#17 Beenish Haider - Born Into Law
Beenish Batool Haider is the managing partner of Lex Consortia Legal Consultancy. She has been exposed to since birth, went on to attend National University of Singapore and United Nations and managed to get over 70 clients for her law firm in just 2 years!
Okay. Whenever I used to do something or I used to achieve something, I also used to have the stigma. It's because of your dad. It's because of your dad. There's a pro and con both right.
That was Beenish Halder, the managing director of Lex Consortia Legal Consultancy. And as the name suggests, it is a legal consultancy firm based in the UAE, serving all of the eight jurisdictions in the country. She's been a legal professional all her life. She was born into it. She talks to us about her move from Pakistan to the UAE, how Lex Consortia Legal Consultancy managed to get over 70 clients in a span of just two years, and her retirement plan due at the age of 40. This is her story.
Hello there. I am Aamer Khan and this is Zed Medium Podcast. A podcast that talks to people and about them too. We take out the most significant experiences of an individual and package it in the form of a story, sharing those with you. We narrate people's journeys in the simplest way we can. There's a new person every episode, so do check out the previous ones. I'm sure you're going to find someone to relate to. Let's start with this one, shall we?
Actually, let's first listen to how Beenish managed to select law. It's a very sweet story that involves her father's books not going to waste. And how long have you actually been doing this for?
Beenish: Twelve years. But since I've opened my eyes. And I'll tell you why. Because generally they say where you're at is you always want to do this as a child? For me, not really.
Aamer: She was born into a family where law was heard every day.
Beenish: So my father used to practice and he's seen the entire complete circle of the profession. And as I grew up, I knew that this is something that I want to be just because I loved the books. So he had a library and I used to go in the library. And when I was growing up, you do your GCSE, you do your A level, so you choose some subjects. And I always used to choose law. And then one day someone asked me, why do you even want to do law? Just because he's in it?
So I said, no, because I don't want his books to go to waste. And when you're from India, Pakistan, and you go to a lawyer's office, you'll see all those books of precedents. Unlike other countries, the UAE, the system is quite different. They don't base their law on case law, but India, Pakistan is common law, so they base their law on case laws. All the books, our basement was over 1000 books. And those well bound. Beautiful. Absolutely.
Because I think there was no direct sunlight to it. They were not exposed, so it was all in fresh mint condition. My dad had a beautiful library, so I was used to say, just for these books, I don't want to do the law.
Aamer: Okay, a few technicalities, and I hope I get this right on a very basic level. Common law is where judges, court judges, take an active role in shaping the law there, whereas civil law establishes the facts of a case and applies remedies found in what is known as codified law. Beenish has two brothers. We'll get back to the story. Beenish has two brothers, both of whom didn't go anywhere near law. In this somewhat unusual, yet beautiful case, the daughter followed the footsteps of the father.
She knew from a very, very young age that this is what she wanted to do. So she started getting a head start picking up things from her father and of course, the over 1000 books in the library. She was born in Pakistan, grew up there and absolutely loved her country. She was well settled, had no intentions of moving at all.
But as fate, life, call it whatever you want to, had it. Her move to the UAE was predestined.
Beenish: I have two brothers, and both of them have run away from the law, literally. One is an equity analyst and one is a financial analyst. You know how they say, oh, the sons will follow the dad's footsteps, ended up doing the law. And that's what I think, maybe because I always knew I had to do it. So I was very conscious as a person. I used to pick up from the beginning, you know, when your training begins. So I'd say training began when I became conscious because I knew this is what I want to do. So I started as a person as well. Start picking up.
So there was a base that I had. So whenever I used to do something or I used to achieve something, I also used to have the stigma. It's because of your diet, it's because of your diet. There's a pro and con both right. It would have gone other ways also if you had not been good at it, because look at her dad. Exactly.
Aamer: You said your childhood, you said India and Pakistan. So I'm assuming one side of your parentage is from India, one side of your parentage was from Pakistan.
Beenish: No, I'm from Pakistan. But I know both the systems. Okay, so your parents decided to move with the buy or you were born in Pakistan and then you guys moved together? I was born in Pakistan, and I never wanted to move out of Pakistan because I was doing well. And again, it was a settled practice that I had, and I was very comfortable. I had my connections, my network. I always grew up in that place and never wanted to move.
And then when the time came for the marriage, we started looking around. Everybody started looking around. When I got engaged. One of the main reasons to get engaged to my husband was that he was in pakistan. Had he been in Dubai or any other country when we were getting engaged, I don't think this engagement would have happened because I was so adamant to stay in Pakistan. And then we got engaged two months and he got transferred to the UAE.
That's karma telling you you loved your country. That's it, you love your marriage. Now go ahead and make a move. Yeah. So you came to the UAE with an education background of law in Pakistan, education and practice. So I'm one of the very few legal consultants in the UAE that has equal years of practice in a common law and a civil law jurisdiction, UAE being civil law and Pakistan being common law.
