First and the youngest Asian female partner at Linder Myers Solicitor, Rakhi Chowhan, says that motorcycle culture is to some extent stereotyped by society with bikers often being considered to be reckless riders.
Bikers are more vulnerable than drivers, Chowhan, who’s the personal injury partner at the firm, tells Anjana Parikh
AL: Why did you choose to become a solicitor?
Rakhi: Since my high school years, I have always been intrigued by the legal system. In particular I developed an interest initially in criminal law and working in a court environment. Despite the popularity of TV shows like ‘LA Law’ during the 90s, my interests weren’t really influenced by television but instead arose naturally.
AL: Your area of specialism is motorcycle accidents. What made you specialise in this sector?
Rakhi: The majority of motorcyclists are a younger generation. Whilst I always enjoy maintaining professionalism in what I do, I also like the fact that dealing with a young client base allows me to have a more relaxed, less formal way of working with them and tackling the unique issues that arise in these particular cases. This allows me to develop a more personal relationship with clients.
I also like a challenge particularly as motorcycle accidents tend to involve litigation surrounded by unique case law.
AL: You’ve been successful in negotiating several cases related to motorcycle accident. How can the rate of such accidents be reduced?
Rakhi: The motorcycle culture is to some extent stereotyped by society with bikers often being considered to be reckless riders. The reality is that they’re individuals who have a passion for riding in the same way as individuals have other hobbies and interests in life.
Bikers are much more vulnerable than drivers with very little protection surrounding them, therefore, there needs to be a better awareness of bikers. Recent campaigns such as ‘Think Bike” will hopefully increase driver awareness. Equally, bikers undergo intense training and examination which aims to develop essential road awareness skills.
AL: You’re also in tune with awareness programmes related to forced marriages in the UK, how precarious is the situation? Can you please highlight the issue in brief?
Rakhi: Forced marriage is still commonplace and in some cultures, is part of tradition. The scale of the problem is such that the Home Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Offices joined forces to form the Forced Marriage Unit in 2005 with 1,302 cases dealt with during 2013 alone.
According to the Forced Marriage Unit, 73% of cases involved individuals below the age of 21; 15% were aged 22 – 25; 26 – 30 year olds made up 7% of cases and the remaining 3% were aged 31 and above.
The issue affects both men and women, although women make up 82% of victims and 1 in 8 are under the legal age of consent.
Victims of forced marriage will often come under various forms of pressure from psychological and physical threats to financial pressures, largely from within their own families and community.
AL: How can people and the Government help to resolve the problem?
Rakhi: Raising awareness is fundamental to the issue particularly with the implementation of the Forced Marriages (Civil Protection) Act 2007 which came into force on November 25, 2008.
There is help available for victims who can assist anyone who is unfortunate to find themselves in such an oppressive situation and prevent a forced marriage from occurring. These are non-profit organisations which work with victims to provide support and refuge in some instances for example, the Saheli Asian Womens Project.
AL: You also run the Manchester Young Professional Netball League. How has the corporate world changed the lifestyle of the people?
Rakhi: We are living in an age where work-life balance is consistently being challenged, leaving very little time for social activities. I have always enjoyed netball and in 2006 organised a team comprised of myself and colleagues and we played against a team from Pannone on a regular basis. The MYPNL has now grown to 23 teams and two divisions which is really pleasing.
It allows professionals to combine social activity with an opportunity to network and build, and strengthen, business relationships. We always welcome interest in the league.
AL: You have a very demanding job. How do you juggle your time between personal and professional life?
I would say that Monday to Friday my time is largely dedicated to my job but, in turn, I allocate a certain level of time to fulfill my leisurely activities in order to strike a work-life balance.
Being an organised individual plays a key role in achieving this balance. For example, the preparation of the netball league is undertaken in the summer so to ensure the league runs smoothly during the season to allow me to dedicate my time in other areas.
AL: Please tell our readers about your background
Rakhi: Whilst my parents originate from India, I was born in the UK and have three sisters. Having left school, I made the difficult decision of working full time in a legal environment whilst studying starting at Linder Myers in the costs department 16 years ago before being offered a training contract two years later.
Studying to qualify while working proved to be very challenging; I had to juggle a demanding work environment while developing myself as a professional and also studying during the evenings and weekends. Whilst this was a huge challenge, the rewards did follow as I became the first Asian female partner at the firm at a very early age.
I’m always looking for a challenge and in 2011 joined the Association of Asian Women Lawyers and was very pleased to be elected the North West chairwoman in 2013 hosting an average of three events a year including the recent seminar on Forced Marriages (more information on the organisation can be found at www.aawl.org.uk/).
AL: What’s your approach towards work?
Rakhi: I have a strong work ethic and I am passionate about achieving the best results for every client.
I abide by a set of principles in my everyday work which include perfectionism and efficiency combined with being highly organised.
Making a difference to clients’ lives provides real job satisfaction. One particular case which had a profound effect on me involved two young boys who were playing in their caravan in the garden when there was a massive gas explosion which sadly left one of them very badly burned and scarred for life. While the compensation achieved for them couldn’t change what happened, or the permanent physical and psychological damage done, I like to think it at least helped to make their life a little easier following the accident.
AL: Last but not least, what makes Rakhi tick?
Rakhi: There’s a real sense of achievement with winning a trial. It’s a great feeling to see months of hard work on a case materialise into a successful outcome for a client.
Simply hitting (and in most cases exceeding) my targets gives me a real sense of accomplishment as I can see first hand how I am contributing to the success of the firm.
Winning a challenging netball match also helps!