We celebrate the achievements and stories of exceptional women who have made a significant impact on their communities and the world.
Throughout her career, Lubna Shuja has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, working to break down barriers and create opportunities for underrepresented groups. In 2022, Lubna made history when she was elected as the first Asian, first Muslim, and seventh female president of the Law Society of England and Wales. In this role, she leads the organisation’s efforts to support and represent solicitors in England and Wales, as well as promote the rule of law and access to justice.
Through her story, we will gain a deeper understanding of Lubna’s leadership style, her commitment to excellence, and her dedication to making the legal profession more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Join us as we celebrate the groundbreaking career of Lubna Shuja, and learn from her inspiring example of leadership, courage, and perseverance in the face of adversity.
𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧?
You can catch Rob and Lubna Shuja talking about:
- What is a sole practitioner and the benefits of being one?
- Responsibilities she had during her roles as Deputy Vice President and then Vice President.
- How did she feel about being the first Asian Muslim of the Law Society of England and Wales?
- Her advice to individuals in achieving their dreams.
- Significant challenges that the legal profession is facing today.
- 5 aims she outlined in her presidential speech.
- Gain exclusive benefits and bonus content by signing up on Legally Speaking Podcast’s Patreon page
Lubna’s background and journey:
- Lubna is originally from Bradford, from a working-class background and went to a state comprehensive school.
- She didn’t have any legal role models and didn’t watch legal dramas. She later became a fan of L.A. Law when at university.
- Initially, Lubna planned to study English because she wanted to become a journalist based on the experiences of her cousins, who worked at the BBC.
- She did better than expected in her A-levels and a friend suggested she should apply to study Law instead.
- Although it was not part of her planned journey, Lubna loved studying Law and became interested in case law, legislation and problem-solving.
- She later decided she wanted to become a Lawyer.
About Legal Swan Solicitors:
- Lubna moved to Birmingham, to set up Legal Swan Solicitors on her own.
- The initial process was scary because she had always worked in a practice with other partners.
- Lubna’s background is in litigation, including family law, wills and probate.
- She enjoys client interaction, and learning about people’s backstories.
- Lubna now focuses on mediation – a way of resolving disputes without going to Court.
- Mediation involves sitting down and talking to individuals about how they got to where they are, and what they want to get out of the process.
What is a sole practitioner?:
- A sole practitioner is a Solicitor who has set up their practice and works alone without other partners.
- This means the sole practitioner has complete control over their decisions and does not have to attend partner meetings.
- The practitioner takes full responsibility for all decisions made, which is a big responsibility in itself.
- They can work in a way that suits them, take on cases they want and work flexible hours.
- The downside is that work-life balance can be difficult to achieve, as sole practitioners tend to work much harder than they did when working for someone else.
- Sole practitioners are responsible for bringing an income and making the business successful.
- The Law Society represents just over 220,000 Solicitors across England and Wales, and 17% of them are sole practitioners.
Types of cases as a Civil and Family Mediator:
- Lubna deals with civil disputes and family cases as a sole practitioner.
- Civil disputes involve disputes between 2 individuals in the County Court.
- Family cases involve matters such as children, finances, and property in divorce or separation cases.
- Lubna also deals with cases involving inheritance disputes, which offers a unique insight into family dynamics.
- Lubna finds it interesting to learn about people’s stories and help them get to where they want to be.
Lubna’s experience as Chair of the following committees – Disciplinary, Regulatory Professional Conduct, Fitness to Practice and Investigatory. Why are the committees an important part of our legal system?:
- Professionals are in a position of trust.
- They must act with integrity – within standards and regulations.
- The high standards ensure individuals maintain the expected behaviour of professionals.
- As the Chair of these committees, Lubna dealt with cases of misconduct and competence, often due to health issues or personal circumstances.
- The primary objective is to protect the public interest.
What responsibilities did Lubna have as Deputy Vice President and Vice President of The Law Society of England and Wales?:
- The Deputy Vice President and Vice President stand in for the President when the President is not available due to their busy diary.
- Their responsibilities include sitting on the board, chairing committees, making decisions around litigation, as well as getting involved in media and government meetings.
- Lubna is passionate about upholding and safeguarding the Rule of Law, ensuring it applies to everyone and calling out when it doesn’t happen.
- She wants to engage with Society members to address concerns and issues.
- Lubna wants to educate the public on the value of Solicitors.
- The international work involves promoting England and Wales as a global jurisdiction – looking for new opportunities for members to practice in other countries.
What is The Law Society’s Membership and Communications Committee? What initiatives did Lubna lead at the time?
- The Membership and Communications Committee focuses on supporting, promoting, and representing members of The Law Society.
- The Committee looks at what kind of support members need and how The Law Society can help them in their businesses.
- They explore communication methods and what kind of information members want to receive.
- Training, events, and updates on legal areas are organised.
- Specific sectors of the community are also targeted, such as Junior Solicitors and In-House Solicitors, to understand their unique needs and provide support accordingly.
- The Committee works to represent and support all different sectors within the legal profession.
Lubna became the 1st Asian and 1st Muslim President of The Law Society of England and Wales:
- Lubna describes being President of The Law Society as an incredible honour and privilege.
- She never thought she would achieve this.
- Lubna recalls studying to become a Solicitor 30 years ago, at the College of Law, just off Chancery Lane.
- She never imagined she would return to the same area as President of The Law Society.
- Lubna acknowledges the hard work she’s put in over the past 30 years, to get to where she is.
Lubna’s advice to individuals interested in pursuing a career in the legal field:
- Taking opportunities that present themselves is important in one’s career.
- It is crucial to treat every interaction as a potential interview and to network.
- Don’t dismiss people or events that may seem insignificant as they may lead to unexpected opportunities.
- Allies can push you out of your comfort zone, which can help you grow and learn.
