1. You are a very busy person, getting 3-4 hours of sleep a day. What does a regular day in your life look like?
Many people seem to get startled by my sleeping schedule, haha. I can give you an example by telling you what I did today. This morning I was at the court, and then I went to Bijoy Nogor as I was a member of the panel of arbitration, where three of us sat in deliberation for almost 1.5 hours.
Later I had to go to BIAC to be a speaker in ADR topic. I then came back to London College of Legal Studies (LCLS), as there was a seminar on ADR in village courts given by Dr. Rana Sattar from Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB). After that, I went to East West University (EWU) as I’m an MBA professor there. Three hours after that, I had to keep a social commitment with my in-laws, which was followed by seeing a few clients at Westin at 11 o clock, and then I finally reached home at half-past midnight. But it’s not like this every day, I wouldn’t have survived then.
I think I have no complaints because of the simple fact that people come to you because you serve them. If I got tired, I wouldn’t have done it, but I believe it to be a motivation. If you look at your job from a positive point of view and you own up to your responsibilities at work, whether you’re a teacher or lawyer, whatever you do, you’ll automatically do it all seriously. You have to focus. Even if you focus for just half an hour, you can get a lot of things done.
My days are very hectic, I travel a lot these days because of my courses, training and sharing of experiences. I was in Paris for the ICC mediation competition on the 4th-12th of this month. 66 Law schools were present in Paris and I was the only Bangladeshi judge. For the first time, there was a team from Bangladesh, and it was from LCLS South. They were excellent and I was really proud of them. I was there for a little over a week, and I had to do my work via skype and other social media. Thanks to technology these days, I can easily look after what’s important here even when I’m not physically here.
2. You have students coming from different backgrounds, from both Bangla-medium and English-medium schools. So, when you have students whose English-speaking skills aren’t that good, do you offer them English courses?
Yes, we offer them elementary English courses. We take tests to place them in the right classes, given that they get continuous support. Before they fly off to the UK, they need to have at least a score of 7.5 in IELTS for their BAR exam, and we definitely guide them through it. However, they still struggle in the UK, even after passing the IELTS test splendidly.
3. Can you please tell us about the English course?
The English course is conducted by in-house teachers. We have tried providing it with a few external teachers, but the existing ones provide a better sense of home to the students. And as a result, the students listen to them more.
What we offer is not just a basic English course but also a legal English course, which helps them to develop their speaking and writing as a Law student. It is offered as a 3-month long course, but it may be extended depending on the student’s score in the placement test.
4. Besides all of this, you also have a rock band of your own. When do you get time to focus on that?
We don’t practice very often; we only do if there is a show coming up. This is because I get time at very odd hours, we’d start at 11 pm and finish at around 3 am. But yeah, sometimes I would play a song on YouTube, put on my headphones and practice singing.
The band members are very supportive. Few of them are professionals; one of them works at a bank, and the other two are in a Guitar School. When they play with me, they are completely committed, and we do 3-5 gigs per year.
I have released 3 albums with the band, and 2 solo albums. I come out with 1 album every 3-4 years, because these days, people don’t even make CDs because of piracy. All they do is create music videos and put their songs on Spotify and YouTube. My last gig was at an LCLS picnic at a resort a few months ago.
5. We want to know a talent that you have that others don’t know about.
I don’t think I have one, haha. I was actually a sports-journalist during my university days, I used to write for a journal called ‘Bortoman Dinkaal’. It had started its journey as a sports magazine, which was published every 15 days with new content, and I was a freelance columnist. I interviewed Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu, the former Bangladesh cricket captain, right after he had scored roughly 7 centuries in the league.
6. Is there anything you didn’t do?
A bit of music, a bit of journalism, and even a little bit of cricket.
Today I was cheering for our team at the Lawyers’ Cricket Cup, which takes place every two years. We went to New Zealand this year, and the Bangladeshi team performed really well. We beat Australia, New Zealand and England but lost against India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The last tournament was in Sri Lanka and the next tournament will be in West Indies or Jamaica in 2022.
