As a part of our Legal Trailblazers special issue, we sat down with Maab Saifeldin, an in-house trainee solicitor in the UK. Maab is a first-generation lawyer in her family and practicing Muslim woman. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, having her own social media channel to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion. She is passionate about making the legal profession more open and accessible to people from all backgrounds. Maab is a trailblazer, paving the way for the next generation of lawyers.
AALM: Tell us about the challenges you had to go through to earn your degree.
MS: I struggled with anxiety during my University degree and was subsequently diagnosed with generalized anxiety. My anxiety affected my study, sleep, attendance and concentration, affecting my first and second-year exam results.
AALM: Tell us about some of the struggles you’ve faced as a first-generation lawyer?
MS: The biggest struggle has been having to do things by myself and not being able to seek my parents’ support and assistance in breaking into the industry. I have had to be hyper-independent while struggling with imposter syndrome and trying to educate my family on my career and its progress. My parents couldn’t assist me so much because they were busy building us a life in the UK. We came to the UK as refugees, and they were still learning about the UK legal and education system when I applied to University and decided to become a lawyer.
I struggled with confidence and imposter syndrome, which I still struggle with as a first-generation lawyer. Still, it was a more significant struggle at the start of my career.
AALM: As a practicing Muslim woman, did you face any additional challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?
MS: At the start of my career, I struggled with how I should dress to work, i.e. whether to wear my hijab and abaya (long black modest dress) and communicate my needs to my employer, such as needing time away to pray, adjustments during Ramadan (fasting month), not shaking hands with men and not attending alcohol heavy events. I didn’t know how I should have this conversation and if communicating my boundaries would affect my career progress. I was really conscious that I did not want to become a “trouble-maker” or seem to be “asking for too much.”
I overcame it by speaking to other practicing Muslim women who dress like me, and I decided to be delusional in a way and not make my difference the star of the show. I dressed how I wanted to dress to job interviews, faked my confidence and sold myself in the interview based on what value I could bring to the organization and not make how I dressed to be the main point of conversation.
Concerning my religious boundaries, I learned how to effectively communicate my boundaries by watching YouTube videos and preparing effectively for that conversation. I had the conversation to educate and bring solutions to my supervisor and the business.
AALM: Share with us your passion for social media and its purpose to help the community to learn more about the law.
MS: My passion for social media stems from wanting to create a community of like-minded individuals to help them succeed in their careers and support their personal development. I have always been hyper-independent and know how tiring it can be. I have also been through so much in my career, and I wanted to share what I learned, hoping it will help others. I wanted to create a safe, positive, motivating and welcoming community, one I wished I had at the start of my career.
AALM: What is your advice to anyone aspiring to become a lawyer?
MS: Focus on building your network and finding industry mentors passionate about helping junior lawyers and accessibility to the law. You should learn how to sell yourself during interviews and in your regular job and find the strengths and value adds you will bring to every job.
The legal industry is not the easiest of sectors to break into and is highly competitive. Do not let that deter you from chasing after your dream of being a lawyer if it is something you genuinely want. Do not be afraid to ask for help from other professionals if you are struggling.
AALM: How do you plan to support future generations of lawyers to succeed in the legal industry? What more do you hope to accomplish in the future?
MS: I plan to continue to build my social media and community so that my journey, tips and advice reach more aspiring lawyers and professionals. I also plan to start mentoring and provide the same support and make the same difference my mentors made with me.