She is a leading expert in business immigration and also handles personal immigration cases. She advises corporates wanting to bring skilled workers to the UK under the points-based immigration system. She also advised several people involved in the Windrush scandal and has won a number of challenges against the Home Office regarding complex and discretionary cases. She has practised in the area of immigration, nationality and European law since 1998.
I am a partner at law firm Kingsley Napley specialising in immigration law. I advise HNWs needing visas to live and work here and employers wanting to bring skilled workers to the UK on the points-based immigration system. I grew up on a council estate in Peckham and got so sick of my brother being arrested because he was black, that I decided I had to become a lawyer. I felt I needed to fight the system from within and if I had knowledge that would give me power. I wanted to be at the same level as those trying to oppress black people. During my teens I worked really hard and studied all the time, driven by my ambition. I was the first child in my family to go to university and I became Kingsley Napley’s first black partner in 2014.
I was very dedicated in my youth to my dream of being a lawyer and how I was going to do that. Over time, however, I became disillusioned with my original plan of being a criminal lawyer and found I enjoyed asylum and human rights type work more. This led me to my current field of immigration and working in a City law firm which perhaps is not where as a child I had expected to end up but it suits me well. I have been able to continue to make a difference – for example I helped several people involved in the Windrush scandal – as well as do more corporate style work. The fact that my team at Kingsley Napley has one of the best reputations for immigration law is something I am very proud to be part of.
Yes, in my youth and adult career there have been many challenges. It took me ages to master concepts and understand legal theory when I was studying and looking back, I even wonder if I was a bit dyslexic. Along my journey I have encountered racism in various forms – both shockingly overt episodes through to what we now call micro-aggressions. I was advised to take elocution lessons by one of my first employers. I know how it feels when a client assumes that the white paralegal is the senior lawyer since it can’t possibly be the black woman. But I have always taken the attitude that racism is not my problem and it can only be yours if you have an issue with me because of my colour and that mantra has served me well.
My daughter, which is a bit cheesy but, she is so confident with herself and knows who she is. At 13 years old, she amazes me.
My father’s advice to me as a child was crucial I think in helping shape my resilience and determination to succeed. He moved to the US when he and my mother divorced and was involved in black activist movements but we remained in close contact. When things happened at school or anywhere, he would tell me not to worry as black is beautiful and I could be anything I wanted to be and nothing, especially my colour, would hold me back. He would remind me of those who had gone before me and had gone through so much worse and if they survived and achieved their dreams, I was small fry and had no issues.
I do mentor people and have done so for several years. Sadly at times I have to say no to people who ask me because I can’t officially mentor more than a few at a time and do a proper job. I check in with my mentees on a regular basis.
I would rather we achieved lasting change in a sustainable way actually than accelerate the pace of change and risk a backlash. It is my sincere hope that the current fashion to strive for Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace, to stamp out racism in society and to level up isn’t a passing fad, that burns itself out or is overtaken by the next new trend. Black Lives have always mattered, let this not be the zeitgeist of the moment.
That it takes two to tango! Not only do we need black people like myself to show what we can achieve and work from within to change the system but having allies is critically important to bring about change and make a difference.