  • Last thing you ate? Biryani
  • Last film you saw? Captain America: Civil War (I think – it’s been a while)!
  • What colour describes you best? Navy

Final message from Zain:

I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all those who were involved within the Law Society over the past year. Your support and effort is what keeps a society great and I wish the new Committee the best of luck with their work. I am always willing to help so please reach out to me if you need anything!

  1. I think this is a wonderful interview, congratulations zain.

    However, it is a bit steep to say the t-shirt was the best gift ever. You were recently honoured to receive a David Beckham autograph, with everlasting gratitude to me.

    I suggest you think about re-phrasing. In truth, the best gift is myself – a priceless piece of art.

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