As a mixed raced woman, first generation university student, and someone who is state school educated, I was always worried about fitting into the legal profession and never believed I would be a lawyer. It can be more difficult to realise your potential when you come from a certain background due to lack of role models and connections to the profession, the confidence is not always there. It took me completing my studies, going down a different career path and a lot of encouragement, to finally gain the confidence to apply for training contracts and pursue my dream career.
The typical image of the legal profession not being diverse is slowly starting to change but there is still a long way to go. Diversity in the legal profession is essential as it will encourage a more collaborative, innovative and inclusive workforce, this will in turn help us to provide the most effective service to clients. Law firms also need to be proactive to encourage positive values and inclusion, not only through recruitment and representation, but also through the way employees treat each other and their clients. It is more important than ever to encourage conversations around diversity and for my generation to lead the way to becoming a more accessible and inclusive profession.
When I started applying for training contracts, firm’s diversity and inclusion policies and firm culture was important to me. I instantly felt comfortable meeting people from Michelmores and the firm clearly demonstrated a desire to make everyone feel welcome.
Michelmores have worked on several initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion. Some examples are removing bias from the recruitment process, diversity training throughout the firm, the Women @Michelmores initiative, members of Stonewall, work experience programmes, wellbeing events and a Diversity and Inclusion working group. Events and initiatives around diversity and inclusion open up the dialogue to discuss concerns and ways to promote diversity. The firm are also keen to hear what their employees think about their diversity and inclusion initiatives and have welcomed new ideas.
Sign up to be a mentee/mentor
Make the most of any mentor schemes available to you. Mentoring is a powerful way to boost confidence, reflect and learn from others, and to build connections within the profession. There are mentor schemes available from being a student, through to training contract.
Now as a trainee I have signed up to be a mentor with the recently launched GROW Mentor Scheme. The scheme helps those that come from underrepresented backgrounds to access the legal profession by pairing aspiring lawyers with mentors in the legal sector. Knowing how much mentoring helped me in the past, I feel empowered that I can help someone else reach their potential.
Michelmores colleagues are also signed up as mentors for the Aspiring Solicitors scheme, which also supports aspiring lawyers from diverse backgrounds.
Reach out to the firms D&I representative and get involved with events
When applying for training contracts look at firms D&I policies and initiatives. If you are already a trainee reach out to your D&I representative for a catch up about current initiatives, suggest ideas to your firm for encouraging diversity and get involved with any events.
When I joined Michelmores I was very keen to get involved in any initiatives and have requested to be involved with the Diversity Working Group. I also gave a statement for International Women’s Day and have been involved with organising a wellbeing challenge with my fellow trainees.
To boost your confidence attend training seminars and be proactive with learning. The more self-development you do the more confidence you will have. Level up in anything you feel that you have missed out on e.g. commercial awareness, business-writing skills, financial management etc.
For example, before making training contract applications I felt like I lacked commercial awareness through lack of exposure. I made sure to attend any events, listen to podcasts or read any business literature to level up my knowledge. I have continued to work and build on my knowledge through my training contract by for example, seeking out opportunities to learn about financial management, attending other teams training sessions and by reading Michelmores website content.
Embrace your individuality
Don’t shy away from who you are and your story. In my training contract interview, I was able to use some of the challenges I have faced due to my background to demonstrate skills and resilience. People appreciate seeing the authentic you.
I still have some issues with confidence now but I have found being open, a ‘can do’ attitude and continual learning to be a helpful strategy.
In summary: Have confidence, embrace your individuality and continue to champion diversity.