Profile: Waqqas Ashraf
Criminal defence solicitor Waqqas Ashraf is one of the Council members for Greenock, Kilmarnock & Paisley
What made you pursue a career as a solicitor?
I always felt becoming a criminal solicitor had an incredibly attractive appeal to it. Cross-examining witnesses, legal submissions, anxious waits for verdicts, and, at the core, looking after those who are most in need – it was all that and more which pushed me into a career in criminal law. I was always interested in this type of work and was lucky enough to have shadowed mentors like John Scott QC and Aamer Anwar during my school and university years, which reinforced my intentions of practising criminal law. I work for McCusker McElory & Gallanagh (Paisley), where I completed my traineeship, and have enjoyed my time with them in this area of practice. There isn’t a day where I regret my career choice, and having exceptionally supportive senior partners makes the job easier but also motivates me to push for excellence.
Why did you decide to stand for Council?
As a relatively young ethnic minority solicitor, I feel that we require more representation within organisations like the Law Society of Scotland to shape the future of our profession and to ensure that both the public and solicitors are looked after as best as they can be through Society policies and projects. From corroboration to legal aid rates, legal practices have been the subject of intense scrutiny since I entered the profession. To take an active part in shaping debates on issues such as these is something that I felt I had to be involved in. Having listened to the collective concerns throughout my constituency I felt that I could be the voice at the Society for those solicitors to ensure positive change.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you joined Council?
Yes. As an outsider, so to speak, you are often unsure as to the exact specifics of the workings at the Society. Since my first Council meeting I have gained a better understanding of the operational activities at the Society, along with the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. It is our duty as Council members to convey that work to our constituents so they all have a better understanding of the Society.
What are the main issues that you think Council has to address at the moment?
As a younger member of Council, I have been concerned at the lack of criminal law trainees across the country. Issues such as this concern me as this has a direct effect on the future of our profession and the public. Without sufficient, good quality solicitors the structure of our criminal justice system begins to crumble.
What’s your top tips for new lawyers?
Ask as many questions as you possibly can, and take a deep interest about the wider profession now, so you can plan for your future.
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
I am thankful that I practise in a firm where I have significant support. However, and far too often, I observe colleagues in the profession running around the country, dealing with multiple cases from early morning to late at night. I would like to think at some point we can have a deeper look to ensure the safety, wellbeing and welfare of our members and to change certain practices where health is the priority.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I am a season ticket holder at Manchester United, which is supposed to be a stress free activity but over the last few seasons… has turned into the exact opposite!