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British Pakistani Muslim Barrister Zira Hussain’s road to success | LEGAL 500

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British Pakistani Muslim Barrister Zira Hussain’s road to success | LEGAL 500

🇵🇰 🇬🇧 I don’t think that little girl could have imagined that one day she would be a barrister with one of the leading chambers on the North Eastern Circuit. Zira Hussain is a member of Broadway House Chambers which has offices in Leeds and Bradford.

Four-year-old Zira Hussain’s first day at school in rural Kashmir (AJKAzad Jammu & Kashmir) also marked her first steps on a journey leading to the then Inns of Court School of Law in London.
Combined arms of the four Inns of Court. Clockwise from top left: Lincoln's Inn, Middle Temple, Gray's Inn, Inner Temple.
Combined arms of the four Inns of Court. Clockwise from top left: Lincoln’s Inn, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple. WIKIPEDIA

Zira Hussain, now 44, said “I don’t think that little girl could have imagined that one day she would be a barrister with one of the leading chambers on the North Eastern CircuitZira Hussain is a member of Broadway House Chambers which has offices in Leeds and Bradford.

Zira Hussain | Broadway House
Broadway House
Zira Hussain, I first revisited my school in Pakistan at the end of 1999.  It’s a very simple building in a lovely village in Kashmir.  We didn’t have desks we had to sit on the floor

Zira is one of six girls and was born in Oldham.  But when she was three years old her father decided to take his family to AJK (Azad Jammu & KashmirPakistan administered Kashmir).  She said “we stayed there for a few years before returning to EnglandZira said “I’d been taught in Urdu and remember walking into a classroom in Oldham and not understanding a word of English.  It wasn’t until I was almost nine years of age that I was able to speak English fluently”

Childhood photo, Zira is second from the left / Courtesy Zira Hussain
Childhood photo, Zira is second from the left / Courtesy Zira Hussain

Learning quickly

Zira Hussain, I thought to myself what am I doing here? But all the other children were great with me.  There were very few pupils from an Asian background, which actually helped because I had to learn to quickly communicate

Confidence is very important in the law.  At school, I was very quiet, which most people who know me would find hard to believe.  Thankfully, one of my teachers encouraged me to study Drama and Theatre Arts at GCSE.  That helped me to build confidence and acquire skills that have been especially useful for advocacy”

Zira said women like her were not expected to pursue powerful professional careers.  As a daughter of illiterate working-class immigrants, she strove for a better life.  At comprehensive school, Zira’s first dreamed of becoming a doctor but changed her mind when she started to study ‘A Levels’ at a local, state, sixth form college.  Zira said “I’m lucky that lots of people encouraged me to go to the Bar.  My A level law tutor encouraged me, so did my personal tutor at university.  My late father was inspirational and gave me phenomenal support”

Personal sacrifices

Zira Hussain, There have been lots of sacrifices.  I have had to work incredibly hard and haven’t spent as much time with family and friends as I would have liked.  My clients need to know I am giving 100%.  Family law means advising clients going through traumatic times.  They need to know their counsel is going all out to fight their corner

Zira’s career has involved a broad spread of family work including financial remedy, children, domestic abuse, forced marriage and honour-based violence.  Zira has specialised in family law since completing pupillage.  She is a fearless, tenacious, conscientious and hardworking barrister

Call to the Bar / Courtesy Zira Hussain
Call to the Bar / Courtesy Zira Hussain

Graduating

FACT FILE: ZIRA HUSSAIN  2015 to Present: Family Barrister at Broadway House Chambers, Leeds & Bradford  2013 to 2015: Family barrister at Parklane Plowden Chambers , Leeds  2002 to 2013: Family barrister at St PhilipsChambers, Birmingham  2000 to 2002: Third six pupillage, Tenant at Guildhall Chambers, Bristol  1998 to 1999: Pupillage at Grays Inn Chambers, London  1997 to 1998: Bar vocational course at Inns of Court School of Law, London  1994 to 1997: University of Huddersfield LL B (Hons)

Zira took the then Bar Vocational Course after graduating from university and attended the then Inns of Court School of Law.  Zira was the first in her family to go to university.  She said “applying for pupillage was a very long and drawn out process and I had my fair share of rejections – like all the other students”

Zira is remembered with affection by Peter Blair QC now HHJ Peter Blair QC who is a former head of Guildhall Chambers in Bristol.  Zira secured a third six pupillage here after completing pupillage in London when she was 23.  Peter described Zira as “great fun to work with” and added: “she is extremely vivacious, enthusiastic and committed to her work.  Zira was very much appreciated by her clients who were often in a very difficult place both legally and emotionally”

David Hershman QC

In the early years of tenancy Zira counts herself as fortunate to have had the chance to work with the late David Hershman QC at St Philips Chambers in Birmingham.  David was a celebrated lawyer, author and lecturer who was passionate advocate for children’s rights.  Zira said “ David was the head of the family law practice group when I joined St Philips Chambers.  He was the most inspirational person in my professional life for whom I had the utmost respect.  He welcomed me when I joined St Philips Chambers.  He was very supportive of junior members and would always make time for us”

Helping Others

Outside of work Zira is keen to put something back into the local community.  She feels particularly strongly about the need to tackle forced marriage, domestic abuse and honour based violence.  Zira chaired a then Legal Services Commission focus group looking at how to improve access to legal services for victims of domestic abuse.  This was attended by local agencies and charities as well as women using or trying to make use of the legal aid system.  It was aimed specifically at women in black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

Zira Hussain / Courtesy Zira Hussain
Zira Hussain / Courtesy Zira Hussain

Zira’s passion for helping others came as no surprise to Paul Fletcher, who was Zira’s clerk when she first started practising in the family team at Guildhall Chambers in Bristol.  Paul said “Zira was always passionate about her work with Asian Women’s charities.  He added “ I know too that she was proud and absolutely thrilled to be nominated for inclusion in the Muslim Women Power List 2009”

European Muslim Women of Influence List 2010  The Legal Services Commission had put Zira forward for the European Muslim Women of Influence List 2010. Finalists were announced at a gala event in Spain in spring 2010, which were tied in with the EU presidency. According to the competition website  the idea of the event  was to:  commend the achievements of European Muslim women diversify the mainstrem representation of Muslim women inspire accomplishment across Europe’s diverse communities.  Zira said: ‘I do think that successful Muslim women need to be role models to encourage others to make a success of their lives. That little girl from Kashmir did well because she always had a lot of support from family and friends. Sadly, I know that is missing for many people.’Zira was nominated by then Legal Services Commission for inclusion in the prestigious Muslim Women Power List 2009.  The list was devised and run by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in partnership with The Times to commend achievements of Muslim Women at top of their profession or on their way to the top and aimed to highlight their contribution to socio-economic society.  Zira was also nominated for inclusion in the European Muslim Women of Influence List 2010.  The aim of this list was to commend the achievements of European Muslim Women, diversify the mainstream representation of Muslim women and inspire accomplishment across Europe’s diverse communities.

Zira has featured in her former university, the University of Huddersfield’s marketing and promotional materials.  Zira has also featured in the Eastern Eye as an inspirational woman.  Zira’s road to success was a feature article in then Legal Services Commission’s Focus Magazine.    

Zira is ranked in the Legal 500.  Legal 500 is the Client’s Guide to the best law firms, top lawyers, Attorneys, Advocates, Solicitors and barristers.  Zira is ranked in Tier 1 (Top Tier) for the 2018 and 2019 editions.

Zira Hussain
2018 states “ She has a great bedside manner with clients”

2019 states “ Very enthusiastic and a dynamic cross examiner”
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