7/10/20 - News
Meet Fatima Aslam
SHJ is pleased to welcome summer associate Fatima Aslam to our team. Fatima recently graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center with an LL.M. in International Business and Economic Law and a Certificate in International Arbitration. Previously, she gained experience working for law firms in Pakistan, the UK, and the UAE. She received her B.A. from the University of Chicago, M.A. from Columbia University, and LL.B. from the University of Edinburgh.
Here, we’ve asked Fatima to discuss her career trajectory, experiences with SHJ, and enduring love of travel.
When did you become interested in pursuing law?
I grew up in Pakistan and moved to Chicago for undergrad, where I studied history and political science. After that, I completed my master’s in international affairs at Columbia University—that’s when I knew I wanted to go to law school. I applied to a few law schools in the U.S., but ended up doing my LL.B. in Scotland.
During my time at the University of Edinburgh, I got really interested in arbitration and litigation. I decided I wanted to study the subject further, so I came back to the U.S. and did my LL.M. in Washington, D.C.
How did you connect with SHJ?
I started researching firms in January, knowing I would need a job this summer after completing my degree. Because I’ve moved around a lot in my life, I was geographically very flexible, so I was happy to go anywhere if I could find challenging work in arbitration or litigation.
I’m particularly interested in energy-related arbitration. Houston is the place to be for energy sector work, so I did some quick Google searches for Houston-based firms doing high-profile energy stuff. I emailed the address listed on SHJ’s careers page, and Adam Dinnell reached out to me to set up a call. That was definitely a pleasant surprise. Usually when you email a firm, you’re contacted by someone in recruiting or HR, not a partner.
Adam and I had a lengthy phone call where we discussed my interests—which we agreed aligned with the work SHJ was doing, so it would be a good fit—and he asked me to send over my resume. Not even two hours went by before I got a response from Adam inviting me to come down for an in-person interview.
I was supposed to fly to Houston on March 31. Of course, it was clear that wasn’t happening by mid-March. SHJ told me they were happy to schedule a Zoom interview if I couldn’t get down to Houston, but I was nervous because I thought the pandemic would change everything—as it had for so many law firms who ended up cutting their 2020 summer associate programs. But every time I heard from SHJ, it was like nothing had changed, and eventually they offered me the position.
What were your first impressions of the firm?
People here are really serious about their work, which is very high-end. I was impressed that they’ve handled several arbitrations with over $100 million at stake. At the same time, the culture is so laid-back, which is hugely important to me, and not at all bureaucratic. I picked up on these things pretty early on in my interview process, and after having worked at the firm for almost six weeks now, my impressions have been 100 percent confirmed.
As a recent law school student, I know of so many young lawyers reaching out to countless firms for work, and most of them never hear back. From the very beginning, SHJ’s communication and flexibility have been unparalleled next to every other firm on my radar.
What is your day-to-day like? Has it been challenging to start a new position remotely?
I’m working directly with partners and receiving a varied crop of assignments from different people, which is amazing. I’m the most junior person at the firm, but I’ve interfaced with almost every partner there. They always ask me if I’m getting enough to do, if there are any particular matters I’d like to work on.
The work is tailored to my interests and schedule. Notably, they’ve been really flexible with me having to take the bar exam and reducing my workload so I can study properly.
Communication is top-notch here. When I receive feedback, it’s crystal-clear, and Adam checks in on me every week. For someone just starting, it’s key to feel comfortable communicating your concerns and knowing your colleagues are happy to listen. SHJ has really taken great care of me so far.
I’ve been working on a high-stakes arbitration case with a litigation component since the beginning. Simultaneously, I’ve been working on a response to a summary judgment and a motion to dismiss case. For the arbitration case, I’ve done a bunch of different assignments, like researching damages that can be obtained under the relevant state law and the procedural vehicles that can be utilized under the arbitration agreement. As I progress, the assignments have gotten more sophisticated—now, I’m drafting very complex memos.
It’s so clear that what I’m doing actually matters. When I send an assignment back, I always get a detailed follow-up from the partner within 48 hours. Knowing a senior lawyer is relying on my work to advance the case couldn’t be more valuable for someone just starting out.
You’re a seasoned world traveler and have been to 48 countries. How does your wanderlust complement your legal practice?
I first became really passionate about travel when I studied abroad in Paris as an undergraduate student. Those six months I spent in Europe made it very easy for me to rack up a lot of stamps on my passport. From there, I went on to study law in Scotland and work in the UK, UAE, and Pakistan.
In today’s global climate, where most business deals involve a cross-border element and where you’re continuously encountering people from extremely diverse backgrounds and cultures, lawyers need to have an international outlook. Traveling, even as a tourist, gives you this perspective. I love to travel for fun, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to pursue my academic interests in many different cities across the world.
I think these experiences have significantly enhanced my professional capabilities. I feel like I’m a real team player and able to examine issues from a wide range of perspectives and in various cultural contexts. I’ve traveled all across Europe and central Asia, and to China and Russia, so if I have a client from any of those areas, I have a lot to share with them.