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City Law School alumnus Hashi Mohamed authors book on social mobility in the UK

The barrister and BBC broadcaster says that “while successive governments have sought to realise a ‘classless society’, the reality is that we have created its opposite: a caste-based society where privilege and wealth is concentrated in the hands of the very few”.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

Hashi Mohamed is a successful barrister and BBC broadcaster, currently specialising in commercial litigation and planning and environment law at No5 Chambers, the largest set of law chambers in the UK.

571439The recipient of a law and French degree from the University of Hertfordshire, and a Masters in Politics from St Anthony’s College (Oxford University), Hashi is proud to have completed the Bar Vocational Course at The City Law School in 2010.

However, Hashi’s path to success has been strewn with numerous obstacles such as arriving in the UK from Kenya as a stateless refugee unable to speak English shortly after losing his father, living in poor council housing, experiencing poverty, and attending a failing state secondary school in North West London.

Part autobiographical and part commentary on the thorny issues around social mobility in the UK, Hashi’s well-received book, People Like Us: What it Takes to Make it in Modern Britain (Profile Books, 2020), takes readers on a compelling journey from Somalia to contemporary, class-divided Britain.

He asserts that

While successive governments have sought to realise a ‘classless society’, the reality is that we have created its opposite: a caste-based society where privilege and wealth is concentrated in the hands of the very few.

City News caught up with Hashi who gave insights into his time at City and offered penetrating thoughts on COVID-19 and social mobility - and the challenges facing people from disadvantaged backgrounds in their quest to become solicitors and barristers in the UK.

CN: What was your experience studying law at The City Law School? What were the highlights?

HM: I spent most of the time worrying about paying rent and fees. I did have some scholarship assistance from places, but your mind never properly settles when you're worried about the fees you have to pay in the future. I was desperately trying to get work experience, mini-pupillages and generally any access to opportunity I could find. The highlights were many. Obviously completing the Bar course, and making many lifetime friends. Winning the Lincoln's Inn mooting competition was a particular highlight in 2010.

CN: Is coronavirus yet another roadblock to social mobility - potentially affecting thousands of disadvantaged ethnic minority young people across the UK - and worsening an already bad situation?

HM: Yes. This period has meant that those most disadvantaged have been left to fend for themselves; not just in terms of educational nourishment, but literally, too, about the basics of food and nutrition (see Marcus Rashford's campaign). Notwithstanding the fact that so many young people do not have equal access to online services, so many have to share one device amongst a whole household. It is a truly depressing state of affairs. This means that there is no equality in the most basic access to these sorts of crucial services. The question asks about ethnic minorities, but this is about all children from deprived backgrounds - no matter their ethnicity.

CN: If you were to describe modern Britain in three words, what would they be?

HM: Unfair. Complex. Brilliant.

CN: Do you think more people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds like yourself feel they can make it in the legal profession as solicitors and barristers?

HM: Sadly not enough feel that. Too many consider these elite professions are out of reach for them. This is partly down to the way these professions are effectively a 'closed shop' for so many people, partly the excluding and exclusive nature of how they're structured, and partly it's personally self-imposed limitations on the side of the individual who does not wish to embark on that journey. Feeling like you can make it is down to many competing and sometimes irreconcilable reasons. It's to do with the confidence to imagine a different future and work towards it. It has a great deal to do with whether you can afford it, whether you have a healthy view about debt and are resilient enough to see the promise of the future. There is no doubt in my view that there is plenty of talent out there. But a number of competing and complicated factors keep them from properly and fully realising their potentials.

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