We’re thrilled to share a recent feature of our very own Mr. Mohammad Alam (the founder of Alam Law) in “The Canadian Bazaar”. This feature delves deep into Mr. Alam’s journey from Karachi to Mississauga, highlighting the challenges, decisions, and the rags to riches story behind how he made Alam Law Firm to the one of the top Injury Law Firms in the GTA region.
It delves into the fascinating journey of Mr. Mohamad Alam from his early career endeavors to the helm of our company. It captures the pivotal moments that shaped his leadership style, emphasizing a commitment to innovation, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.
The law firm, which specializes in personal injury and insurance litigation, has donated $60,000 to Trillium Foundation
By a reporter
MISSISSAUGA: Be a man
Take a chance
Bet the farm
And don’t look back.
These words sum up well-known and reputable lawyer Muhammad M Alam, a Canadian of Pakistani origin, whose Mississauga-headquartered Alam Law Firm – with several branch offices in in Toronto , Hamilton and Scarborough – has made a name for itself in personal injury and insurance litigation.
“Once I make a decision, I close all other options. And my philosophy is: If you do good, it comes back to you,” says Alam during a late evening chat in his sprawling office on Dixie Road in Mississauga.
At 23, he was already the HR manager of the famous multinational Gestetner in Karachi. “I was the youngest person to ever become an HR manager at the MNC. I worked with them for 3-4 years and then left because I realised that was all I wanted to accomplish in that company,” says Alam.
His next destination was multinational TNT Express in Karachi.
“I joined as their HR national head, worked there for two years and then left to join New Jubilee Insurance, a Pakistani insurance company, as vice president of Human Resource. After one year in that job, I decided to leave Karachi and explore the wider world. I was 28 then.”
“I applied and got my Canadian PR very quickly. When I resigned, my CEO thought I was crazy. He said: `Take six months off, explore Canada and then decide.’ But I said `no’ because I didn’t want to leave any options for me to come back to Pakistan,” he laughs.
Muhammad Alam with staff at his Dixie Road office.
This bespectacled lawyer says he never settles for half-measures.
“For me, it is either all or nothing. Once I commit myself to something, I never go back. I never entertain this-or-that option. Once I make a decision, I stick to it,” he says, with an air of finality.
“Having only one option has been the secret of my success in Pakistan and Canada,” he says.
“I always tell this to kids: Don’t even think of a second option. People fail because they think they have another choice. Don’t leave yourself another choice once you make up your mind to do something,” he elaborates.
So kicking his flourishing career in Karachi when he landed in Toronto on July 22, 2002, his mind was made up that nowhere matter what the circumstances he would carefully select the best career option for himself and then never waver from it.
He says he had no relatives in Canada when he landed in Toronto on that July evening in 2002. “It was 10 pm. My brother’s friend picked me up from the airport. On the road, he asked me: ‘Where should I drop you?’ I told him bluntly that I am going to his place. I stayed with him for two or three days,” he says with a wry smile.
Muhammad Alam in a meeting with his lawyers.
For the next three months, he lived with five-six people in an apartment.
He says he did nothing during those six months even though people suggested that he take up odd jobs for survival.
“I told myself: `I am not here to do odd jobs for survival.’ I started searching for something related to my HR profession, but I found it was dominated by women, mostly white. I knew the odds were stacked against me, soI rejected the idea of pursuing a career in HR in Canada,” he recalls.
During those first three months, he says, he used up his entire money he had brought from Pakistan. He was also under pressure to bring his wife and daughter to Canada because their visas were expiring soon.
“But nothing detracted me from my goal. I started thinking about what other profession would suit me. I thought about police, medical, engineering and law professions. Finally, I decided I should pursue law even though I was 31.”
He started contacting successful lawyers to seek inspiration, but many refused to meet him. Those who agreed to meet him told Alam that it would be difficult for him to get admission. Some said it would be extremely difficult to succeed.
“One lawyer even went to the extent of suggesting that he should change his name from Muhammad Alam to something else because 9/11 had just happened. All these things they said made me even more determined to succeed. I was not going to change my name or do something like that. It was a tough period in my life,” he says.
Alam with his younger brother Aftab.
By that time his wife and daughter had also arrived from Karachi to join him.
“Since I had no money to pay my rent or buy groceries, I sold my investments in Pakistan so that we could live for a few months as I explored my options to pursue law. We rented a one-room basement,” he says.
Alam applied for various law schools and was accepted at University of Windsor Law School.
“I was totally surprised because I was competing against local graduates. Since my classes were starting in September, I had to wait for six months.”
During that wait period, he took up a minimum-wage job at 2000 Audio Video.
“Every two weeks, I used to get a cheque for $700. One cheque would go towards our rent and the other for groceries. I didn’t even have $10 in my pocket to eat outside. But I knew it was a passing phase.”
Once his law classes started, ho took his family with him to Windsor and got a loan under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to focus fully on his studies.
His wish to start a new career in Canada was finally fulfilled when Alam graduated from the Law School. For his articleship, he moved to the Greater Toronto Area.
“I decided to go to a law firm which could give me experience in litigation as I felt that fighting in court would be fun and I had a passion of litigation. Personal injury litigation was one area which would fulfil that passion for fighting in courts for the accident victims and their families. I made my choice,” he says.
Alam with a signed bat gifted to him by his friend Imran Khan.
Another reason for choosing personal injury, he says, was the fact that 20 years ago the South Asian/Pakistani community needed for lawyers in this area of law because they were underserved in personal injury litigation.
“So for my articling, I joined Diamond & Diamond and Bergmanis Preyra LLP. After my articling, I joined Misir & Company that focussed on personal injury litigation.”
