Give us a little bit about your background.
My name is Dee Kundi and I am a commercial litigation partner at Veale Wasbrough Vizards. We are a national law firm and I am based in our Birmingham offices in Brindleyplace. Our offices range from Birmingham, Bristol, Watford and London and I predominately do commercial litigation specialising in debt recovery, looking after a relatively large team across offices.
What made you get into law?
I always wanted to become a lawyer and I knew from a very young age that was the career path for me. I enjoy problem solving and out of all the career choices my parents were trying to persuade me into (doctor, accountant, dentist) becoming a solicitor was the best suited choice for me.
Whilst studying my A Levels, I did quite well at A Level Law. I then went on to complete my LLB Law (Hons) at the University of Westminster which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then successfully completed my LPC (legal practice course) at the College of Law. However education never stops when you are a solicitor, as continued professional development is the key to success.
I started work as a paralegal, working my way up the ladder to a trainee solicitor and then as a qualified solicitor. I am sincerely grateful to have worked with some of the largest companies in the West Midlands including Wragge & Co, HSBC Bank, Irwin Mitchell before being head hunted as the Head of Legal at HL Solicitors and then finally becoming a partner at Veale Wasbrough Vizards in January 2016. One of my greatest achievements is that I only qualified in May 2010, so it’s been a crazy ride but it’s been an enjoyable ride these past 5/6 years. It’s been quite a quick and fast growth up to partner from when I started out as paralegal, but it was only possibly with tons of dedication, commitment, focus and hard work.
How did you first get involved in the Birmingham Law Society?
It was something that came up as an opportunity. Around April 2015, someone from the Birmingham Law Society approached me and asked if I’d like to get involved in the Law Society so I decided to do some research.
The Birmingham Law Society was established in 1818 and is now the largest Local Law Society in the Country representing over 4000 solicitors, barristers, legal executives, trainee solicitors and paralegals in 130 practices in Birmingham and the Greater Midlands. The Birmingham Law Society is a membership organisation offering a number of benefits that are relevant to today’s Legal Community.
I submitted an application and at the annual general meeting, I was voted in as a council member. My role as a council member include providing representation on the issues important to the legal community; engaging on consultation papers which are relevant to its legal members; arrange networking opportunities for members amongst themselves and with other professional groups, and to offer support to members on practice issues, and provide a comprehensive network of colleagues.
This year, in April 2016, because of my active role, I have been chosen to become a board member and marketing director for the Birmingham Law Society. This is truly a great honour and a really amazing achievement because I’m actually the first Asian woman on their board in 200 years. It’s a great achievement not only for myself but for our community as well.
You’ve won a lot of awards. Which one are you most proud of?
I’ve won a number of awards and to be honest, I am proud of every one of them. To be shortlisted is a real achievement, to become a finalist is an even greater achievement but to be become an ultimate winner is absolutely fantastic. There’s a lot of competition out there and to get yourself into the position to win an award is a great accomplishment. I won Professional of the Year 2014 with the Venus Awards which was another great accolade to have. I then won Best in Legal Services and Best in Debt Recovery as well and each one of those have been really great attainments.
What’s something people might not know about your job?
I think people have the misconception that becoming a lawyer is fighting away in court, standing in front of a judge and jury, I guess what people see on TV. I think what people don’t understand is there are a lot of different areas of law. Just because you’re a solicitor or a barrister doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll know everything about every type of law. There are so many different areas so you may be a criminal lawyer or you may choose to become a family, property, employment, corporate or even a commercial litigator.
The conception of being in front of a judge and jury is limited to criminal law but the civil and corporate side of things are very different. My role involves a lot of interaction with clients, lots of paperwork, problem solving, lots of networking and constantly meeting new clients. It’s all about business development as well. There’s lot of different things that is involved in being a solicitor in today’s age than what people perceive it to be. It’s about getting out there, talking to clients and speaking to people, getting new clients in and understanding them, their needs and their instructions. It’s also about commercial awareness and understanding what their business is about and how we as solicitors can help them, whether it’s a contract or a dispute or any problem which needs solving. What we try and do is work alongside our clients to achieve the best result.