- Take every opportunity that comes, treat every interaction as if it’s an interview, and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Lubna’s Presidential speech and 5 main aims:
- Lubna wants to be a leading voice on justice, the Rule of Law, and the value of Solicitors.
- She wants to focus on professional ethics in areas without clear rules and regulations, such as climate change and artificial intelligence.
- She wants to provide business support for members, promoting the profession and jurisdiction internationally.
- Lubna is committed to increasing diversity, particularly at senior levels in the profession and the judiciary.
- The profession has made progress when it comes to diversity, including both gender and ethnicity.
- Over 18% of Solicitors are from a Minority Ethnic background and over 50% of Solicitors are women.
What Lubna thinks is going to be the most significant challenge within the legal profession and how she plans to address that as President of The Law Society?:
- The legal profession is facing many challenges, including backlogs in Courts, leading to delays in accessing justice for the public.
- Criminal legal aid Solicitors have not seen an increase in rates since 1999.
- They are leaving the profession in large numbers due to financial unviability.
- A report recommended a minimum of 15% increase in criminal legal aid rates, to keep the profession viable. The Government has not implemented the 15% increase.
- The Law Society has issued judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Justice to fight this decision, believing it will have significant consequences for both the legal profession and the general public’s ability to access legal advice.
Lubna’s opinion on the current state of diversity and inclusion within the profession. What steps she believes need to be taken to continue to improve it:
- Only 35% of Partners in the legal profession are women.
- There are issues around parity in pay, retention, and promotion of women, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Solicitors.
- Only 1% of Partners identify as Black, which is a major issue.
- The Law Society has produced a diversity and inclusion framework, which is a toolkit to help firms adopt a 3-step approach to making lasting change within their organisations.
- The framework is designed to encourage businesses and firms to embrace diversity and inclusion in a way that will have a long-term, sustainable impact.
In Lubna’s speech as President, she stated, “I intend to launch a major focus on the ethics in the profession to support Solicitors through this minefield. This will help the public to understand the finely balanced professional ethical issues Solicitors weigh up on a daily basis to ensure the Rule of Law is upheld”. What ideas does Lubna have to support solicitors in navigating ethical challenges whilst upholding the Rule of Law?:
- The Law Society is working on a big program to address the challenges in the legal profession.
- They have held roundtables with members to collect data – understanding the key issues and support needed.
- The program aims to provide guidance on best practices for professional ethics through events, training, toolkits, and guidance.
- The member’s voices are central to understanding what more can be done in this space.
- The program aims to understand the different needs of the legal profession.
The Law Society has issued judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Justice. So you’re speaking on the matter, you explain, “We’re fighting for the future of the justice system through every avenue and every tool available”. What are the proceedings about? What outcomes do you hope for?
- The ongoing proceedings are related to the lack of increase in criminal legal aid rates, recommended by an independent adviser.
- The Law Society believes the decision not to increase rates is unlawful and irrational.
- The details of the proceedings cannot be discussed because they are ongoing.
Projects Lubna is currently working on:
- The Law Society has launched the 21st Century Justice Project, which looks at what justice will look like for the next 100 years.
- The project focuses on finding ways to ensure people can access legal advice, especially those who cannot afford it.
- The goal is to allow everyone, regardless of background or means, to get legal advice when they need it.
- Without legal advice, people often don’t understand their case or what evidence they need, which can clog up Courts in the long run.
- The Law Society is exploring all options to provide legal advice earlier, rather than later.
The legacy Lubna would like to leave as the President of The Law Society:
- Lubna hopes to inspire others from diverse backgrounds, to apply for leadership roles in the legal profession.
- She is committed to delivering her plan on improving access to justice, promoting diversity and inclusion, and opening up the Indian legal services market.
- Lubna is delighted with the result of opening up the Indian market and views this as a fantastic legacy.
- Lubna has 7 months left in the role and expects more to happen soon.
5 powerful quotes from this episode:
- “…which I thought was a fantastic piece of advice actually and I’ve been beating it again and again and again, is, treat every interaction that you have as a potential interview…”.
- “I love learning about people’s stories and understanding them, how they got to where they are and how do I get them to where they want to be”.
- “Professionals should be in a position of trust and it’s important that they act honestly and with integrity”.
- “The Rule of Law means that the Law applies to everybody, no matter what your background and no matter what your means”.
- “Take every opportunity that comes, treat every interaction as if it’s an interview, and push yourself out of your comfort zone”.
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To learning more about the exciting world of law, Rob Hanna and the Legally Speaking Podcast Team.
00:08 Rob Hanna:
Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. You are listening to Season 7 of the show. I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by the wonderful Lubna Shuja. Lubna is the 1st Asian and 1st Muslim President of The Law Society of England and Wales. She is also the 178th person and 7th female serving as President. Lubna graduated from the University of Westminster, with a Bachelor’s of Law and completed her Law Society final exam at the College of Law. She trained at Fladgate Fielder Solicitors before becoming a Partner at Sampson Horner Solicitors. Lubna specialises in professional discipline and regulation. She is dual-qualified Civil and Family Mediator, with experience in contested probates, contractual disputes, property issues, employment, divorce and child access. Lubna also sits as Chair for several regulators including Disciplinary, Regulatory, Professional Conduct, Fitness to Practice, Investigatory, and Appeal Committees. She was previously a Deputy Clerk at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, advising on law and procedure. So a very, very warm welcome Lubna.
01:23 Lubna Shuja:
Hello Rob, thank you so much for inviting me to take part in your podcast.
01:29 Rob Hanna:
Oh, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. And before we dive in with all your amazing projects, experiences, and indeed mission for The Law Society, we do have a customary icebreaker question here, on the Legally Speaking Podcast, which is, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real, what would you rate the hit TV series Suits, in terms of its reality, if you’ve seen it?
