Our Spotlight on our solicitors series gives us the chance to showcase the talent of our experts. With these interviews, we get to know more about the people behind the legal advice. This time, we sat down with Fozia Iqbal, Senior Business Immigration Solicitor, who joined the Harper James team in October 2023.
What/who inspired your legal career?
‘I probably watched too many US legal TV dramas when I was young – think LA Law and Ally McBeal!’ says Fozia. ‘Everyone on those shows always came off as so slick and smart. I later did some work experience while I was at secondary school – mainly attending really interesting criminal trials, as it almost always is at that point, which helped to confirm it as a career choice for me.’
Did you have any expectations of the legal industry and has it lived up to your expectations?
‘Going into my career, I thought lawyers would be more generalised in their practices, but this was quickly dispelled when I became a solicitor myself. The law had developed leaps and bounds by then, so I found myself becoming very specialised within my practice area early on. I also did bar exams as part of my qualification, so I imagined that I’d be doing a lot of court work throughout my career. I have done court work and advocacy since then but not as much as I first thought!’
What are your main areas of Business Immigration expertise? Do you cover any niche areas?
‘Business immigration law is itself a very niche practice, but it has become a very technical and fast-changing area over the last twenty years,’ Fozia explains. ‘The need for business immigration solicitors was a very rare occurrence when I first started, but now as businesses are increasingly hiring staff from overseas to fill the gaps in their workforce, I find that my services are needed now more than ever.’
‘My work mainly involves enabling businesses to sponsor overseas workers so they can work in the UK and I’m also able to work on the full spectrum of business immigration visa applications, whether that be an innovator visa or a global talent visa for example.’
How have you found working at Harper James so far? Any first impressions?
‘I’ve only been at Harper James for a short time, but I’ve already been welcomed into the team by a lovely set of colleagues, who are like-minded and are open to hearing any ideas I have. There’s genuinely a supportive team ethos here, so even though I work remotely, I don’t feel isolated,’ says Fozia. ‘They have a great attitude to flexibility and a true work-life balance.’
‘The business is well structured for supporting lawyers in that they have great business development, client services and marketing teams which takes away all the non-chargeable aspects of work that I’ve been expected to do in previous roles. It means I focus solely on what I want to do – supporting my clients!’
Do you have any hobbies? What do you do to unwind?
‘I always try to stay active outside of work and enjoy getting outdoors, for a walk or a hike,’ says Fozia. ‘Aside from keeping active, I’m a lover of the arts so I try to get down to London as much as I can to see a show or a play in the West End.’
‘I’m also an avid reader and often find myself having multiple books on the go at the same time. At the moment, I’m more into non-fiction. I’m generally inquisitive by nature so facts have always interested me over fiction!’
What do you think your clients value most about the way you work with them?
‘I strive to give clear advice with fast turnaround times. Business immigration law is very much a process-driven practice area; clients are usually working to short timescales, so being able to give them clear-cut advice on what they need to do and when they need to do it has always been important to me.’ Fozia explains. ‘Knowledge and experience are other aspects that I think clients value from me. Often clients are looking for definitive answers and they don’t want their lawyers to remain on the fence about certain matters.’
Can you comment on any stories or trends happening in Business Immigration?
‘Generally, the UK Government is trying to make the visa application process ‘easier’. On the surface, this can streamline the process, but it seemingly cuts out the need for lawyers. This can motivate businesses to undertake the application themselves, but it can become difficult very quickly if they were to make a mistake. The law behind these applications can be quite technical so the slightest issue may cost businesses copious amounts of time and money in the long run!’