So tell me about the ABCC.
I’m an executive committee member of the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce. The ABCC is part of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group and specialises in supporting the needs of businesses across the West Midlands arena. The organisation works closely with the Chamber to lobby on the key issues and concerns faced by its members, whilst also providing a range of regular networking events.
I’ve been involved with the Chambers of Commerce for the past 5 years. I got involved by attending their events to start off with. I then got approached to come onto the executive committee which I did for my first year and then after that I became the Vice President. That was a great achievement there as well. I got involved with lots of local businesses and SMEs and helped support them to grow. I attend a lot of their events, again connecting people with other people. Where a business might need some help, it was my role as Vice President and now as executive committee member to help them manoeuvre around and meet the right people and help them to connect, support and grow their businesses. It’s something I enjoy an awful lot.
How does it feel to be on the executive board of the ABCC?
It’s a lot of responsibility. What we’re representing is the Asian business community, a growing community. The events are now getting larger and larger at more prominent venues so it’s a great way of meeting and networking with other businesses.
Do you ever want to have your own law firm?
When I was with Irwin Mitchell I got headhunted to become the Head of Legal for HL Solicitors. It was a small law firm with about 50 staff in Redditch. That was the closest I was going to get to running my own law firm. I enjoyed it, it was great work and I learned a lot of things like how to run a law firm, complete business management, financial accounts, balance sheets, advertising, marketing, budgets, staff management, regulation, compliance, business development, running a business as a whole. At the moment, running my own law firm isn’t part of my 5 year plan. Currently I am enjoying being a partner in a national law firm, growing the department and the team and watching them excel.
What is part of your 5 year plan?
I have a 5 year game plan for the Birmingham Law Society, being the very first Asian woman on the board, would it not be amazing if there was the very first Asian woman president?
Do you have a 10-20 year plan?
I do have a 10 year plan but sometimes life doesn’t always go the way you plan it. Sometimes it’s about taking the opportunities as and when they appear. Sometimes it’s having an open mind. I never once thought back when I qualified in 2010 that in 5 years, I’d be the youngest partner for a Top 100 national law firm.
Is there anything you do just on the side?
I’m also a non-exec director of a networking group called TAG (TAG Network Midlands). TAG stands for trainees, apprenticeships and graduates. The CEO, Denise Morris, and I got together and we do a lot of work with helping, coaching and mentoring students to elevate themselves from the education platform into the business market. We coach them on how to network and how important it is, raising their level of commercial awareness so that they are able to enter into the business world. It’s another voluntary work that I currently do and enjoy quite a lot, because I can give something back to the community.
Considering how much you take on, how do you manage your work-life balance?
It’s really difficult. When people think about lawyers they think of fighting in a courtroom or they think it’s a 9-5. Being a solicitor isn’t a 9-5 job, it never has been. They might say it is but I’m always in earlier and I always leave later. The important thing to remember is being a solicitor isn’t a job, it’s a career and that’s the difference. If it was a job, fair enough you can go in and then you can switch off when you get home. But as a career, what you put in is what you take out. So yes, I do take work home, I do work in the evenings, I do meet clients and I’m always at networking evenings which does eat up into my personal time. But to achieve what I’ve achieved, I’ve had to put that extra time in otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Do you have a message for the budding new lawyers out there?
My message is that whatever you want in life, you can achieve. It’s about working hard, it’s not about making excuses for things that can’t happen or won’t happen or will not happen. It’s about having a positive outlook on life. I got to where I am by realising that I need to put my head down, I need to work hard and therefore I will achieve. All the things I’ve achieved in the years I’ve achieved them isn’t impossible. If I can do it, anybody else can do it. I want to send a positive message to any other females (or males for that point) out there that are looking to do law, hard work, focus, aim high and you too can break that glass ceiling because if I’ve been able to do it, then they can follow in my footsteps.