We are delighted to confirm that Waqas Zaib has assumed the role of Disabilities Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors. Please take a moment to read Waqas’ introductory article below. If you would like to contact Waqas please click here.
My name is Waqas Zaib and at the age of 14 I became disabled. I contracted Meningococcal Septicaemia and lost both my legs above the knee, right hand from the wrist and fingers on my left hand; fair to say that my life changed forever. I will not bore you with details of how long I was in a coma, ICU and inpatient but my rehabilitation lasted 8 years.
I have since then used a wheelchair and had to consider a career that will be best suited to my skills, strengths and a sector that is suitable with someone with a disability. I went on to study the LLB and graduated with an Upper Second and studied the LPC at Nottingham Law School which I successfully passed.
Disability and the Legal Profession
Unfortunately the legal sector was not as diverse to disability as I was lead to believe. Everyone talks about diversity in relation to gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background and social upbringing but disability is often forgotten; not only in the legal sector but across all professions. The legal sector is extremely underrepresented when it comes to disability and you would be hard pushed to see someone who is disabled and who doesn’t have a hidden disability.
I really struggled to even gain gratis work experience and get a good understanding of whether or not I could cope within the profession with a physical disability. That is why I joined the Law Society’s Lawyers with Disabilities Division so I can assure that those of us who have a disability have a voice and are equally represented. I wanted to see representation and be inspired knowing that those of us who are disabled can aspire to progress and excel in the legal profession but there was truly not much happening on the disability front.
However, I cannot blame the legal sector alone as a very high majority of people who have a disability fail to disclose. You might not see this as a problem but without disclosure it really is hard to get accurate figures when it comes to representation and know how best to deal with the issues faced by disabled individuals.
I am now the Vice Chair of the Law Society’s Lawyers with Disabilities Division (LDD) and as a division we have laid out some great events and have had many firms back disability focused events and provide work experience opportunities. The legal profession has been slow to embrace disability, but now more than ever, there is real moment because of LDD and other organisations and we must ensure it continues.
Aspiring Solicitors vision
Thanks to Chris I am now also Disabilities Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors and together I really want to highlight the importance of having a truly diverse workforce and bring much needed opportunities for disabled aspiring solicitors.
We already have a great number of affiliated firms that we work with to promote equal opportunities and will be creating annual disability awareness events that provide inspiring insight of disabled legal professionals and work experience opportunities.
I am pleased to say that we have our very first major disability event planned for November that will focus on disabled professionals working in the City and will consist of speakers across several professional services sectors such as accounting, banking, legal, information technology and media to name a few.
This is only the start and we have a lot of opportunities planned for our members so watch this space. To sign off, I would say to succeed in the profession as a disabled person, you should embrace your disability as strength and not a weakness, be open to recruiters as most want to help and both sides need to drop preconceived stigmas and ideologies of what a disabled person can and cannot do.
You are the master of your own destiny, believe in yourself, have faith in your abilities and you will succeed in life!