Aamer: That shift made her go back to self study and it took a long time to adjust with the legal system. In UAE. Beenish already had six years PQE, which is post qualification experience, but unfortunately, a move to a new country with a different system altogether set her back a couple of years. She went on to recover and grow immediately after that, but we couldn't help but imagine the situation if she had hit the ground running.
Beenish: So I used to have my own firm before I came back, so for me it was a big shift because I shifted from managing a firm to being an employee. And unfortunately, even for the UAE, though we think that it's quite inclusive, but it does require you to prove yourself in terms of certain qualifications. So when I came in, I remember my first interview and they said, you're from Pakistan, your qualification will be cut into half like your years of qualification.
So I said, okay, four, five years is where I'm at now. We are going to consider it as two to three years and then you prove yourself. So from running my own firm to coming to prove myself back at an associate level. So in the legal field, you have associated paralegal, senior associates, and then you have heads and partners and then you have managing partner. So from doing all of that, making a name and then coming down to prove myself in the furtherance of a marriage, I said, okay, let's do it. If I joined a firm as an associate, which is like the first position that you'll get within six months, that's what I was able to prove.
So I became a senior associate. Within a year and a half of that senior associate, I was able to prove that a year and a half, they made me head of the entire division. And five years in I worked with that firm. I ran an all female legal team. And it's not with intent, there was only all female. Turned out that all the females are good in the practice that we have. Even now, we have an all female legal team.
And it's not consciously, but it is what it is and we're more than happy to further of course, female empowerment, growth, Leadership. So five years in work with that firm, set up the entire corporate commercial practice. Peak Corvette 31. May I put my designation?
Aamer: So we've already reached the year 2020 in the journey, but let's take it back to how it all started. We're going back to Beenish’s time in Pakistan and Singapore, where she completed her Bachelor's and Masters respectively, and her stint in the United Nations in Vienna at the age of 19. Your brothers didn't turn out. Yeah, exactly. But you were so there must have been something of a difference between what you saw in Law at that time and what they did.
Beenish: You know what's interesting? It's about being inclined in my A levels and A levels. I took up economics, I took up for the maths, I did my LLB, but I also did my private Bachelors in Journalism, and I aced all of that. And what I didn't ace was law. I did my double bachelor's. One is LLB, which is Bachelor of Law, and my second bachelor's was Economics and Journalism. What's interesting is when you hear about law, you hear about courts right back home or here, but here it's a bit different. You cannot go to court, and you don't have the right to appear before court, only the locals here, too.
So the practice that you have is corporate and commercial. And I always ran away from corporate and commercial as a subject. I got a worldwide distinction in that, but I always ran away. So I feel like whatever I've been running away from has come back and caught me in. And all of this was in Pakistan. All of this was in Pakistan. My LLB was external London, but from the University of Pakistan. My master's in Singapore. So I went to Singapore.
Aamer: Number one is why Singapore? Why shift to Singapore at that point in time? Did your family push you towards having an education outside, or did it come from within?
For me, the UK, US, of course, they're the top of the top universities. But for me, as a person, I want something unique. That's why I found the college, which is not mainstream, but is one of the best in law. Yeah, I'm an N. US. Graduate, National University of Singapore. How is your time different in Singapore than it was in Pakistan? Was it more fast paced? So I love Singapore because it's so geographically located, and I'm a person who would want to make the best of my time everywhere that I go, in terms of maximizing it, maximizing the result output.
So I traveled a lot. I think in my twelve months I traveled six countries with Setting the Masters. So my dad had sent me, of course, we budgeted what is needed. And I remember my elder brother, he was in Canada at that time, he even contributed. So my dad, my brother, they contributed. They sent me, like with the limited budget because that's what I asked for. So I started working and interning, and I started teaching on the side in Singapore, and I started making that money, and I used that money to travel. So I loved Singapore, I loved the budget airlines, and I loved the student trips.
I used to travel a lot. Every few days I get, I travel. And the first internship that you got out, what was that company? Was that Harley Davidson or Harley Davidson came later. No. So my first training ship out of Singapore was Harley Davidson, and that was within Singapore. UN was before Singapore. That was during my LLB. So what exactly do you do for the UN in UB? So I went to Vienna, the head office, united Nations Office of Drug and Crime, and I wrote a policy paper on human trafficking.
So it's a social cause that I'm an adamant believer of, that it needs a lot of awareness, especially in countries like ourselves. So I wrote a policy paper there, did some comparative studies, and then when I came back to execute, that's when I started, of course, going back into my studies.
