Former corporate lawyer turned civil rights attorney Qasim Rashid never dreamed of becoming a lawyer in the first place. But when his wife pointed out to him his passion for social justice, he took the suggestion and went to law school. He now works as the Director of Civil Rights & Policy at Karamah : Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
My wife told me to. After we got married, I was in the business sector and we were doing well for ourselves and it was work that was rewarding from a financial point of view, but just not from a mental / moral / spiritual point of view and my wife sensed that. She said to me, “Everything points to you wanting to be an advocate. You should consider going to law school.” At first, I dismissed it. She continued to encourage me and I got into a great school – it took a couple of years trying, and I was hooked. I wish I had some great story, but really, I just obeyed my wife and then became a lawyer. I guess that’s a pretty good rule for most guys.
What’s your area of practice?
In the last year, I’ve made a hard shift where I minimize my corporate law practice. I’m a full time civil rights attorney. The corporate law, I don’t think I’ll ever quit that because I genuinely enjoy that. But my passion comes with the civil rights and human rights aspect.
What caused that shift?
A couple of years after the Iraq War, I traveled back to my birth country, Pakistan, for the first time in my adult life and visited my family and friends in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. We’re heavily persecuted in Pakistan. To see them live under Apartheid-conditions, it occurred to me that unless we help ourselves, we’re not going to improve the conditions. We can’t expect somebody else to help us and so that’s where my advocacy began. My ambition was always to get into human rights law and an opportunity came along that was just too good to pass up.
What is the most valuable thing you do for your clients?
To remove their worry. That assurance, that peace of mind – it’s one of those things where you sit with a person who doesn’t know whether they’re going to be in a prison cell tomorrow or walking free and then, the look of relief on their face when they see that they’re walking free – that right there — words can’t describe how powerful that moment is.
What are you most proud of in your work?
I hesitate to sit there and say this is what I’m proud of because I feel like there’s so much more to do and so much more that needs to be done. And I want to focus on that.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
I’m only 5’9″ so when I realized that there wasn’t an opening in the NBA for me, I had to look elsewhere.
My father is an imam, an Islamic scholar. If I didn’t become a lawyer, going to a seminary and getting a doctorate in Islamic theology was the direction I was going in. My father actually discouraged me. Now that I have kids of my own, I see the way he juggled being a parent and being away from us, I think he’s right.
What is something that you do to unwind?
I’m a marathoner, so I run regularly. That’s a huge unwinding for me because it allows my body to just melt away the stress – get the runner’s high, get the endorphins going. Also, my daily prayers and time with my kids is the most meaningful part of each day for me.
What is something your clients would never guess about you?
The biggest comment I get from people who follow me on social media is that I come across as serious all the time. In speaking to me, they find me a lot funnier and goofier than they thought. I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.
What’s your favorite place to be?
There’s two: playing with my kids and in the middle of a 20 mile run.
LeanLaw believes that lawyers are heroes, critical to the rule of law in a free society. You can find out more about hero lawyer Qasim Rashid here. If you know a heroic lawyer whom we should spotlight, please let us know in the comments below.
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