It’s my childhood passion to become a lawyer and specially in our country like Pakistan. I think it is mandatory for every girl to learn about law. In our country women are not treated in a sense which all women deserve for this I am the only girl from my village who stand up & got admission in that particular field & INSHALLAH become a women right activist. I believe the field of law to be very unique field. It is the only field which provide three benefits at a single platform:
- Service for humanity (justice)
So, I feel it is a better option. First thing I must mention that scope is not in field actually scope is inside you. Your hard work commitment & consistency built up the scope of any field. Particularly to this field absolutely the scope of law for girls is very high. After completing law girls become advocate General of Pakistan, attorney at law, judicial magistrate, legal advisors, Excise inspectors, investigators at agencies like NAB, CIA etc., judges. It’s my personal suggestion to junior girls that who are little bit interested in that field must join it & start your hard work in it.
“One advice Don’t think about what people say about it & you after joining this field just put your complete thematic focus on you goal & achieve it.
Let’s begin the discussion
Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that all citizens are equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex. However, the very judicial system that is required to implement this has failed to observe it within its own jurisdiction. The Asian Development Bank has spent more than $350 million (a little over Rs35 billion) on judicial reforms and has maintained that more women should be appointed as judges but currently there are six female judges in Pakistan and none of them have been appointed as Supreme Court judge. Although more and more women have been graduating with a degree in law recently, few seem to adopt the profession after a brief stint at a law firm. Many complain of gender discrimination in the male-dominated field and switch to a profession that is more accepting of women. I think you have to prove yourself and your dream and proving dream is not like a bead of rosses but a bead of thorns. These discriminations are felt at the start but with the hard work and passion, you were born for justice, you will pass these difficulties easily. Women need much hard work there to keep their credibility because if you have to prove your worth you have to cross comfort zone. In field of law you will find a lot of females as top lawyers as discussed below they are at this place because they knew that they were meant for this field and they succeeded in this field. In Pakistan it is a big problem that females listen to their family, friends and the social circles and do not bother themselves value the voice of their heart. Consequently, they loose interest in that field and it seems that their education was of no use. So, as I girl it is compulsory for you to listen your heart, value your dreams and make your self clear about the field you are going to choose because in the end you, yes you! Are responsible for your deeds.
“While choosing a field it is necessary for a girl to get all those answers why she is going to opt a profession. This thing will certainly make you persistent and patient until your dream comes true.”
The situation of female lawyers in Pakistan on the other hand is quite pathetic. Women in the legal profession in Pakistan are playing an integral part, especially in family law cases and human right violations where they have been proved more efficacious in fighting against the injustices.
In Pakistan, women started joining the legal profession in the 1960s. As a matter of fact, the first woman in Asia to be enrolled as advocate was from Pakistan, which was in the 70s and 80s. A few names in this struggle are worth mentioning. Asma Jehangir and Hina Jillani are two sisters who have played a significant role for women rights as well as in the Rule of Law. Their father spent many years in prison for opposing a military dictator. Asma organized the first public demonstration in Islamabad against the unjust rape conviction of a blind rape victim named Safia Bibi, a judgment which was later struck down by the Federal Sharia Court due to technical grounds. This was an unprecedented public demonstration by women against injustice. There were many more, especially during the lawyers’ movement for the restoration and independence of judiciary.
Most female lawyers prefer fighting corporate and family cases mainly to avoid facing any kind of harassment. Among male lawyers and clients, it is a general perception that women lawyers need to go a long way in order to be established as reliable professionals.
“There are signs emergent which indicate that young female lawyers have the commitment to make a difference. Both worldwide and especially in Pakistan, there has been an increase in the number of women attracted to law”
Law firms practice the law of inequality
While a local degree is a setback for both male and female law graduates, women who do manage to land a job in the legal profession never manage to obtain an all-round experience and always end up behind the desk with paperwork. According to advocate Ismat Mehdi, who runs Ismat Law Associates, the amount of work that was required from her during her initial years in the field was twice the amount assigned to male associates. Only when she proved her worth by handling the excessive workload did her seniors take her seriously, she says.
Advocate Sara Shah, manager of the legal department at Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, narrates a similar experience about her first job as a legal associate. Her male boss deliberately assigned her more work by stating that this was the only way for women to learn. Senior partners mainly offer research work and drafting of suits to women, reveals advocate Shah. This puts female law graduates at a disadvantage since holding briefs and pleading cases before the court is the essence of litigation, she adds.
