Paman Singh is a Senior Litigation Solicitor with Law at Work. Here, he describes his background and how his early experiences of sharing stories with the customers in his parents' shop still influences his work today.
I am not what you’d imagine as your typical solicitor. I’m not vastly intelligent. I didn’t have an uncle or a friend or someone I know who was a solicitor; I had to create my own path. I’m in front of Judges regularly and I still get nervous before every hearing. By every ‘traditional’ assessment, I’m not your run-of-the-mill, slick solicitor.
What was your motivation for becoming a solicitor?
If you’re anything like me, then there wasn’t a eureka moment. There wasn’t one particular thing that made me decide I had to practise law, but it was a series of little moments and decisions that shaped my career path.
Without going all X-Factor here, my parents sacrificed a lot when they came over to the U.K. in the '70s, with one suitcase of belongings between them and a rusted Volkswagen camper van, which served as the roof over their head for the first week! They worked hard, they earned an honest living and what little they had, they shared with others. I’ve tried to remember those qualities in my career.
My first memories are actually ringing up a carton of milk and a loaf of bread, whilst sitting on our family’s corner-shop counter. In that environment, I was fortunate to meet a kaleidoscope of people and grow up thriving on chatting and communicating with real people.
I really enjoyed sharing their stories with them and getting to understand what affected them, the key matters in their lives. I think this, putting aside all of the technical qualities required, makes a good lawyer. Being trusted to provide help or a solution to those in need permeates the various disciplines of law. All my role models in law share this quality. At the heart of it, they enjoy responsibility and they are relied upon to help solve people’s problems.
What challenges did you encounter?
Becoming a solicitor was not easy for me and there was no glamour to it. When I first entered university, I didn’t enjoy it. I felt self-conscious and, although no one ever said anything, it was seared into my mind how different I looked to every other person in my year. I disliked it so much that I decided the law wasn’t for me and changed career paths.
How did you overcome these?
Although I enjoyed what I did away from the law, there was always a sense that I had unfinished business. As that feeling grew, I was determined to go back and to prove that anyone, from any background, could successfully become a solicitor. I went back with a renewed appetite and completed my legal studies. Throughout the journey there were obstacles, people who would say that it maybe wasn’t the right path, that I might struggle to get a job. I used that as fuel to work as hard as I could and I learned to accept that was ok to not always fit in at every point in life.
Have you any advice for anyone considering a career in law?
I am now a Senior Litigation Solicitor, surrounded by wonderful colleagues who not only appreciate my diverse background, but embrace it. I’m given space to express myself and to grow. The work I do has echoes of that rich childhood. I’m still trying to help people, I’m still trying to give people what they need and I still love having the ability to share experiences with my clients.
If you’re considering entering the profession, or you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to look me up and drop me a message – I tend to stand out from the crowd!