01:53 Lubna Shuja:
Oh, now I have a confession to make I’m afraid Rob.
01:57 Rob Hanna:
01:58 Lubna Shuja:
Suits is on my to do, to watch list. I haven’t seen it I’m afraid. I’ve heard so many good things about it, really looking forward to watching it. And I think that’s something I’m saving for when I’ve finished my presidential year. I might just sit down and have a good old binge watch and relax while I’m watching.
02:15 Rob Hanna:
We’ll have to then invite you, with that we’ll give it a 0. And then we’ll invite you back once you have seen it, you can give us your rating there. But today is all about you. So, would you mind starting off telling our listeners a bit about your background and journey?
02:29 Lubna Shuja:
Sure. So I’m from Bradford originally. I don’t know if you can still hear that in my accent. But I’m originally from Bradford, went to a state comprehensive school there, from a working-class background. Didn’t really think about doing law, wasn’t, wasn’t something that was on my agenda at the time. I didn’t have any legal role models. Didn’t really know any Lawyers, didn’t even watch legal dramas. I mean, despite the fact that I haven’t seen Suits, I have subsequently watched other legal dramas. I was a big fan of L.A. Law, which loads of your listeners are of a certain age might remember L.A. law. I used to love watching that, that was when I was at university. That was, that was the big thing that I used to watch at uni. But yeah, so that’s my background, working class background. I originally I was actually going to go and do an English Degree. And the reason why was because, and this is going back to the role models question that we talk about quite often and how important role models are. When I was a lot younger, I had a couple of cousins who were journalists, they used to work at the BBC as journalists, and they used to tell me about their jobs, about the documentaries that they made and the kind of work that they got involved in. And I thought it sounded really exciting. What gosh, if I could do that I could be a journalist. And so to be a journalist you had to do an English degree. So I got myself a place at university doing English. But I never actually did English because when I got my A-Level grades, I did a lot better in my A-Levels than my teachers had predicted. And it was at that stage, that a really good friend said to me, you could get on to a Law Degree with those A’s, with those A-Levels, you should get yourself on to a Law Degree. You could still be a journalist if you wanted to, but you know, it will open up a few more options to you. And I actually got onto a Law Degree through clearing. That’s how I ended up doing Law. So a bit of a convoluted journey to get there, not really something that I ever really, really plan to do. But, as soon as I started studying Law, absolutely loved it, absolutely loved it. Really enjoyed learning about cases, enjoyed learning about legislation, how it applies to everyday life, you know, how problems are dealt with, I mean I was just, I was hooked. It was yep, that’s what I want to do, I want to be a Lawyer.
04:38 Rob Hanna:
What a story you know, coming from, you know, your background to then sort of, you know, like you rightly say very openly going through clearing to where you are today. There’s the President of The Law Society. There’s a lot we need to get through with that, because I believe in 2007 you set up your own sort of legal practice. Would you mind telling us a bit more about believers at Legal Swan Solicitors?
04:57 Lubna Shuja:
Yeah, that was when I, I moved. Legal Swan Solicitors is based in Birmingham, and I moved to Birmingham and it just seemed the right time, to set up on my own. And that’s what I did. It was a bit, bit scary, because, you know, I’d always been in a practice with, with other partners before then. But I thought no, it’s now’s the time to do it. And, yeah, I really, really enjoyed it. I did a lot of court work litigation, that’s my background and litigation, I’ve done family cases, I’ve done some wills, probate type cases. And, you know I really enjoy that client interaction. That’s, that’s the bit that I really enjoy. I like, I like learning about, you know, how people have got themselves into the situation that they’re in and there’s always a backstory. And often you find yourself as a solicitor you sometimes a bit of a counsellor. They’re coming into you with 1 legal problem but they’ll end up telling you, all sorts of things about their life story, about their family, about their business, and just, you just kind of find out more about people. And I’m very much interested in people, in their journeys. So, it’s a great job, it’s, it’s, I really enjoy it very, very much enjoyed it. Now I do a lot of mediation. So a lot of, and again, this is great because mediation is a, is a way of resolving court disputes, or, or any disputes really, without having to actually go to court. And part of the mediation process is sitting down and talking to people about, you know, how have you ended up where you are, what do you want to get out of this. And again it’s all about learning their story, learning their journey, and I mean, I love it, really, really enjoy it.
06:32 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, and I guess you have to be super curious, open minded and like you say, you listen to all these amazing stories and insights that you never dreamt that they’ll tell you as the solicitor, so you have to wear quite a few hats, I guess from a sort of an empathy perspective, from a practical perspective, from a sort of legal perspective as well. So you also, I understand, a sole practitioner, so specialising in sort of Professional Discipline and Regulation. Can you explain to our listeners who may be less familiar, what a sole practitioner is?
06:58 Lubna Shuja:
Sure, yes, so a sole practitioner, solicitor sole practitioner basically means a solicitor who has set up their own practice, and they work on their own. So they don’t have other partners. They might have some staff, but they just don’t have other partners. So it basically means I’m in charge. It means that I don’t need to talk to anybody else when I want to make a decision. It means I don’t have to go to partner meetings, or, you know, it just means I get to make the decisions that I want to make. But it also means that I also take all the responsibility for any decisions that I make. So it’s actually quite a big, it’s a big responsibility. Whatever you do, at the end of the day the buck stops with you, and there’s nobody else that you can turn to. But it also means, that you know, I can work in the way that I want to work, I can take on the cases that I want to take on, I can work the hours that I want to work, which ironically, when you have your own practice, you work far more than you ever do when you work for somebody else. And that’s the irony of the situation. But it does mean that you know, sometimes when things come up, you might need to take time out for, I don’t know, some family, if you’ve got family responsibilities or caring responsibilities, you can work around that, and you don’t have to go and get permission from somebody to be able to do that. You can make up the time in the evening, at the weekend, or whenever it suits you. I think the hardest part about it actually is getting a work life balance because as I say, when it’s your own practice, when it’s your own business, you work so much harder, because you really, really want to make it a success and you’ve got nobody else to rely on, you know, you’re the 1 that has to, that has to make it work, that has to bring in the income. So you actually work a lot, lot harder than you realise. And, and work life balance is more difficult, because you’re trying to keep on top of everything.