Many litigation firms have taken it upon themselves to decide what women can and cannot do. Presently there are no female lawyers working at M/s Faisal Kamal & Arshad Hussain Advocates. According to advocate Arshad Hussain Khan, partner at Faisal Kamal & Arshad Hussain Advocates, his firm discourages women from opting for litigation considering the many challenges it involves, such as spending long hours at courts and dealing with criminals.
“Women are rarely appointed as Supreme Court or High Court Judges. This is because the criterion for women has deliberately been made difficult.”
Furthermore, for lawyers to succeed in the profession, they also need to network. This, in turn, helps the firm grow its client base and generate more income. According to Darakshan Sheikh Vohra, an equity partner at Liaquat Merchant Associates, men have bigger social circles and therefore, more opportunities to network with clients as compared to women. This inevitably encourages firms to prefer male partners over female partners.
“In the 2014 Gender Gap Index annual report published by the World Economic Forum, Pakistan ranked 141 out of 142 in terms of gender equality worldwide. This was the third year in a row that Pakistan maintained the second to last ranking. “
With limited opportunities to grow, many women leave the profession or enter the profession as in-house lawyers, says Nausheen Ahmad, corporate secretary and head of the legal department at Habib Bank Limited. The gap between female and male partners is, therefore, evident in most law firms. This is because “male partners at law firms also feel insecure when promoting women,” says advocate Shah. But according to advocate Naheed A Shahid, who is the sole proprietor at Azizuddin & Shahid Law Associates, fewer women make it to the top due to social and cultural limitations. Male partners fear that they might leave for personal reasons, such as marriage or to start a family, she says.
Divisions within the legal profession
How female judges are judged
At courts, women face an equal number of challenges. Despite the limited number of female judges appointed at superior courts, a judicial policy announced in 2009 by then-chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had no mention of reserving seats for female judges. “Women are rarely appointed as Supreme Court or High Court judges. This is because the criterion of assessment for women has deliberately been made difficult,” says advocate Shah. Male lawyers even avoid their cases being heard before Justice Ashraf Jehan at Sindh High Court of Karachi, she claims. The reason for this is that male lawyers are not confident about her legal knowledge and distrust her competence to decide cases on the basis of merit, she adds.
There have been times when female judges have passed judgments in favor of women at lower courts, especially in family law cases, says advocate Hussain, citing a possible reason for distrusting female judges. But when it comes to the treatment of female judges, Hussain says, “Women are prone to verbal harassment at courts from fellow male lawyers and, most of the time, this goes unreported.” Therefore, he does not encourage his family members to enter the legal profession.
Despite 35 years of experience in the field, even advocate Mehdi discouraged her daughter from pursuing a career in law. She agrees that there is rampant gender discrimination at courts in Pakistan. For instance, there is currently no representation of women in constitutional institutions, such as the Federal Shariat Court — which has the power to enact new laws or strike off old ones from the statute books — and the Council of Islamic Ideology, which run parallel to the judiciary. Since women’s views are not taken into account while making or amending laws, this makes them vulnerable on the whole.
Vohra suggests that unless there is change in the mind-set of males and a greater appreciation for the skills female employees bring to the table, there will be no change in how women are perceived in the legal profession. She believes that female employees are far more loyal, hard-working and detail-oriented than their male co-workers, thus making them crucial components in a firm’s team.
However, advocate Mehdi suggests that women can improve their standing in the profession by acquiring greater expertise and skills in order to stand out among male co-workers. She encourages women to be more assertive and to confront male co-workers when they behave inappropriately. “No one will do anything, we have to do it ourselves,” she says. “Men will leave you behind no matter how intelligent you are.” Advocate Shah also believes that the main challenge lies in the attitude of female lawyers and judges who do not work hard enough to gain greater skills and knowledge in the profession.
While most agree that women must rely on themselves and take matters into their own hands, others recommend seeking justice through the legal system. On the topic of harassment faced by in-house female lawyers, Nausheen Ahmad, corporate secretary and head of the legal department at Habib Bank Limited, says that women must address harassment in the workplace through effective implementation of the sexual harassment law and strict compliance of the sexual harassment code by organizations. This will attract more women to join the profession and help them feel secure, she adds.
The end results
Although the future for women in the legal profession appears bleak:
Vohra says whether a lawyer is a man or a woman does not make a difference. The client will opt for someone who is knowledgeable, has a professional attitude, shows high level of commitment and delivers results. But for clients to eventually have a choice between female and male lawyers, more female lawyers will need to be employed in the field and be given an equal opportunity to grow.
We hope that this article helped you about Scope of Law for girls.