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Rana Almaghrabi is an LLM student at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, where she was granted a full scholarship. She applied to the US school after completing a bachelor’s degree in law in her home country of Saudi Arabia and working for two local law firms.
After graduation, Ms Almaghrabi aims to become a professor of law to help pave the way for more female Saudi Arabia lawyers.
1. Who are your role models?
I am inspired by two an outstanding female models.
(1) Princess Ameerah Altaweel of Saudi Arabia, a businesswoman and philanthropist who is recognised as an achiever and leader of her generation and who is committed to evolutionary change.
(2) Muna Abu Suliman, an influential Arab and Muslim media personality, who has spoken and written about issues relating to women rights, community development, and building bridges of understanding between the East and West.
2. What academic achievement are you most proud of to date?
I am proud that I was brave enough to take the risk and face a conservative culture where people only trust men and are opposed to the idea of having Saudi females in the legal profession.
3. Why did you choose to study an LLM?
Saudi universities do not offer Masters of Law for Saudi females, because of the novelty of this academic major in law for women - the undergraduate law degree was only introduced in 2005. As time went on, I felt the need to expand my knowledge in law by studying abroad. So I came to the US to learn how to see things with western eyes.
4. What are you enjoying the most about the course?
The multiplicity of nationalities - there are a large number of students from east Asia, France, Turkey, Italy and India on the programme. This is a rich benefit when you have the world’s cultures in one place.
5. What are you finding challenging?
Most of the LLM students have a very good experience of the workplace so it’s a challenge to compare with them. Others come from a completely different legal system that I have never heard of, and some students have very high expectations because they are learning and practising at the same time.
As the only Saudi female in the whole school, I also feel the need to prove myself more. Some students have never had a friendship with a Saudi person before and they ask me about the legal profession in my country.
6. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
I can summarise an experience that I have been through and learnt from in a quote of a film called The Pursuit of Happiness when actor Will Smith advised his son Jaden Smith, saying: “Do not ever let someone tell you that you cannot do something... You want something, go get it”. I have learnt that beginnings are always difficult, so you should not surrender from the beginning because your first baby steps are important.
7. What is the last book you read?
A book called One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turow.
8. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
Despite the fact that the legal profession had always been male dominated, men are the first to have supported me, starting from my family to my manager at work. I believe that the relationship between men and women in the labour market is not a challenge. The truth is that each gender has distinctive characteristics and when we share the work together, we get the best productivity.
9. What are your expectations for the workplace?
In 2013, which I call ‘the booming year’, so many significant decisions were made for women empowerment in Saudi Arabia, such as being able to serve in parliament, being licensed as attorneys and having the right to vote. Today, government and private sectors welcome female law graduates. Local and famous international firms from the US and UK, such as, Allen & Overy, Baker & Mckenzie, and Clyde & Co are amazed by Saudi females’ performance and productivity. The community as a whole are accepting us much better than before, so I am optimistic for the future.
10. What do you hope women in law will achieve ?
Saudi women are working from the bottom up for justice and change, which is not easy to do, especially in our conservative culture. We should take advantage of every decision supporting us and every person who believes in our abilities to develop the legal community.
I hope I can see Saudi female professors in our law schools, teaching the upcoming generation. We should also not forget that our role as future female lawyers is to enlighten the minds of those who do not know much about their rights, and we should not forget that humanity is not measured by money.