Iqbal Meer was born in South Africa in 1940, and was brought up there until he left school. He moved to England where eventually he was able to read for the Bar and was called as a barrister in 1967.
He was unable to return to South Africa because of the apartheid regime. He and his family had a history of protest activity against that regime. Moreover, he had married a woman of different racial origin, and South African law would have prohibited them from living together. Instead, he moved to Zambia to complete his legal studies, where he was admitted to the fused legal profession in 1968. He was in private practice in Zambia from then until 1977. After that, until 1986, he worked as an in-house lawyer for companies including acting from 1982 to 1986 as General Counsel to a company called ITM International, in London, and for part of that time as Vice President of one of its subsidiaries, Meridien International Bank.
In 1987 he re-qualified as a solicitor in England, and joined the firm which came to be called Meer Care & Desai, in partnership with Mr Desai. He retained and still retains family and professional contacts in South Africa, where he was admitted as an attorney, conveyancer and notary public in the 1990s. He acted as a lawyer for Nelson Mandela while the latter was still in prison, continued to do so after his release for 19 years and is still involved in several trusts associated with Mr Mandela. Mr Mandela provided a character reference for him in 2004 in relation to an investigation by the Law Society,in which he said that he had found Mr Meer to be "scrupulously honest, meticulous, tactful and discreet".