Aamer: So there was a gap between her bachelor's and master's. She didn't finish her LB in Pakistan and directly fly to Singapore? No. Unlike most students her age at the time, she took a year to understand herself more in the sense what she wanted to pursue within the field of law. And that's when she decided to apply for an internship at one of Pakistan's reputed law firms, hasan and Hasan Advocates.
That's where she met one of her mentors as well, someone that shaped Beenish’s mindset in the industry, along with, previously, her father. Yes.
Beenish: So I worked for one year, sort of what we call a gap year, to ensure that I'm clear on which degree I'm taking up and which specialization. I worked in one of the top lodge chambers of Pakistan. And when I went there because I just graduated, I was 21, I went there, I applied for an internship. And he looked at my CV and he said, you're going to be an associate. You've graduated.
That means no more internships. So the confidence that that first step gave me was, okay, I'm eligible for being an associate as well. And then eleven months in, I was the highest paid in my entire batch. It was a firm 40 years old, minimum. If I'm not wrong, I'm one of the top corporate firms. And I was their ever youngest lawyer. That goes to show that the mentors you have, the teachers you have, and the guides you have, go a long way in building your personality and where you're going to be after certain years.
Any experience that you can share with us, like something that has been in your mind from us. My boss always used to say, he still says, I'm sure, the other trainees that he has, if you pass my training, there's only going up the ladder for you. And we all used to think, how will we pass? I have seen him tear paper and throw it in the associate's faces. I have seen him bang desks, and throw plates. Oh, my God. But really, the training that he gives and the minute he used to walk into the office, we all pin drop silence. There was pin drop silence in the office. We cannot chitchat, we cannot socialize.
Of course, you have your timings as well, but it was at most professional as well as it was just his word that one man spoke, because that was that culture, right? Even if you miss one comma, there's no going back. So what that one training taught me was, that you can never miss a comma. And I feel like the team now, I feel bad for them because that's what I do.
So even now, anything that comes in, you know, this one spelling, can you please modify that? This is one comma. Can you change that? I remember him telling me, to make an invoice for one of our top clients. I said, Well, I'm an associate. Why should I make an invoice? And just because I said that he made me do it for more clients. And he said you're going to thank me one day. And I'm running my own firm.
So suppose when I do marketing, I do an invoice, I do finance. And you still remember their learnings and their teachings.
Aamer: How important is it for you to get a mentor?
Beenish: So, you know, one of the biggest things that I miss in the UAE is not actually having a mentor. I'm a mentor to view, but I am for the right mentor for myself, and that's something I miss. If I were back home, I know that there were seniors who be my mentors. So what I do miss is that and what I take away is there is no alternative to experience. Life is a ladder.
You can start from the .0 and go up, and then you'll fall down and go up, and then you'll go up another ladder, and then you'll come down one. But you learn. But with that experience, you'll only be able to experience life up to 60% because you've come down and gone back, come down and go back. But if you actually learn from the experience of others, you get a head start. You get a 30% head start, and then you start climbing the ladder on your own and then learn from all these experiences. So there's no age, which is age less to not have a mentor.
Aamer: If I had to ask you if you had to pass on one of the things that you have learned from them to someone else, only one if you had to choose, what would that be?
Beenish: Resilience. It's okay. Keep coming back, bouncing back. Keep coming back, bouncing back, keep coming back. Bouncing back. In everything and anything personal, professional, and that's what you should pass on to your family and your kids and people around you as well. Because if there's resilience, there's commitment. If there's commitment, there's discipline. If there is discipline, there's determination.
Being the youngest and highest paid amongst your batch mates with that ruthless but efficient, mentor can easily be overlooked. But it took effort. Something that is not seen, that is not mentioned by guests on the podcast, even for a one-page document. In law, Benish burnt the midnight oil and that is exactly what made her Excel so rapidly in the firm.
Her mentor's name was Doctor Hasan and he has a very impressive background. He's done his Masters of Law from Yale University and his Doctor of Law from Harvard. Some of that experience and knowledge did rub off on Beenish, as she corrects even the smallest mistakes of the people working for her. That's exactly what a mentor does, though, instill something so well that it isn't forgotten at any stage in life. After a short period of time at Hasan and Hassan advocates, she left for her master in Singapore, after which she joined as a trainee in the Asia Pacific headquarters. After some time there, she went back to Pakistan and worked for a year or so at a firm called Anwar Kamal Law Associates.
That is where she took up her first case in court, which happened to be media savvy.
Beenish: Then I joined another advocate supreme Court. I worked in another field of law to get diversity and experience and he also gave me so much confidence and believed in me so much that he trained me enough to be taking on my own cases within a year, which helps me develop. So I took up my first case and my first case in the High Court of Pakistan.
It was a contempt case against one of the most liked government officers, was the court anyway, so there were some formalities. That's why we ended up winning that case. And there was a media coverage case, so that was my first case as well. I still remember that. I still remember walking out of the court. How was that first winning feeling, though?
