The Lawyer as Diplomat

LLB graduate Qasim Aziz Butt tells us why the degree provided an ideal foundation for a career in diplomacy
LLB graduate Qasim Aziz Butt
"Whatever I have done hitherto as a professional owes a lot to my law degree": Qasim Aziz Butt
The University of London International Programmes provided me with a golden opportunity to study a world-class degree from my home country

I am a recently inducted employee of the Foreign Service of Pakistan which functions under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After my initial training, I will be sent for a foreign language course next year. On my return home, my first diplomatic assignment will be as a third secretary among one of the 70 Pakistani missions abroad.

Prior to this career, I worked at Pakistan College of Law – a Registered Centre of the University of London International Programmes and a leading law school in the country – as a member of the adjunct faculty. I taught the subjects of Public law and Jurisprudence from 2010 to 2013. Over the last four years I have worked in different capacities. Starting my career as a Corporate and Commercial lawyer and then switching to academia and finally opting for the life of a career diplomat. None of this would have been possible had it not been for my law degree. 

"A law degree is a multidimensional discipline, opening different avenues and career options for the degree holder."

A law degree is a multidimensional discipline, opening different avenues and career options for the degree holder. This has always been my belief ever since I started studying law and my career progression has only reaffirmed my conviction in the utility of a good law degree in various fields including global diplomacy.

As an LLB (Hons) student of the University of London International Programmes, I was awarded a first class degree in 2010. This academic success led many to conclude that the career of a Solicitor or Barrister was an automatic choice for me. However, I always wanted to be part of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and envisaged my future as a career diplomat. For many, my decision to study a law degree as a precursor to my career as a diplomat was nothing short of an enigma.

Qasim Aziz ButtIn Pakistan, young diplomats are inducted by the federal government through a very rigorous and competitive civil service exam every year. Thousands of candidates apply from across the country and only a very few manage to make it in the end. The eligibility criterion for this exam requires an undergrad degree. By 2007, I already had one such degree from a local University. In the ordinary course of events I should have taken the exam that year as I met the minimum academic requirements. Given the competitiveness of the exam, I was not confident of my success. My plan was to pursue a professional degree before attempting the civil services exam. After evaluating the different options available to me, I finally opted for the University of London International Programmes which offered me a qualitative and flexible law degree which catered to my every need.

"In the course of the next three years, I developed and polished various critical thinking skills and analytical qualities that not only helped me in deciphering the intricacies of law but also sharpened my argumentative skills."

I chose the University of London International Programmes for various reasons. Firstly, it provided me with a golden opportunity to study a world-class degree from my home country. The cost of the degree was much more affordable in comparison to doing a similar degree in the United Kingdom. Secondly, the courses for the degree were designed in such a way that they demanded an in-depth study of case laws, books and other academic writings. In the course of the next three years, I developed and polished various critical thinking skills and analytical qualities that not only helped me in deciphering the intricacies of law but also sharpened my argumentative skills.

I finally took the civil services exam last year and successfully passed the written exam. I was then shortlisted for interview and eventually got allocated to the Foreign Service of Pakistan. The interview stage was crucial for my final allocation. Again, my law background provided me with an edge over the other candidates. During the interview, the panel asked my opinions about various international law disputes and constitutional crises within the country. Having a command over International and constitutional law made my task relatively easy. My opinions were backed up by a solid understanding of law. The honourable panel appreciated my opinions and specially praised my knowledge of international law and international affairs. It was on the basis of my good performance in the interview that I was finally allocated to the cadre of my choice: the Foreign Service of Pakistan.

"Making it to the Foreign Service provided me with the greatest satisfaction and fulfilment. For me, it was not just another exam but a lifelong dream and objective."

I have had a reasonably good academic record but making it to the Foreign Service provided me with the greatest satisfaction and fulfilment. For me, it was not just another exam but a lifelong dream and objective.

A completely new career awaits me now and much of the time I think about and publicly discuss the increasing role of legal awareness in the life of a diplomat. In this regard I came to various conclusions, one of which is that a good student of law brings unique gifts and qualities to diplomacy which distinguish them from the rest of their colleagues.

The day to day work of a Foreign Service official revolves around examination of treaties, bilateral agreements and protocol instruments and a lawyer’s background is of great help in this regard. A law student has an eye for detail and can perform the difficult job of drafting these instruments much better than others. The job of a diplomat in one respect resembles a lot to a practising lawyer. Just like a lawyer jealously guards the interests of his client in a court of law, so does the diplomat for his country while dealing with the rest of the world. His job is to build a case or narrative for his country which will best serve the interest of the nation. In a nutshell, argument and dialogue is essential to both law and diplomacy. Hence, the usefulness of a good law degree as a precursor to a career in diplomacy can hardly be undermined.

Whatever I have done hitherto as a professional owes a lot to my law degree. It is my honest advice to all law students to appreciate the diversity and richness of this great subject. Looking at law in such a way will offer you multiple career options. Exclusively practising law is not the only choice available to you. Sometimes it is good to take the less trodden path because it might make all the difference.

  • Find out more about studying for a University of London degree in Pakistan.
  • Find out more about studying for an LLB.