08:41 Rob Hanna:
I can relate as a business owner my, myself, and even, even today, the recording, you know, my, my nursery rings up, hand, foot and mouth, you know, got to take baby home. So you’re juggling, and luckily I can go and do that. I don’t need to report someone to get that sort of, to make these things happen, because life does, does happen. But you’re right. It’s me, myself and I. You take accountability, if it’s meant to be it’s up to me. But you know, the rewards are fantastic as well. And I think you gave a really honest overview, you know, of what this might be like for people who might be thinking about sole practitionary. So thank you for that. You touched on before.
09:11 Lubna Shuja:
It’s a really popular way of working for Solicitors because you know, The Law Society, I’m the President of The Law Society, we represent just over 220,000 Solicitors across England and Wales, and 17% of them, are sole practitioners. So it’s a really large proportion that have their own businesses.
09:28 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, that’s great. And you know, I’m all for entrepreneurship and people having their own businesses. So it’s something that I definitely advocate for. You touched on it before about mediation, because you have been an accredited Mediator I believe since 2005. You’re dual-qualified Civil and Family Mediator. What types of cases have you handled? You touched on a bit. Can you give us a little bit more of a flavour?
09:48 Lubna Shuja:
Yeah, I’ve done, I’ve done all sorts of cases. I mean, I get involved, I mediate any kind of dispute with, whether it’s, so civil means in the County Court, where you’ve got a dispute between 2 people. And I also deal with family cases which can involve children. It can involve finances, up to the house and all that kind of thing. I’ve done, what I’ve done a lot of as well, which I particularly found, find interesting is where, where, I’m in the system, it’s sad really, but I find it very interesting, is when somebody’s passed away and you suddenly find the relatives fighting over who’s gonna get what. It’s sad, very, very sad. But it’s a real window into, into human behaviour actually, and the kind of issues that more, kind of family disputes that you end up dealing with, family politics. In a really, really interesting, so I’ve done quite, quite a lot of that, sometimes there’ll be a will, sometimes there won’t be a will. And often it’s around, you know, well, you know, this is what, whoever’s passed away, mum, dad, whoever it might be, this is what they wanted and I’m not getting what I. So it’s just really, really interesting. But I also do a lot of, I do family cases. So, you know where this family breakdown, helping the, the couple that are, that are divorcing or separating, decide about arrangements for the children, um, you know, deciding about what’s going to happen to, in the finances basically. And sometimes there’ll be businesses involved. Sometimes it’ll be, you know, just a house or properties or. That’s really interesting, because, again it’s all about, learning people’s stories, finding out about people’s stories, and then just understanding, you know, how have they got to where they are? And how do we get them to where they want to be?
11:35 Rob Hanna:
I, I love your approach to practicing the law, because it’s something that we’re passionate and I’m personally passionate about trying to build this kind of more collaborative, thriving legal community. And it’s, it’s being human first. And I think you’re really trying to meet that human connection of understanding their story to, to really kind of have, you know, 1 person talking to another, no judgment, let’s just understand what, what’s happened here, and then sort of provide the right sort of counsel moving forward. And what a great way to, to have you as such a role model, with that approach in terms of the way that you, you’re practicing. And you have so much experience, and you have a wealth of experience as a Chair of several regulators. I touched on in the introduction, Disciplinary, Regulatory Professional Conduct, Fitness to Practice, Investigatory, the list goes on. What has been your experience as Chair of these committees and why are they so important as part of our legal system?
12:23 Lubna Shuja:
Well it’s really, it’s really important that we have them because, you know, professionals are often in a position of trust. And it’s important that they act honestly and they act with integrity, they act within the standards and regulations that they’re required to act within. Because often a member of the public won’t really understand, you know, what, how a professional is required to behave. And, and you know, we’ve got to have standards to make sure that we maintain those standards. So my role as, as Chair of these committees is where we have cases, sometimes they’re cases that relate to misconduct, sometimes there might be just cases around competence and competence can be due to health issues. You know, it’s life is such that sometimes people will have health issues, and they will have circumstances in their personal lives that can impact on their profession. And our role as a committee is to, is to deal with those cases, but predominantly to make sure that the public is being protected, and what we call the public interest that’s been protected. Um, so yeah, really, really interesting, really, really interesting work that I do there.
13:37 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s definitely, you know, fascinating and how you fit it all in is impressive. Going back to your, your journey there because I again, I understand you joined The Law Society as a Council Member in 2013, before taking on your place as Deputy Vice President and then Vice President. What responsibilities did you have during those few roles?