Yeah, my only winning feeling was that I hope it's not just beginner's luck. I hope I'm able to continue that. And I still remember how hard, like, my seniors had helped me, guided me, how hard I'd worked under their guidance to work on that case. No, there's no point in asking this question. I was going to ask you, would you choose something else if you had the option? I don't think so. I would, actually. You would? I would, 100%. Which would be how it comes up. How it comes off this? Someone asked me just two weeks ago something, how do you work everything?
And then we were having a detailed discussion and he said, how passionate are you about your work? And I said I'm not passionate. And he said, what does that mean? I said I'm not passionate about my work. You can't say that this is what you've been doing gave me a face worse than what you're making right now.
So I said, it's actually not something I'm passionate about. It's just that my determination is so strong that if I do anything, I'll do it with more than 100% that I have in me.
Aamer: It does come with a bit of surprise though. How can someone be so good at what they're doing without ever being passionate about it? Well, Beenish is passionate about certain social causes and often engages herself with that. But when it comes to law, something she was born into, something that was embedded in her from a very young age, something she saw a lot in her childhood, when it comes to that, she is only a person that is amazingly good at her job.
That's about it. And there are benefits to that. For example, when she started her own firm in the UAE with two other managing partners instead of keeping the firm's names as theirs, which is generally the case with law firms. Case in point in the same context, hasan and Hasan, anwar Kamal Law Associates, pearson Spectral. It okay, that was suits, but they kept it Lex Consortia, which gives the ability for the firm to be professionally run after they're not there. Which is an amazing thought.
Absolutely. One of the biggest pain points and loopholes that we have in countries like India, Pakistan, is that we have firms which are attached by that one person and if you remove that person out of the equation, the entire organization crumples. So that's why if you've seen the name as well, lex Consortium is not a name with legal consultancy.
Beenish: Yeah, what we're developing here is professional governance for it to continue for years and years. So having that thought, when did that thought come into your mind? From when was the point of working hard for 70 years and then just seeing something crippled? Why would you even work this hard? How selfish is that?
Aamer: So Recap Beenish completed her double bachelors. Joined Hassan and husband advocates for eleven months. Went to National University of Singapore for her Masters. Came back to Pakistan. She took up a job at Anwar Kamala Associates. Left that started her own firm. Shifted unexpectedly to Dubai and Click peak covered from an organization she had been working for for over five years now.
But after she quit the Regal Group to buy just when she was starting Lex Consortia, something unexpected happened. So I've had a critical illness in my life which has helped me acquire certain traits within myself that I didn't have before. Can you talk more about that?
Beenish: My daughter is currently three years old. When she was two last year she was diagnosed with leukemia blood cancer in the Bay so that was definitely something. And I recently resigned, started my own company. We were moving houses and of course the health care here for any normal or even well to do in that particular illness is something not easy to manage. So for sure how the family has managed it is something which has taught me so many trades that I never had before.
Aamer: The best of the family came out during that time. There was a realization of strengths that they did not even think they had when the situation arose, but that definitely was a trying time. No parent would ever wish something like that happened to their child and it's very brave to see the family work together and fight the illness together. Lex Consortium was being set up around the same time Beanish's daughter was fighting leukemia.
Aamer: But there was at no point that she failed to manage both her personal and professional life. And that is how, along with her two partners, Beenish made Lex Consortium a powerhouse of growth. What exactly goes into acquiring a client?
Beenish: Of course it's about the work. You're here to give a service, but it's more about understanding the brief, it's more about understanding the person behind the client because every company has a face to it and so understanding that face and generally putting effort into evaluating the requirements of that particular individual because I'm not going to sign a contract, for example, with any MNC, right?
Beenish: There's always a signature behind it. The signature is always a human behind. So for example, within the company you hire an in house counsel. We do handle all the legal matters of the company. Yeah. Okay. Corporate matters, commercial matters, transactions, mergers, accusations, joint venture, franchising, growth, employment terms, conditions, vendors, products, registration, recall.
Aamer: And how many clients do you have? A number, not names.
Beenish: 70 plus.
Aamer: They are phenomenal at what they do, and the result lies in the credibility of Lex Consortia legal consultancy. She has been a legal professional, a mother of two and a homemaker for a very long time now. And not to say that there weren't any failures in her journey, there was more of a process to achieve what she really wanted and she had to go through the grind to get that. But there is one thing we haven't discussed yet and as we come to the end of the episode, that one thing Beenish is working hard towards is a retirement. What age do you want to retire at?
This one thing that comes to mind, you always have this thing of going back, though, after everything you've done. Are you not settled here or is the plan always going to be to go back and do something for your country?
Beenish: That's where home is. Everybody's over there. They're here. They're visiting these days as well. But what's home ground? What brought me up? It's that country.
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