Barrister Hamna Zain (Bar Professional Training Course, 2012) returned to her home country, Pakistan, after completing her training at The City Law School. Having worked in the legal profession for over a decade, Hamna has made it her mission to provide legal training to those who have the least access and especially women.
“Being a Barrister, I have always felt that miscarriages of justice remain a reality in Pakistan, as are the challenges of the judiciary,” says Hamna Zain.
“During my studies in the UK as a Barrister-to-be, I discovered that the judiciary and legal system in Pakistan, despite having its roots in the English system of law, needs a lot of work and needs to keep pace with the dynamic demands of society.”
Hamna completed the Bar Professional Training Course at The City Law School in 2012. Studying law and entering the legal profession provided her with personal growth and fulfilment as well as the notion that she could make a difference.
“In my view, it is a medium through which I can serve my nation and people. It offers endless complex problems to solve and demands a wide variety of skills.”
The City Law School’s reputation and central London location made City Hamna’s preferred choice.
“The solid and comprehensive coursework that I undertook while I was doing my Bar at Law in the UK, covered the theories of how progressive nations and their legal systems work, and during my studies I gradually developed a pluralistic perspective of law and its practical implications,” Hamna explains.
“This pluralistic perspective helped me appreciate how deeply the law and human welfare are connected, and a synchronised development of law and policy can help alleviate some of the biggest problems in society.”
Returning to Pakistan, Hamna began to pave the way as a female legal professional.
“Working as a female lawyer and barrister in Pakistan for the past eleven years in a male dominant society has been quite challenging for me,” she says. “The largest challenges for me were to find my place in the legal profession while, for example, not being welcomed in meetings, [receiving] unequal pay, and not being heard in official gatherings at the beginning of my legal career.”
Hamna is pleased she has overcome the discrimination she initially experienced and has worked for large companies like Coca-Cola and K Electric. She is now Senior Legal Council for Wateen Telecom Limited in Lahore and a Life Member of Punjab Bar Council and Lahore High Court Bar Association, while also running a series of educational opportunities for those who otherwise have little access to legal advice.
“The legal profession has been historically referred to as “the profession of Lords”. Unfortunately, in a country like Pakistan, the access to justice has also become limited to the Lords, i.e. the elite, and my aim as a legal professional is to change this norm,” Hamna says. “This change can be brought about by educating the masses who have never had access to legal assistance or guidance.”
In her experience, women in rural areas are the most marginalised group, and Hamna has therefore focused her efforts mainly on them.
“I believe conducting regular training on the most problematic subjects will change the dynamics.”
To do this, Hamna has organised Legal Aid Camps that cover a wide variety of topics, including honour killing, divorce, custody, rape, sexual harassment, women’s rights, minority rights, child labour and dowry. Recently, she also facilitated workplace harassment workshops in three major cities in Pakistan to raise employees’ awareness of their rights.
For those who can’t attend her in-person sessions, there is the opportunity to watch “Law with Barrister Hamna” on Youtube.
“During the pandemic, unfortunately, I realised that there is nothing on social media that teaches Pakistani law to citizens of Pakistan and also law students,” Hamna says.
There is also a book in the pipeline, which Hamna hopes will further scrutinise the many social issues women in Pakistan face in their day to day lives.
In addition to her educational offerings, Hamna works within institutions to improve access to legal support.
“Through my presence in the field of law in Lahore, I have also had the opportunity to become part of the Legal Education Committee of the Punjab Bar Council, in the capacity of Chairperson, as well as Secretary for the Human Rights and Environmental Protection Committee of the High Court Lahore,” she says.
“Through these committees, I endeavour to make legal education and the enforcement of basic human rights, through the invocation of law, more accessible to the masses. I have also been able to work towards these objectives by using the forum of the National Women Lawyers Society, as Chairperson, to enable better reachability of the most vulnerable groups.”
Looking back, what does Hamna Zain consider her biggest successes so far?
“Being able to confidently and without much preparation speak in front of large numbers of people. Being able to come this far where I have achieved so much in regards to my own personal growth, learnt so many areas of law, prepared for judiciary exams, and been able to teach while working full time.”
What is the most important insight she has had?
“Never work for someone else. Even if you are an employee in a company, always, always work towards your personal growth.”
What advice would she give someone who wanted a similar career to hers?
“Be consistent; hard work always pays off and don’t be afraid to take new opportunities.”
And finally, what does Hamna hope to achieve as a lawyer in the future?
“I hope to be a part of the judiciary in the future and able to make a difference for the women of Pakistan.”
A big thank you to Barrister Hamna Zain for sharing her professional journey with the City community!