13:57 Lubna Shuja:
So, the way that it works is that the Deputy Vice President and the Vice President are available to stand in for the President when the President is not available. And the President has an incredibly busy diary and can’t obviously be everywhere at once. But so we have all sorts of responsibilities as Deputy Vice President and Vice President. And we get involved in some of the internal work that goes on at The Law Society. So, we sit on the board here, and we sit on committees here, we make decisions around the litigation that The Law Society might take on. So for example, we have what we call a strategic litigation group. And that is where we look at cases that are in the best interests of, in the best interests of the members that we think we need to follow and take up, because there’s a, you know, there’s a, there’s a really good reason for doing that. We also get involved in podcasts like this, talking to the media, writing articles for various press. I’ve done television interviews, I’ve done radio interviews, we regularly meet with Members of Parliament, Ministers, to discuss issues that are of concern to our members or for the, for the wider public benefit. 1 of the things that we are really passionate about is upholding and safeguarding what we call the Rule of Law. And the Rule of Law basically means that the Law applies to everybody, no matter what your background, no matter what your means, it applies to everybody. So, you know, we, part of our role is making sure that, that happens, and calling out when it doesn’t happen. So we do it, we do a lot of that work, obviously, 1 of the key things that we do, and 1 of the key things that I really enjoy doing is going out and talking to our members, finding out from our Solicitor members, what are their concerns? What are their issues? What can we do to help them? And we also go and talk to members of the public about raising the profile of the profession, explaining what the, why Solicitors are valuable to the profession. And then another area of work that we do is international. So that’s where we go, and we have trips abroad, where we are promoting England and Wales as a, a global jurisdiction, a place where we want other countries to come and use, use our Law and use our Courts when they have disputes that they need to resolve. And also, for some of our members in England and Wales, they want to be able to practice in other countries. So, it’s about looking at marketing, new markets and new opportunities for our members to be able to practice in other countries.
16:35 Rob Hanna:
Yes, it’s varied, absolutely, in terms of what you do. And, you know, I’ve recently just returned from a trip to, from Dubai, and obviously, you know, the English and Wales qualification does carry on out there. And you know, they see a lot of people going out there and having, you know, interesting experiences. And yeah again, it’s just great to see the amount of work and giving people more access to what actually does, does go on. Again, going part of your journey as the Chair of I believe The Law Society’s Membership and Communications Committee at the time, what were your sort of initiatives you were leading there at the time?
17:08 Lubna Shuja:
Yes. So the Membership and Communications Committee, the focus of that Committee is very much about how can we better support our members? How can we promote our members? How can we represent them better? So it’s very much around looking at, you know, what support they need? And what can we be doing to help them? So we looked at a lot of the communications that we get out from The Law Society, what kind of things do our members want to hear about? What kinds of things are helping them in their everyday businesses? What kind of support can we give them in their businesses? Very, very, very, very varied, very varied agenda that we had when we were working on that. We were also looking at training, what kind of training we can provide for them, what kind of events can we put on, that helps them to improve their practice, perhaps looking at marketing, looking at, you know, just updating them on areas of Law that they might need updating on. We’re also looking at, you know, what kind of offers can we make for specific sectors of the community. So for example now, and we have a very, very, very big group of Junior Solicitors, Junior Lawyers, so we’re looking at what can we do for them, we have In-House Solicitors, so their Solicitors that don’t work in a legal practice, but they will work in a legal department within a business. And that’s 25% of our profession work In-House now. So it’s looking at what support can we give them, because each different sector has different needs, our very, very large firms and our city firms, they have different requirements to those that In-House Solicitors will have. So it’s looking at all of the different sectors and trying to understand how we can best support them, and work with them, and represent what they need.
18:48 Rob Hanna:
I like that because it’s not 1 size fits all, you know, your understanding that there’s you know, there’s different firms, there’s different, you’d like to say In-House, and it’s really trying to see right, how can we best be of service to the whole profession, rather than trying to say it’s like this for this, and it’s this for this. So yeah, it’s a really sort of refreshing take on things. So let’s fast forward then to the 12th of October 2022, where you did become the 1st Asian and 1st Muslim President of The Law Society of England and Wales. How did you feel?
19:16 Lubna Shuja:
I mean I think it still hasn’t sunk in Rob. I’ve been doing it for several months already, I still wake up and have to pinch myself and say, gosh, are you really, you really? I mean, it is such an honour. It is such a privilege. I cannot tell you. I mean, I never, never dreamt in a million years, that I would ever be President of The Law Society of England and Wales, let alone the 1st Asian, the 1st Muslim and the 7th woman to get that role. It’s really interesting, because when I was studying, I did my Law Degree at Westminster University, as you mentioned earlier on, and then you have to do, we had to do another course after that to qualify as a Solicitor. It was in my day, giving away my age now, it was called the Solicitor’s, The Law Society Solicitor’s Finals Examination. And there were 4 Colleges of Law that you could study this, this course. 1 was in York, 1 was in Chester and there were 2 in London. 1 was in Guilford in London, well, I say London, Surrey, Guilford. There were, sorry, the 2 in London were Lancaster Gate and then there was 1 just off Chancery Lane, on Store Street. And I went to the 1 on Chancery Lane. That was 30 years ago. So I studied, passed my exams to become a Solicitor 30 years ago, just on Chancery Lane. And I never dreamt in a million years that I’d be back 30 years later, just down the road at The Law Society, which is based on Chancery Lane for those of your listeners who don’t know that, never dreamt I’d be back there 30 years later, as President of The Law Society of England and Wales. I mean, I’ve worked really, really hard to get to where I am. I’ve been a Solicitor for 30 years, you know, I’ve really, really had to, really work hard to kind of show that, you know, I can do the job. And I hope I am doing the job and I hope I’m doing the job well. But yeah, absolute honour. Privilege. Amazing. It’s amazing.
