Tuesday, 9 March 2021
East Midlands enterprising women: Mehmooda Duke MBE DL
From legal and finance to logistics and housing, a wide range of sectors in the East Midlands are blessed with an even more diverse set of female talent in senior positions. To celebrate International Women's Day 2021 on 8 March, East Midlands Chamber profiles the inspiring stories behind 10 of the region's top enterprising women throughout the week.
Mehmooda Duke MBE DL was in the second year of her training contract as a solicitor when she walked past the car park space reserved for the owner of her London law firm Capsticks and made a promise to herself.
“I didn’t know how I was going to get there but I told myself that I’d be a senior partner of a law firm one day,” she recalls.
“Everyone needs someone to be inspired by and the owner of that firm, Brian Capstick, was probably mine because I wanted to be like him.”
Blackburn native Mehmooda’s journey would take her to several cities and law firms as she defended doctors in clinical negligence cases before deciding to take the plunge once she landed in Leicester.
She handed in her notice at her job in February 2003 and, in May, set up Moosa-Duke Solicitors – which includes her maiden name to honour her father, who encouraged her to be a lawyer and loaned her £35,000 to get started in business. She ran it out of a one-bedroom flat in London Road and, with no local contacts, relied on word of mouth from people she had met along the way to get work.
Crossing the divide from defending to suing doctors gave her a USP of understanding both sides of clinical negligence, which helped her gradually build a reputation.
The client list grew too and despite initial plans to have a team of about four people, Mehmooda is now CEO of a firm with 15 based in a larger office in De Montfort Street.
“The message I’d always give is to do a good job and get known for the quality of your work, the rest will follow,” she says.
External recognition soon followed as Mehmooda, a founding executive board member of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers, became the Leicestershire Law Society’s first female Asian president in its then 155-year history in 2017 – the same year she was named the Business Woman of the Year at the Leicester Mercury Women in Business Awards.
“Given the demography of Leicester, it was incredibly important that an Asian woman was recognised in public office so I felt a responsibility to accept the role,” she says.
“I used it as an opportunity to actively seek out other women who I thought would be good people to follow in my footsteps.”
Mehmooda received an MBE for services to the legal profession and female entrepreneurship in the 2019 New Year Honour’s list – an award she admits “blew her away” – and is also a Deputy Lieutenant for the city of Leicester.
How Mehmooda Duke MBE DL became the chair of Leicestershire County Cricket Club
It was through law society contacts that she got involved with Leicestershire County Cricket Club and, after initially taking up advisory and board director roles, she was appointed the first female chair in the history of English and Welsh county cricket in 2019.
While admittedly a latecomer to the sport, Mehmooda has brought her business experience to the voluntary role in financially restructuring the club, driving a vision to build an academy that can produce future England players and navigating the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She says: “I don’t have a cricket background, which surprises some people, but my answer is I’m not there to play cricket – I’m there to bring business skills, strategy and leadership.
“A very diverse board is a healthy board, and I’m really passionate about women having the conviction to take that step and not be put off if they don’t fulfil all the criteria of being a board member because they can learn about the environment.”
Having come so much further than she probably could have imagined as a trainee solicitor, what would Mehmooda tell her younger self now?
“I’d say to be prepared for a lot of hard work and responsibility, but it’ll be a lot of fun along the way and a wonderful privilege to meet some amazing people,” she adds.
“But my message to other people is that if you have a dream or aspiration, don’t ever think it’s too big to achieve because if you set your mind to it, it’s doable.”
This story features in the March edition of Business Network, which has a special enterprising women theme. To read the magazine, click here.Back