If you look at the statistics, most lawyers around the world are depressed. They smoke, they drink, they get very frustrated with the world. They are constantly under pressure from the judges/courts/clients and as a result, they lead a very unhappy and unhealthy life. So, it is a breath of fresh air to see that our lawyers are now looking into sports. Even if we only do it once a week, we have created a very good practice or distraction called BLCC, Bangladesh Lawyers Cricket Club.
I always support sports at LCLS and encourage our teams to play cricket, football, handball, badminton, as well as chess.
7. How difficult is it for you to manage all of the things you do?
I must admit that I do struggle to keep things together nowadays. I’ve got too many cases in my hands right now because I’m currently representing the government in a number of ministries. I’m a lawyer for the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare, and a council in the Ministry of Communication, Roads, and Bridges for the last 7 years, not to mention that I’m also a lawyer for the DM and I also represent the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Sometimes the cases are tough, and it is challenging to make something out of such bad cases. And, sometimes if I focus on my practice too much, my teaching career starts to suffer. But I try to make up for it to make sure no one is deprived of what they are supposed to get, and now I have a reliable team to accomplish that. Also, I feel very proud and content to represent the government.
8. Do you bond with your students?
I try my best to encourage my students during the class as I can’t at other times because of my hectic schedule. However, thanking technology again, people are able to communicate with me whenever they wish to contact me via mail and social media. I try to get back to everyone as soon as possible as I don’t like to keep them waiting, I hate doing that!
9. None of your students have ever said that they needed you and couldn’t find you, how do you do that?
I have consciously never been available. I may have missed a few by mistake but I have never ignored people and even if I ignore someone, I always tell them afterward as to what the reason was, and it’s always a legitimate one.
You see, I don’t have an ego, I don’t tell people “why are you calling me at 1 am? Don’t you know I’m tired and resting?” because it must be important. It could be someone calling me from London time at 8 pm but it's 2 am in Dhaka.
I tell everyone that if someone, who considers me important in his/her life, needs help, and if I can say a few words of comfort or advice, then I’d definitely do it! Why ignore them or keep them hanging? I don’t think there’s anything good about making people wait. It is silly to not respond in time to showoff that you’re a very busy person with better things to focus on. If you are important enough to the world, it’ll be known, and there’s no point in trying so hard.
10. How do you feel when you see a student of yours attaining success in life?
I get extremely happy. If you look at my students, they are taking over Bangladesh! They are working as the Head of Legal at Grameenphone, Robi, CityBank, Unilever, as well as ministries, government sectors, and arbitration.
Most of the top law chambers in Bangladesh are being looked after by the younger generation, and many seniors blindly trust young lawyers nowadays. They don’t even look at the drafting, and I think that gives me an immense sense of pride.
But still, I think we need to create more opportunities so that such great lawyers stay in Bangladesh and serve justice. If you go to England, Australia, or Canada, you should go to learn new things and then come back to share that knowledge with the people in your own country. I don’t see serving another country and earning a lot of money there as anything your country should be proud of you for. Even if you earn a little less, I think Bangladesh is the best place for you in the sense that if you leave, your place will be taken up by someone who is not as good and getting what you deserve. So, I’d like lawyers to come back and fight to help bring a change towards betterment.
11. Don’t you think it’s really hard to stay loyal to your profession? There are so many times that people will try to bribe you or even force/blackmail you, how do you handle that?
I avoid them very carefully and don’t go into fights. I will apologize but I avoid them, and that’s why I’ve never been into politics. I never side with a party, I always support everyone. It’s not easy, I have lost many opportunities and maybe I could have had a more powerful position right now.
But, I’m very happy with not being a politician even though I do respect politicians. I tell my students to not ignore politics, that if they hate and look away, they won’t be able to contribute and their chances to make an impact to go to someone who might not use it properly.