21:11 Rob Hanna:
Absolutely, you’re doing the job. And absolutely you give the very, you know, honest answer that nothing comes without hard work and dedication that’s worth having. And I think yeah, that’s a great example there of, of your journey and you know how you have got there. Time for a short break from the show. Are you still relying on spreadsheets to manage your legal matters, there’s a better way to work. Our sponsor Clio is the cloud-based legal software that will transform the way your law firm operates. They offer legal practice management and client on-boarding software that doesn’t cost the earth. In fact, from as little as £49 per month you can cut out all of those tedious admin tasks that you dread doing, each week, each month. Automate the boring stuff, free up more time for the important stuff, that’s what you get with Clio. Your clients will thank you for it, your bank account will thank you for it, your colleagues will thank you for it, and you can even thank me later for telling you all about it. So head to Clio dot com forward slash Legally Speaking to see how Clio can help you. That’s C L I O dot com forward slash Legally Speaking. Now back to the show. I guess it’s probably a question I want to ask at the end, but I’m going to ask it now. Someone sat there with a dream that doesn’t think it’s possible. I mean I’ve recently watched the, the Branson documentary and to think you know, how he’s dreamt the impossible and to get the first aircraft into space was a childhood dream appears and he talks about, you know, following your passions. What would you say to that individual to inspire them, you know, you’ve got to where, you know, the top of the field, what’s that 1 or 2 things you would say to them?
23:34 Lubna Shuja:
You know, so during my career, I have always taken opportunities that have presented themselves. And sometimes you will, you’ll get an opportunity to do something or, and it might just be attend a meeting, it might be to join a group, it might be to attend an event, it might be a piece of work that you’re asked to do, it might be a client that you’re asked to, to represent. And, you know, you might think, well, this is a waste of time, it’s not going to lead to anything, there’s not gonna mean anything. Actually, what I say is take every opportunity that comes along, because you just do not know where it’s gonna take you. Sometimes, you know, I talk to younger Solicitors and they will say, oh I met such and such a person but you know, they’re not a Lawyer, they’re not going to be able to offer me a job, they’re not going to be able to do anything for me. And I’m not interested in it, I don’t want to waste my time talking to them because you know, I don’t see that as any use to me. You don’t know who they know, you don’t know what connections they’ve got. And it’s all around opportunities and networking. And 1 of the things that, that I heard somebody say recently, which I thought was a fantastic piece of advice actually and I’ve been beating it again and again and again, is, treat every interaction that you have as a potential interview, because you have no idea who you’re talking to or what, you do know who you’re talking to, but you don’t know who they know, and you don’t know where they might be your voice in a, in a, in another arena where you don’t have a voice, or somewhere that you don’t have access to. You know, 1 of the things that I’ve been so lucky and I have to say, although I’ve worked really, really hard throughout my career, I’ve also been very, very lucky. I think I’ve been in the right place, at the right time. I’ve had some fantastic allies during the course of my, my career, people who have pushed me, they’ve seen the potential in me, they’ve kind of, you know, when I’ve not been ready, or when I think I’m not ready to do something, or when I think I’m not comfortable to do something, they’ll say, no, no no, you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine, you’ll be able to do it, you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine. And they push you a little bit to get you out of your comfort zone. And you know it’s when you get out of your comfort zone, that’s when you grow. That’s when you grow and that’s when you learn. So, all sorts of things jumbled up in there. I can’t give 1 piece of advice, but a number. Take every opportunity that comes, treat every interaction as if it’s an interview, and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
26:10 Rob Hanna:
Honestly Lubna that’s everything that I love championing about and people who follow me, follow the show, I’m all about everything you just said. Please everyone rewind that sound-bite, listen to it over again because that was absolute gold, I always say, who do you know who can introduce you to someone you don’t know, you’re only 1 relationship away from changing your life. I’ll repeat that, you’re only 1 relationship away from changing your life. And before you earn, you must learn, drop the L and there’s great examples of the people around you and your network is your net worth. So yes, absolutely. Please folks, rewind what Lubna just said, that’s come from the top of our profession. So please, please, please take it, that wise advice. So let’s move on then to talk about your, your in-post and then you had your Presidential speech where you outline 5 main aims. Can you tell us what these aims are? And why you have specifically chosen to focus on those?
27:00 Lubna Shuja:
Sure. I mean, actually Rob that’s some of them on our podcast. No one else. So I think people are probably starting to get very bored listening to us. So I’ll give you the headlines. I’ll give you the headlines, because, yeah, I mean, it is my presidential plan, and it’s work that I’m going to be doing over the year. So 1 of the first things is being a leading and influential voice on justice, on the Rule of Law and on the value of Solicitors, which I just talked a little bit about earlier. And really, really important that we get the public to understand why justice is important, why a good justice system is important, why the Rule of Law applying to everybody, no matter what their background, no matter what their means. That’s important. And just understanding the really key role that Solicitors play in society, because you know, without Solicitors society doesn’t run effectively. You know, they are the ones that make sure that people are able to enforce their rights. They are the ones that help write, you know, prepare contracts, draft contracts, you know, they literally underpin everything that goes on inside. So that’s the first 1. The second 1 is a focus on professional ethics. And what that means is that, that those areas where, there aren’t black and white rules and regulations that tell you what you need to do, that you might find yourself in a situation where you’re kind of thinking, right, what do I do in this situation? So it might be around the type of client that you’re acting for. It might be, you know, climate change is a big issue at the moment that many people are concerned about, and they wonder whether, you know, should I be acting for particular types of clients? Should I be advising on climate change? So you know, things like this, artificial intelligence, that’s another area. So that’s the second 1. And obviously I’m very keen on business support for our members. I’ve mentioned that earlier on already. I’m doing a lot of work internationally promoting the profession and the jurisdiction abroad. And I’ve recently, literally just a week ago, got back from a trip in India, where we were really had some fantastic meetings, and with a number of the Indian Ministers, with the Bar Council of India and a number of Indian Lawyers. And on the back of that I’m absolutely delighted that we have been able or they have made an announcement that India is now open to foreign Lawyers and foreign law firms, which it wasn’t before. So that’s been fantastic. So that’s an example of a new market that we are, that we have managed to open up for our members here in England and Wales. And then finally, absolutely have to have diversity on my, on my Presidential plan. It’s a given for me. I mean, it’s almost, it’s in the plan, but it didn’t really need to be in the plan because it’s just under underpins everything that I do. It’s, it’s, it’s who I am. It’s what I’ve grown up with. It’s what I’m about. My focus on diversity, we’ve got really good levels of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Solicitors coming into the profession now, just over, I think it’s about just over 18% of our profession are from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, which is absolutely fantastic compared to when I came into the profession 30 years ago, there were only 709 of us, literally 709. So it’s really good to see that, but what we’re not seeing is the same levels at the senior end of the profession, and also at the senior levels of the Judiciary. So my focus is, very much on, on, on those areas. And, you know, women as well, women now make up more than 50% of the profession and 53% of Solicitors are now women. And I 1 of the things that I get to do in my role as President, which I absolutely love doing, are presiding over the admission ceremonies when our newly qualified Solicitors are being admitted. And now from newly qualified Solicitors, 60% of our newly qualified Solicitors are now female. So the stats are really, really changing in terms of diversity, for gender, as well as ethnicity. So yeah, those are the, those are the key areas that I’m working on. But you know, let’s do another podcast on this.
