Alumni profile - Hassan Shaigan
The Professors of Arbitration at Queen Mary are globally well-known. Anyone who not only excels in his/her field but who is also brilliant at teaching and spreading knowledge is the perfect person to study from and Queen Mary had many of these said faculty members.
What course did you study at Queen Mary and what inspired you to study this course? I studied for my Master of Laws LLM. I already had a University of London LLB degree and some work experience, but I knew that a postgraduate degree would be necessary for further career development. Coming from a common law jurisdiction, I wanted to study a postgraduate law degree from a top university in the UK. This LLM allowed me to choose any module and combination and also any topic for my dissertation. I chose this course for the flexibility and to get a wide range of skills and knowledge.
Why did you choose to complete your Masters at Queen Mary and CCLS in particular? Queen Mary and CCLS have had a high ranking in law programmes for a number of years in the UK generally and particularly in London. The faculty includes some of the finest legal minds. The Professors of Arbitration at Queen Mary are globally well-known. Anyone who not only excels in his/her field but who is also brilliant at teaching and spreading knowledge is the perfect person to study from and Queen Mary had many of these said faculty members.
What were your favourite modules on your course and why? My most favourite module was Law of Economic Crime taught by Professor Peter Alldridge. He is a genius in this field, has numerous books and articles on these issues and a lot of experience as a professor. Professor Alldridge was writing about these issues at a time when not many people were interested in this area of law. Through this module I came across the actual history and meaning of issues we usually read in the news like money laundering, bribery, sports crimes, beneficial ownership, tax evasion and tax avoidance and kleptocracy etc. Then I learnt about the legal mechanisms to curb the different forms of Economic Crime and the effectiveness of each mechanism.
I also enjoyed the lectures of Professor Ian Walden on Cyber Crime, another important area of law today. He also had a really good sense of humour which made it more interesting! It was the first time I studied international cooperation and digital investigations in regards to Cyber Crime. Other than that I learnt so many new topics as I was in the general LLM - arbitration and energy, commercial awareness, international investment, principles of regulation and also likely impacts of Brexit on the UK and Europe. From such topics you not only get the perspective of a lawyer but also get to know how States think in legislating, adjudicating and enforcing laws and how international law works. Learning and using OSCOLA for research essays was also new and it helps even today in writing legal research papers and articles.
I understand that you were an international student at Queen Mary, where is home for you? Although London is full of people from all cultures and you never feel left out or bored, home for me is Pakistan where I grew up, have family and came back after studying at Queen Mary. On one side you have the hassle of work visa requirements, getting additional qualifications to practice law and leaving your family and on the other side you have family, no visa and no additional qualification requirements. LL.B is enough to practice law in Pakistan but in the UK I would either need Legal Practice Course and a Training Contract to become a Solicitor or Bar Professional Training Course and Pupillage to become a Barrister despite having a UK LL.B and UK LL.M.
What was it like studying and living in a different country and what advice would you give to prospective students thinking of studying in another country? It was a whole new experience studying and living in a different country. It is so different from traveling to another country for a vacation. Studying is the top priority but you also have to look after your accommodation, meals, leisure time, finances, friends, exercise etc. You do a lot of things for the first time which are going to help you for the rest of your life. The initial months are spent settling down and then all of a sudden a countdown starts. It all looked challenging before I went and also for the initial months but then I started to settle. People said things like London can be depressing in winter as it gets dark too early and you will get freshers’ flu. I didn’t find it too difficult to adjust in London as I found many people from my culture as well as different cultures to be friends with, all types of meals and places to hang out, the best public transport system and student discounts for many goods and services. I got a lot of support from my professors, friends, dissertation supervisor, the careers team, the friends and staff at my accommodation (Goodenough College), QMPlus online resources, Queen Mary Library (including its online library) and also the libraries of other universities and IALS Library, Senate House Library and the British Library. Living in the vicinity of Russell Square helped me to have access to all these places and counter the challenge of studying and deadlines.
My advice to prospective international students would be to choose the course which they think will help them where they wish to work. Look for accommodation options well in advance. Make use of libraries and have discussions with friends as both are great ways to stay motivated. Interact with alumni and other prospective students as well. You do have to work hard as there is no shortcut but you will never be alone and many people will support you. Also look for work during term time if permitted by your visa.
Can you describe the career path you have led since you graduated? A foreign degree does matter but so does your work experience and the overall job application. I am currently working in a China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project Company as a legal advisor. My time at Queen Mary not only increased the legal knowledge and skills which I apply in my job, but more importantly it helps me now to perform in challenging situations, meet deadlines and multi-task.
Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options? During my time we got student visas which lasted 4 months beyond our course. So in such a situation you had to attend and make the most of the career fairs and seminars in University as well as any such events at firms and social circles in the city. Now, students might be able to stay in the UK for even longer after their course. They can focus more on job applications after graduating but that does not mean that they should turn a blind eye to career options while studying as competition is intense. Current students should also look for work during term time if possible and stay engaged with the Careers team. CVs and cover letters should be made for the firm you are applying to rather than sending a general one to many firms. In the UK, students also need to keep track of how Brexit is going to affect the job market in the coming years and target the firms that are more likely to sponsor work visas and hold such a license from the Government. More importantly, students and recent graduates anywhere in the world should keep the current Covid-19 situation in mind and how it is going to affect different jobs in the future. Focus on the skills that will remain relevant even after Brexit, Covid-19 and the emergence of artificial intelligence.
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities whilst you were at Queen Mary? I was part of the Queen Mary cricket and law societies. I enjoyed training at the Oval Ground with fellow students and made some really nice friends. I love cricket and it was amazing playing and discussing cricket with these people at a very historic ground. The law society had many informative events and it was really interesting knowing about different legal perspectives throughout my time there too.
What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments? The most special thing was the friends I made who have become friends for life. I have a lot of memories of hanging out with them on campus, around London and even outside of the UK. I have learnt new languages like French and Spanish from them.
One of the most memorable moments has to be from my very first day. I had missed the first two orientation weeks because of a delay in my visa. The following day was the last day to submit module choices. I had a one-on-one meeting with Professor Anne Flanagan and she really helped me in finalizing my module choices after a very detailed discussion. She paused her other tasks and told me that helping me at that point was more important for her. I realized in that moment that the people here are very supportive and it increased my confidence right from the first day.
Another memorable moment was the graduation ceremony. After an eventful year or so which started with me applying very late and then arriving very late, completing essays before deadlines, leaving after exams to be with my father who got ill back home and then coming to the UK again to complete my dissertation, it was so satisfying to be part of a great ceremony, reunite with friends and most importantly, to have my parents witness my graduation.
Do you have a favourite spot on campus? At the CCLS campus, it was the lab as that is where I could sit if I wanted to study or wait for lectures or just sit with my mates. At the Mile End Campus, it was the coffee shop inside the library building as it was a nice place to sit with friends. I also liked the Qmotion Health & Fitness Centre as it was a great place to train, unwind and spend time with friends.
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