Who We Are - Arona St James Solicitors
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Who We Are

Proudly situated at the heart of the East London community, but with a footprint that crosses borders as a result of its partnership with national and international clients, Arona St James Solicitors focuses on providing bespoke solutions tailored to meet the needs of its clients.

The firm was founded by Arona Sarwar, a solicitor with over 18 years experience of advising individuals and businesses, with the ambition of doing law differently. We make things personal. From the moment you first come in to see us, our solicitors and barristers make themselves available either by phone, e-mail or in person to ensure that solutions are found to your problems. For us, no problem is too small or too large – if it matters to you, then it matters to us.

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Arona Sarwar LLB (Hons)

Head Of Personal & Corporate Immigration Team

Arona Sarwar was trained at Cartwright Cunningham Haslegrove Solicitors. She went onto head the Immigration team at Stuart Miller solicitors before starting her own practice.

She recently joined a Central London firm to head their Immigration Corporate and Personal Immigration team before setting up Arona St James Solicitors. Arona works on both personal immigration cases and corporate Immigration work.

Arona has over 18 years worth experience as well has years of business acumen. She is known for her strategic skills and providing a diagnostic service to all her clients. Arona has always taken pride in her work and loves handling complex cases through to succession.

She now heads our point based Corporate team.

“I love what I do and finding a solution. For me, it is about humanising each scenario and working with the client to achieve their goal. Immigration is moving target and I enjoy working with those who want my firm to manage their immigration affairs on a regular basis. More often it allows my business clients to concentrate on their day to day business. Over time my clients have grown with me and alongside my business. I see myself as a business woman with expertise in the immigration field. Employers often recognise I have insight into their business needs and truly look out for their interests. I act for a number of Tier 1 Investors and entrepreneurs from around the world. I am instructed to review their visa and carry out visa health checks on a monthly basis, this reduces the risk of refusal and gives both my client and I comfort that any dip in their fund or business issues can be picked up and acted on. My firm is a boutique law firm and we do more than just provide legal analysis and representation. We strive to offer a holistic approach.”

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Family & Immigration

Gillian joined the practice in May 2019, bringing with her a wealth of experience in family and immigration matters. Her most successful cases have included special guardianships, domestic and foreign leave to remove applications, Child Arrangement applications requiring expert evidence or where Children’s Services are involved, as well as committed work with financial orders, such as maintenance and financial settlements to Final Hearings.Gillian specialised in family law from her qualification in 2011 and she advises on all aspects of family and divorce law, inclusive of adoption, along with immigration matters and Wills and Probate. She has been commended by clients and barristers alike for her care, empathy and direct approach to individuals from a variety of backgrounds, providing a dedicated and personal service.Gillian has been accredited by the Law Society in Family Law and is an active member of Resolution, the organisation dedicated to non-confrontational resolution of family matters.In her spare time, Gillian enjoys restaurant recommendations, especially if they’ve come from the Great British Menu, going to the theatre and travelling.

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Executive Paralegal

Laila is an experienced caseworker who joined the firm in April 2017 and works in our immigration and family teams. She specialises in various aspects of immigration law, including cases involving family and private life, entry clearance, British nationality, outside of the rules applications and human rights. In addition, Laila assists with family matters.

Laila completed an undergraduate degree in Education and later went on to complete a graduate diploma in law. She is currently completing a legal practice course/masters in law.

In her free time, Laila enjoys spending time with her family and friends, fashion and trying new restaurants.

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Emma Santos Clewley

Executive Paralegal

Emma is an experienced caseworker working in our immigration and family teams.

Emma has completed an undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies with Human Rights, a Graduate Diploma in Law and a combined LPC/LLM. Alongside studying she volunteered at JCWI and Citizens Advice. Emma also lived in the USA for a year where she studied and volunteered at an Asylum and Refugee Centre. Through this work Emma developed a keen interest in assisting vulnerable and marginalized people and social welfare law.

Emma has 2.5 years of immigration experience specifically in EEA, nationality, human rights, points-based, asylum & humanitarian protection and appeals applications. In addition Emma assists the family team with cases such as international adoption, divorce and child proceedings (UK/internationally).

Emma is a Spanish heritage speaker and is currently learning sign language. She enjoys watching documentaries, travelling and coffee.

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Jessica Hunter


Jessica is a paralegal working in our Immigration and Family teams.

Jessica has completed a law degree and the BPTC (The Bar Professional Training Course). Jessica secured an Upper Second Class degree and was rewarded for her academic achievement during her time at Oriel College, Oxford. At the BPTC she was awarded the Immigration Prize.

Alongside her studies, Jessica worked as a volunteer for the National Centre for Domestic Violence, helping victims of domestic violence to secure injunctions against their abusers. Through this work Jessica developed a keen interest in working with vulnerable clients, and remains dedicated to providing support to all her clients. Before joining Arona St.James, Jessica also worked as an adjudicator, giving her special insight into the decision-making process.

Jessica has been working primarily in the Personal Immigration team at Arona St.James, but has also acquired experience in Family, Business Immigration, and Employment.

“I enjoy working closely with my clients and finding solutions to their legal problems. I take pride in my ability to handle complex cases.”

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Jamil Dhanji

Consultant, Barrister

Jamil is a human rights and public law barrister with particular expertise in immigration, asylum and nationality law.
Jamil graduated at Cambridge University and spent several years in independent practice at the Bar (at Mitre House Chambers and Lamb Building) before joining Arona StJames as in-house Counsel. Jamil heads up the Personal Immigration team at the firm.

Jamil has years of experience representing individuals in court, including in the First-Tier Tribunal (Immigration & Asylum Chamber), Upper Tribunal (Immigration & Asylum Chamber) & the Court of Appeal.
He has appeared in a number of cases, which have been reported because they raise important points of legal principle, including Nzangane v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 555 (Admin) and Kaur [2015] UKUT 487 (IAC).

He specialises in all aspects of immigration law, including cases involving human rights claims, the EEA Regulations, the Points-Based System, points of nationality law, deportation and entry clearance. He also has a great deal of experience representing individuals in asylum cases.
His particular interest lies in applications for judicial review.

Jamil has contributed to a number of publications including writing a chapter in ‘The Law and Practice of Expulsion and Exclusion from the UK: Deportation, Removal, Exclusion and Denial and Deprivation of Citizenship’ (Edited by Fripp, Moffatt and Wilford) and writing an article, ‘An update on recent Article 8 cases’ in the Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law (Volume 28, Number 2, 2014). Jamil commentates on immigration law matters in the media, including appearing on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC 2 in September 2015.

‘I love advocacy – giving a voice to those that find themselves without one. I hate losing cases, so I will always give my all to make sure that I never lose.’

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Vidya Bavan

Head of Accounts & HR

Vidya is a trained book keeper with several years experience working with law firms and accountants. She liaise with our clients, accountant and other third parties in the development of the firm.

” I am a person that prefers working with numbers and systems. I am getting used to looking at creatives and working with designers. I really enjoy this new aspect to my role!”

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Hubert Ellis

Liaison Officer

Hubert works as a consultant on a non advice basis. He liaises with clients who are vulnerable and ensures that we secure a full set of instructions from our clients that reside out of London.
Hubert is a valuable member of our firm and adds more than legal expertise by listening and ensuring a plan of action is implemented for our long distance clients.

” I enjoy being that stepping stone and knowing that such individuals are in the hands of experienced solicitors who care about the service they deliver. I have seen clients achieve successful outcomes where many have failed. I enjoy cooking and making cocktails in my spare time. I am keen to travel more and be a positive role model to others.”