31:14 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, absolutely. Because they are, as you rightly say, really important areas. And you mentioned obviously on the, in your opening up, I remember all my friends openly texting me saying, have you seen this, have you seen this, have you seen this, this is great, this is great. And, you know, that’s a, that’s a great direct example of the work that’s being, that’s being done. And, you know, I think there’s a, there’s a lot to do there. But absolutely, I have no doubt that it’s going to be achieved. And you know, the statistics are, are a positive. You know, we’re easy to look at the negatives, and always be sort of, you know, down on things. But I think there’s some real, real light there. And let’s keep pushing forward with you obviously spearheading things. So with that, there are challenges. So what do you think is going to be your most significant challenge with the legal profession today? And how do you plan to address that as the President of The Law Society?
31:58 Lubna Shuja:
There are so many challenges at the minute for, for the legal profession to deal with. We know that there are massive backlogs in our Courts at the moment. We know that, that is causing unacceptable delays in accessing justice, for members of public. That’s a really, really big issue. 1 of the key things that I’ve been working on during my time as President is, the position for criminal legal aid Solicitors. They’re in a really, really bad position at the moment because they’ve seen no increase in the rates for legal aid at all for, since 1999, so it’s been 25 years. So what we’re finding now is that a lot of criminal legal aid Solicitors are leaving the profession in droves, because they’re just not, they’re just not able to do that work anymore. It’s not financially viable anymore. And so very, very recently, we issued judicial review proceedings against the Government, the Ministry of Justice to fight that decision that, you know, we’re not getting that. There was a report that was done in December 2021 by Lord Bellamy, who recommended that there should be a minimum 15% increase in legal criminal legal aid rates to keep the profession viable. And that hasn’t happened. So we are now we’ve issued judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Justice, because we believe that, that decision not to increase the fees, will have really massive consequences for the profession, but also for the general public, who are not going to be able to get legal advice when they need it the most.
33:33 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, absolutely. And I know how, you know, passionate you are when it comes to access to justice. And, you know, making sure that you know, everyone that you know, hopefully. Yeah, absolutely. You touched on it obviously, you know, it was almost like the underpinning of everything that you did when it comes to diversity. And you’ve sort of given a few snippets. But just to maybe dive a little bit deeper, what is your opinion on the current state of diversity and inclusion within the profession? And what steps do you believe need to be taken to continue to improve it?
34:04 Lubna Shuja:
So I’ve indicated the improvement levels already, you know, good to see that that’s happening. But we know that only 35% of Partners are women. And we know that there are still issues around parity when it comes to pay. When it comes to retention of women, when it comes to promotion, not only of women, but also Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Solicitors. We know that only 1% of Partners are from, identify as Black. So that’s a real, real big issue. We at The Law Society, we have produced what we call the diversity and inclusion framework, which is a toolkit that firms can use to help them to adopt a really simple 3 step approach to making lasting change within their organisations. So I’d really, really encourage businesses and firms to have a look at that, to help them, to really embrace diversity and inclusion in a way that’s going to have a real impact, long term sustainable impact.
35:05 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s about, you know, what we do now is for the now but also for the future and making sure that, you know, it’s, it’s really kind of, you know, succession planning, and everything’s in place. So I advocate for that as well. Want to go back to your speech again, because in your speech as President, you stated, “I intend to launch a major focus on the ethics in the profession to support Solicitors through this minefield. This will help the public to understand the finely balanced professional ethical issues Solicitors weigh up on a daily basis to ensure the Rule of Law is upheld”. So what ideas do you have to support solicitors in navigating ethical challenges whilst upholding the Rule of Law?
35:45 Lubna Shuja:
So this is a really big program that The Law Society is working on. And I’m obviously, I’m, my, I’ve kind of launched the beginning of that program. We’ve also, already held roundtables with a number of members. We’ve had 4 roundtables, 1 was focused on at large city firms, 1 was focused on mid-size firms, the other 1 was focused on small and sole practitioner firms. And then finally we had 1 for In-House. So we’ve been collecting data and finding out from them, what are the key issues? What kind of support do they need, and you know, we really want to make sure that member voices are very, very central in understanding what more we can do in this space. Our profession is well known, but because you know, we, we, we adhere to really high ethical standards, we have a robust regulatory framework that underpins all of that. But you know, sometimes what’s ethical, and I mentioned this earlier on, it’s dictated by society, it’s dictated by public opinion, it’s dictated by the media. And you know, those opinions can change from day to day, let alone week to week, and month to month. So it’s really trying to understand the different needs that different sectors of our profession have got. An In-House Solicitor will have a very, very different perception of what kind of support they need when it comes to professional ethics, rather than when you’re looking at somebody in an international corporate firm. So we’re looking at, you know, talking to our members, understanding their challenges, and then, and, and then providing guidance on best practice going forward. And that will be through events, through training, through toolkits, and, you know, guidance that we can give to the profession.