All of us should work hard to create better leadership roles, and there shouldn’t be so much hate that once you are out of power, the opposition puts you in jail. The parties should have some sort of understanding and democracy will be better practiced in this country. If all the parties could sit together and decide to forget the past to work on a better future, it would have an immensely good impact on Bangladesh. If I harm you today, your child will try to hurt me or my child, and then my child or grandchild will try to sabotage yours for the cycle to keep going on forever.
With all the disasters occurring around us, we have a lot of things to fight against, and it has never been a better time to come together as one. I believe the coronavirus will make everyone pause and understand one another better. It will make people more empathetic and eager to help as calamities have the tendency to make people work together. Maybe its God’s way to make us focus on what’s important and remind us how the nature and animals are our friends and should never have been taken for granted. It is our duty to protect them, it always was, but we constantly exploited them. I don’t know how mankind will be 50 years down the line, how the world will be in 2080-2090, and I’m genuinely scared for the generations to come.
12. How important do you feel it is for every citizen to be aware of the laws in the country?
You should definitely know your rights as a law cannot be successful without people knowing and following it. You must know the law of the land you are on and Lawmakers should not just make laws, but also take steps in order to make sure everyone knows them and particularly in a country like ours.
Why doesn’t the government send everyone text messages every single day telling you that these are your fundamental rights? Each and every one should know about the laws and the phone companies should send at least three texts per week. In that way, even if I don’t really like it, I will end up reading about the laws and I might end up educating myself of my basic rights.
I was going through the websites of ministries, and they are constantly updated with the laws. But, since we all love to use smartphones and it’s the best point of contact these days, why don’t we just receive these basic information?
13. Tell me about three things that you think each citizen should know?
A citizen should be told their rights as to what they should do and what they shouldn’t do. A sense of ethics is needed, you cannot just lose yourself to the system and say, “oh everyone is doing it, I might as well”. Why should you do something if you believe it to be harming someone? Someone can take an initiative and suffer but if he survives it, five others will say he did the right thing and will also want to bring a bigger change.
For example, to get a certified order in the court, everyone believes that people have to pay some money, but why do we need to pay? If you stop paying, do you think they will stop issuing the order? Even if they do, for how long? Maybe for a week? Ten days? Eventually they have to give it. The problem is that no one will take the first step, there’s no group of people that will unite together and stand up for the cause and say that they will not pay.
14. What advice would you give to the future lawyers or anyone that’s interested in the legal field?
Patience is very important. The exams are not taking place on time in the BAR council, and I can see many frustrated students. Because of the irregularities in the exams, they are not getting the chance to sit for the them and get qualified. But it would be a shame for them to give up. I know they are suffering at the moment, but if they remain patient as a law student, it will be worth it.
You see, unless you find your job interesting, it will be difficult for you to shine. And, if you know that it is your bread and butter, without which you cannot have a decent life, you should take it seriously. I think people that are coming from a middle-class background, are doing better because they know they do not have any other means, and they strive to outshine others.
If I leave my children 300 crore taka in the bank, and tell them to not worry about their future, do you think they would bother to study? Some will think “I will just wander around the world, because my dad left me so much money, what is the point of getting a BBA/MBA/Law Degree?”. And if I donate that much money to charity, some might ask me why should I? But my question is, how much of it will my children even need to survive?
Keep helping people, keep supporting people, and don’t expect anything back from them. You must focus on having a decent income and education, and you must learn to sacrifice for the people around you, and surely people will do so for you.
Law students need to understand that it is a career just as important as the medical profession. They have to serve people to earn respect.
15. Would you like to change anything in your life?
There is nothing that would want to change. Sometimes I may be frustrated and say things like “Oh my God, if it happened 10 years ago, I would be doing something else!” but the next moment I find myself being thankful to the Almighty for who He helped me become.
Things could always be worse, much worse. Look at yourself, and then look at those around you struggling to make ends meet. Look at the people queueing up for the bus for 2 hours, at those who are begging on the streets or those who are working all day and still not being able to provide healthy food and nice clothes to their family. But we still complain. I tell my students to respect their parents and be thankful to them for their money, for which they have the privilege to sit in such classrooms. People should first focus on being good human beings, qualifications can come afterward.