That’s why, he says, his advice to new law graudates would be to do their articling only with a law firm that focusses on their area of choice.
After spending one year with Misir & Company, Alam decided to be his own boss.
“When I told my boss that I was leaving, he asked me: `Why?’ I said: `I am starting my own law firm.’ The expression on his face changed as if he was thinking, `Yeh kya karega’ (Will I survive?).”
He set up Alam Law Firm in October 2009. “We started from one room and I brought in my younger brother , Aftab Alam , to help me with office work.”
As luck would have it, a big opportunity soon knocked on his door.
“At that time, hundreds of people from the South Asian community had been defrauded by their financial advisors. Banks were suing these people to get their money back. Desperate, these poor victims went from one lawyer to another, but these lawyers demanded thousands of dollars in fees to defend them.”
One of these victims – a woman – came to Alam Law Firm with her case.
Alam studied her case thoroughly and decided to help her. “I told her that I will not charge $5,000 or $10,000 but only $500 and fight her case to the finish.”
Alam’s law firm has just donated $60,000 to Trillium Foundation.
“The woman couldn’t believe what I told her. This news spread like wildfire among the victims. Several dozens of them came to me. When I told them that I will charge only $500 (not $5,000) from each, they all went back smiling,” he narrates.
Alam clubbed their cases and responded to the banks which were suing them. “I told the banks that they are equally responsible for the fraud by closing their eyes ( willful blindness ) when the fraudsters (financial advisors) were submitting applications. The banks realised that it would backfire on them and agreed to make a deal.”
The deal was this: the banks won’t pursue their lawsuits against the victims of fraud; they won’t ask the victims to repay the money; and they would reinvest the remaining money of the victims to get the interest which will pay off the loans.
Alam won the case and the victims were off the hook. His reputation as a lawyer soared immediately.
“Imagine if I had insisted on charging $10,000 from that poor woman, only a few of those fraud victims would have become my clients. But because of my passion for helping the victims, I ended up making a lot more money. They became my lifelong clients and brought me new clients. That’s how we began building our reputation as a law firm,” says Alam, his face brimming with pride.
He says he never looks at people who walk into his law firm as clients. “I never ask them what they can pay. I ask them: How can I help them? I follow this in my professional and personal life. Goodwill always comes back to you many times multiplied,” opines Alam.
Indeed, this gentleman lawyer runs free clinics for community members who cannot afford to pay lawyers.
Alam with a client whom he is helping without charging anything.
“Each day we do pro-bono (free) work to help people,” says Alam who is a member of many prominent Canadian and American law associations.
In fact, before this interview started he spent some time advising a Sikh woman and her son on their legal options related to her trucker husband. And in the middle of the interview, Alam went out to advise another man who had paid $10,000 to his lawyer but lost his case.
“These are real people with real troubles and we at Alam Law Firm go out of our way to help them without charging anything,” he says.
Helping the needy is his second nature as Alam is also the executive director of the non-profit Help Me Project that serves the needy with shelters, food banks, clothing, etc.
“Continuing with our charity work, Alam Law Firm have just contributed $60,000 to Trillium Foundation and also committed to donating them a certain portion of our income each year,” says the lawyer who has been featured in two documentaries – `Maple Morning’ and `Magical Milton’ – and Canadian Lawyer magazine for his professional success and charity work
His credibility has helped Alam Law Firm of eight lawyers and four legal counsel to become the go-to legal office for most Pakistanis and amny in the Indian community in the GTA and beyond.
“Indeed, we are one of the largest personal injury law firm in GTA. We have clients from Pakistani, Indian and many other communities,” he says modestly.
Though he relishes court litigation, Alam is a firm believer in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism. “That’s why I am a member of ADR of Ontario and Canada. That’s why I am a qualified mediator and an arbitrator,” he says.
“As a qualified mediator, I help people settle matters out of court to save time and money because court proceedings are expensive and time consuming,” he explains.
“And as an arbitrator, I serve as a kind of private judge who hears evidence and makes binding decisions. This process is fast and confidential as no private information becomes public,” says Alam who was honoured by the Canadian Pakistan Business Council (CPBC) with its Professional Excellence Award in 2018. His firm was also awarded the last two consecutive years Toronto Star Reader’s Choice Award.
Alam Law Chambers at 5100 Dixie Road, Mississauga which serve as one-stop shop for all legal matters – real estate, immigration, criminal law, family law, civil litigation, labour laws, wills and estate.
How does he relax amid his many preoccupations?
“Cricket is my hobby. I relax while watching this game and I have been involved in cricket development in Brampton and Milton.”
If your hobby is cricket and you come from Pakistan, it is no surprise your hero is Imran Khan.
“Yes, Imran is cricket legend, and a national hero. I support his politics and I have donated to his hospital and his university (NAMAL). I hope he is back in power soon,” says Alam, unpacking a signed cricket bat that Imran Khan sent him some time ago.
Alam making a point.
What is his most valuable asset?
“My family. My wife Fahmida has been my rock and key to my success. She has suffered a lot so that I could become successful. My daughter Khadija, 21, is pursuing a journalism course and she wants to go to Columbia or Harvard. Our little boy Mustafa is just 12,” beams Alam whose family roots go back to India. They moved to Karachi during India’s Partition in 1947.
He says his father Muhammand Alamgir is his role model. “In his very tough circumstances, my father ensured that his children got the best education.”
Has this hugely successful lawyer missed anything in life?
“I became very achievement-oriented very early in life. So I was never a care-free teenager. I wish I had that carefree time that every young person likes,” Alam signs off.
Read the Full Article: For a comprehensive look into Mr. Mohammad Alam’s inspiring journey and the rise of Alam Law Firm, click here to read the full article on The Canadian Bazaar.