Umair Saleem LLM '21

A Formative Experience

Umair Saleem is a practicing advocate of High Courts in Pakistan. He handles advisory and transactional work, arbitrations, and litigation pertaining to diverse areas of laws for commercial clients and government sector entities. After receiving degrees from prestigious universities in Pakistan and then Belgium, Umair decided to pursue a second LLM at Haub Law and follow his growing passion for environmental law. Despite completing his LLM during the COVID-19 pandemic, Umair left Pace having fulfilled his goal to acquire the tools and vision to actively work towards establishing a strong foundation of environmental law within Pakistan.

What was your path to law school?

I have always been a keen learner and an astute observer of the systemic injustices prevalent in the society I grew up within and that has fostered my desire to pursue many educational pathways. I always envisioned a future where human rights were not violated, and society offered its best to all individuals equally. Once I had avowed to set on this journey towards bringing a change in the oppressive structures of the society, law arrived as an easy conclusion. I completed my college education at Government College Lahore and had a stellar academic record, which eventually led me to receive a scholarship at one of the most prestigious universities in Pakistan—Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). After graduating with a degree in law, I was fortunate to find the right opportunities to work in corporate law firms and with prominent legal minds in Pakistan for five years. This helped me discover my passion for different fields of law. At this point, I decided to undertake an LLM from KU Leuven in Belgium in International and European Public Law. After that, I began my second LLM program in Energy and Climate Change Law from Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law because of my true passion for environmental justice. My time at Haub Law radically shaped my career pursuits and my vision for the future.

What inspired you to choose Pace to pursue an LLM?

After graduating from LUMS, I worked with two prominent environmentalists in Pakistan, Justice Jawad Hassan and Dr. Parvez Hassan, who fueled my passion for environmental law. Justice Jawad Hassan is also an alumnus of Pace and played a significant role in my decision to choose Pace for furthering my vision and goals. Pace is also the top environmental law institute in the United States. For all of these reasons and more, I enthusiastically decided to attend Pace to complete my LLM, which became a formative step in my vision to actively work towards establishing a strong foundation of environmental law within Pakistan.

What experiences stick with you from your time at Pace?

When I joined Pace, the COVID-19 pandemic was on the rise so there was no on-campus interaction at the time. However, the positive school ethos of the institute became evident to me in the way my distant learning experience was mediated and encouraged through facilitated interaction and understanding among not just peers but also professors. It proved equally fortifying to my growth not just as an academic but also as an individual and lawyer in Pakistan. The professors at Pace were always eager to help me work towards my goals and this became one of the most exciting parts of my journey and still proves invaluable to my growth in the field. In particular, Professors Nicholas Robinson and Katrina Kuh had the most defining impact on my growth and shaping my direction and passion for environmental laws.

How did your experience at Pace influence your outlook on environmental law?

Pace had a life changing impact on me—before completing my LLM, I only possessed a fleeting understanding of the environment, but it shaped my in-depth understanding of environmental and legal issues embedded within our everyday lives and practices. Furthermore, my understanding was further enriched when I engaged with legal aspects and approaches globally through my interaction with a diverse group of people from all over the world. My time at Pace instilled even more passion and optimism within me. Upon my return, I approached it with newfound vigour and environmental law took a precedence over other facets of my practice. I continue to draw and utilize insights from my experience at Pace during professionally challenging situations even today.

Can you speak a bit about your current career?

I am a practicing advocate of High Courts in Pakistan and handling advisory and transactional work, arbitrations, and litigation pertaining to diverse areas of laws for commercial clients and government sector entities. A typical day in my life starts early morning with court hearings, drafting for matters I am working upon, meetings with current and prospective clients and managing my associates.

What benefit does an LLM degree hold in today’s world?

The growing impetus of change demands that you broaden your horizons and are open to learning from people belonging to various social strata and cultural backgrounds as it would enhance your understanding of legal issues in the future. It also enhances your understanding as you get a comparative outlook of different legal systems and their handling of various issues.

What are some of your future goals?

I am thrilled to share that I aspire towards contributing to policymaking and eventually enforcement through judicial work and to become one of the future green judges in Pakistan. I want to give a multiplying effect to the environmental training that I have received at Pace by leading environmental litigation, teaching, writing books and articles and pave way for a greener future within Pakistan.

What are some of your passions aside from the law?

Since my initial motivation of studying the law was also to change the existing imbalances within society, I always strive towards changing that through other arenas of my life. I engage in volunteer and community work to try to give back to society largely and specifically my local community where people lack an awareness of career prospects to be able to change their futures. It gives me true joy to be able to make a difference within my community. When I am not working or researching, I also enjoy hiking, traveling and exploring new sites and places. I enjoy interacting with people from diverse cultures and communities and learning from their unique experiences.