A Law graduate has told how her time studying at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) - coupled with a dogged determination to succeed - helped pave the way for her appointment as a judge.
Nahied Asjad (known as Nahied Aslam during her time at DMU) today urged current DMU students to be prepared for some knocks as they climb the career ladder but to never give up on their dreams.
Nahied is Leicester born and bred and became the first in her family to go to university.
She arrived at DMU in 1995 to study Law and, after graduating in 1998, completed DMU's Legal Practice Course (LPC) followed by a distance learning Masters degree in Law in 2000.
She then faced a long wait - like many other aspiring lawyers - to secure a training contract.
After receiving dozens of rejection letters from law firms, Nahied took an admin job at a local criminal defence firm, and after two years the same firm offered her the training contract she wanted.
After qualifying as a Solicitor she then applied for and was accepted by both the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Services as a Civil Service Lawyer. After working for the Crown Prosecution Service for 11 years, Nahied applied for her first judicial post - the selection exercise for which consisted of a qualifying test followed by a mock panel and intensive interview. It took three attempts at further applications before she was appointed to the First Tier Tribunal Social Security Chamber in 2011 at the age of 35.
Inspired by Nahied? Visit our Law School at a DMU Open Day
Government awards DMU the highest Gold standard for teaching excellence
Law grad takes up dream role in Caribbean
She said: "Not getting through the first few times was so important to my finally securing a judicial post. I learnt so much from those rejections. My exam technique improved and so did my application and interview preparation. It's important to learn from the individual feedback given as well as the general feedback at the end of the tests that the Judicial Appointments Commission gives. Successful candidates will not tell you anything because the competition is so fierce.
"You only learn from your own mistakes and that's ok because at the end of the day it's you in that interview room with three panel members - one of whom is an experienced Judge and it's in yourself that you've got to believe."
Nahied, who works some days at home to look after her autistic daughter, said: "I think it is the ultimate goal for most lawyers to become a judge and I have achieved that and I feel really proud.
"I want people thinking of applying to DMU to forget any misconception they have that only people from a private school background and an Oxbridge education can become judges. Both my parents were working class and I attended state schools throughout my education.
"DMU is a great university. The teaching is excellent and I had a great time with fellow students. I have recommended DMU to my nieces and they are studying here now."
Nahied currently sits in a number of jurisdictions. She sits as an Immigration Judge in Birmingham, as a Police Appeals Tribunal Chair for the Metropolitan Police and also chairs Police Misconduct hearings in the East Midlands. The cases she hears can be emotional and traumatic.
She said: "It is a very difficult time for all Appellants who come to the Courts for justice and all they want is to be heard. It's imperative however that Judges are objective and independent and at the end of the day we have to apply the letter of the law.
"It is a challenging role and I can sometimes end the week feeling emotionally drained by what I have heard. Listening to and understanding all the cases can be quite traumatic but overall the job is incredibly rewarding."
Nahied has kept all of her rejection letters as a reminder of how much effort she put in to reaching the pinnacle of her career.
She added: "I would say to DMU students that if you want to pursue any career you must be dedicated and that includes being prepared to start at the bottom. Never lose heart. You must keep trying. The moment you stop trying, you are out of the race."
Posted on Monday 25th September 2017