A Day in the life of a…Barrister, Rashda RanaNov 23, 2022
“I have so much to give beyond being a Silk”
Rashda Rana was born in Lahore in Pakistan whilst her mother was on vacation there. She arrived in the UK upon her mother’s return aged 7 days old. She has two children, a daughter and a son. She currently lives in the Barbican area of London. A truly global citizen, Rashda is a Cambridge educated, South Asian Barrister who despite receiving Silk – “the pinnacle of career success for a lawyer” and being an in-house General Counsel, has largely moved away from the practice of law in its traditional format in recent years because she has so much to offer the world! She now consults to major organisations as a legal consultant, teaches law and has written several law text books. Rashda is passionate about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the world of law.
Read on to find out more!
My average day begins when I wake up at about 6ish. I normally shower, get ready. Have brekky between 7 and 7:30. I think my routine is probably very, very routine! So, after brekky I look at emails, then off I go. If I’m not in court my day is pretty much like anyone else’s working from home. If it’s a court day we might start at 9:30 or 10 o’clock and finish at about 4:30. The court day sounds short, but people don’t realise there’s a lot of preparation before and after.
Rashda with her family
I didn’t quite choose the law. And it’s not quite right to say it chose me… It was a quirk of fate! Whilst doing a doctorate in Philosophy, my funding was cut, and this coincided with my father dying. My eldest brother who took hold of the purse strings was reluctant to pay for the doctorate but was prepared to pay for a vocational course instead. My brother introduced me to a friend of my father’s who was a Silk. And that friend of my father’s persuaded me that being a barrister was not actually very different from being a don (which was then my ambition). He put it this way, “as an academic you think of an issue. We get a case and that has an issue in it. You research it. We research it. You might write a paper. We present our findings before judges. You get all these essays you have to mark where the answers are not answers. We get an answer. And then we get paid a lot of money for doing it!”
“I don’t think I faced a great deal of racism …
I proceeded through my career more or less like any other woman ...
When I came to the bar there were no brown or black faces at all,
and if there were, they were male”
The road to Silk is a bit like an actress - you’re as good as your last role. A Silk is also known as a leader of the Bar because we lead junior lawyers. The diplomat part and leader part of our role as Silk, has become more important over the years. You need to show other facets about you as a professional, for example doing pro bono work, working for charity or contributing to some aspect of the Bar. I was president of a global organisation that was campaigning for better representation of women in arbitration. You really do have to contribute to society.
Rashda in Silk
I don’t think I faced a great deal of racism in my career, although I did encounter sexism. I proceeded through my career more or less like any other woman. When I came to the Bar there were no brown or black faces at all, and if there were, they were male. Funnily enough though, for women taking Silk can be the death of their practice, because in certain areas like commercial law, even though a client might want a Silk, they don’t really want a woman. I know lots of women who took Silk and then fairly quickly their practices tanked. And they went to the bench because they wanted to work and they were good and so on. I think that just comes down to prejudice - the wrong assumption that “she won’t be as good as her (male) opponent is”.
There have been many career highlights for me, but one case that stands out for me was when I once worked with Holly Valance. She was an absolute delight. She was only 20 but I learned so much from her about being streetwise. I thoroughly enjoyed it, partly because it was a different area to the law I usually practice which is largely about things and money. Here was a real person, and not only was she a real person to me, she was a real person to the whole country. I think that the change was refreshing for me.
Rashda and her kids with Holly Valance
Success for me has always meant doing what I'm doing - whatever it is, whether I’m cleaning the kitchen or whether I'm appearing before the Supreme Court - doing it really well. There's always been that drive to excel. Although doing it well may not equate to excellence, it’s the part about trying to do something really, really well that drives me. I think women are pushed to do that even more. When people talk about dreams I believe that a dream about success can’t be an endpoint. It can’t just be reaching a particular goal and that’s it. Success has to be organic and it has to grow. Success must be amorphous, it must change depending on where you are in life. I have so much still to give beyond being a Silk.
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