37:28 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, so lots basically, there’s a lot there. So, yeah, definitely make sure that you, you know, take action on what they’re saying, and, you know, attend some of these events, use some of these toolkits, all the things that are available there to, to support. And again, we’ve touched on this, but The Law Society has issued a judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Justice. So you’re speaking on the matter, you explain, “we’re fighting for the future of the justice system through every avenue and every tool available”. What are the proceedings about? What outcomes do you hope for?
38:02 Lubna Shuja:
Well, they’re ongoing at the moment. So I’m afraid I can’t talk about them in too much detail, because obviously, you’ll understand it’s privileged. But as I mentioned earlier, the key issue for us is that the 15% increase in criminal legal aid rates that was recommended by the Government’s own independent adviser, that hasn’t been implemented. So we say that that’s unlawful. And we’ll say that that’s an irrational decision. So that’s ongoing at the moment. So I can’t go into too much detail about it. But I really hope that we’re going to get a good result.
38:34 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, absolutely. And we support that here on the Legally Speaking Podcast as well. And you’ve touched on, you know, your, your aims, and some of the, some of the projects you’re getting involved in, is there anything you’re particularly excited to be looking into the future, to be working on or anything else you’re currently working on, that you’re, you’re super excited about in terms of projects?
38:56 Lubna Shuja:
Yeah, I mean, we’re doing so much work here at The Law Society. We have just launched our, what we call the 21st Century Justice Project, and that is around looking at what does justice look like for, for the next 100 years. And we’re doing a lot of work on that around, you know, what’s, what’s the best way that we can make sure that people are able to access justice, unable. You know, 1 of the biggest issues we’ve got at the minute is that people just can’t afford to take legal advice. And we’ve got to look at what options are available to allow them to be able to do that and to let our, our members be able to fill that, that, that, that, that gap that’s there at the moment to make sure that everyone no matter what their background, no matter what their means, they can get legal advice when they need it. And you know, these are really important issues because, if you’re not getting legal advice at the very, very beginning of a case, you often don’t know really you don’t understand what your case is about, you don’t understand if you have got a case, you don’t understand what evidence you need. And these are the things that are clogging up Courts in the long term. So it’s, it’s, it’s a good idea to sort things out earlier rather than, than later. And we’re looking at all the options, and the best ways to do that.
40:11 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, taking action early, getting the right expertise in. And you know, having those people that can give me the sound advice is going to erase so much pain that you might already be going through and worry. Okay, this has been a fascinating discussion Lubna, on your journey to how you’ve got to the President of The Law Society and everything in between, and what you’re doing is really remarkable. But I always say, we have nothing unless we have a legacy. So what legacy would you like to leave as the President of The Law Society?
40:46 Lubna Shuja:
Well, I mean, we’ve talked about me being the 1st Asian, the 1st Muslim, to take up the position. I really, really hope I’m not going to be the last. I hope that by being visible, I have, you know, given others the aspiration to go for this, for similar roles, to get into leadership roles, to not feel that this profession is not open to them, to not feel that they are excluded in any way. You know, I, I, there’s that saying that says you can’t be what you can’t see, well, I was what I couldn’t see. But I hope other people can be what they can see. So that will be really, really important to me. And obviously delivering on my plan, the plan that I’ve been talking about, that’s really important to me, I want to make sure I deliver on that, I want to make sure that we do see the changes that I’ve talked about, you know, the India, opening up the Indian market, that’s a fantastic legacy that I’m gonna have, really delighted with that result. But you know, I’ve still got another 7 months to go. There’s a lot can happen yet. So, watch this space.
41:50 Rob Hanna:
Watch this space indeed, but yeah, I’m sure you’re going to absolutely achieve everything on the list. And the end of the day, your, your career and your attitude and your hard work and everything you’ve done is a testament to that. So yeah, we’re absolutely fully behind you here on the show. And if our listeners, which I’m sure they will, want to know more about your journey, or would like to know a little bit more about The Law Society, what’s the best way for them to get in contact. Feel free to shout out any social media handles, website links, we’ll also share them with this episode for you, too.
42:21 Lubna Shuja:
Thank you. So I’m on LinkedIn, if you want to follow the work that I’m doing, and the work that The Law Society is doing, I’m on LinkedIn. I’m also on Twitter at Lubna Shuja. I’m on Instagram. And, and I’m absolutely delighted to say that as of last week, The Law Society launched its TikTok channel. Lots of clips and videos on TikTok. We will have ,we’re just starting it now. So follow The Law Society at The Law Society on TikTok, and that’d be a great way of keeping in touch with what we’re doing. But LinkedIn is probably the best place to, to follow me and to keep up to date with what I’m doing, LinkedIn and Twitter.
42:59 Rob Hanna:
Very good. You’ve had it all there. And it’s great to see you know, modern professional as well understanding that the times, because I’m a big advocate for LinkedIn, I’ve worked with LinkedIn. I think it’s a wonderful platform, but also with my buddy Henry Nelson-Case, we’re doing the short form video for law firms. We think it’s the next revolution and I think it’s a great way to get your message across. And yeah, I’m absolutely excited to see that TikTok and all those short form videos come out soon. So Lubna, it’s been a wonderful conversation. I’ve really, really enjoyed learning your story, more about what you’re getting up to, and how you’re helping improve the legal profession. So from all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast, wishing you lots of continued success with your future pursuits, but for now, over and out. Thank you for listening to this week’s episode. If you liked the content here, why not check out our world leading content and collaboration hub, the Legally Speaking Club over on Discord. Go to our website www dot Legally Speaking Podcast dot com for the link to join our community there. Over and out.