Trainee Blog: Volunteering with VisionPath

Trainee Blog: Volunteering with VisionPath

As a Trainee at Michelmores, you are given the opportunity to get involved in a number of activities as part of the Firm’s various CSR initiatives. For example, I have recently helped to deliver two practical skills sessions for students from socially diverse backgrounds at a nearby High School. The sessions are part of our new social mobility programme, ‘Momentum‘, which has been designed by our partner VisionPath to give GCSE students an insight into the legal industry and equip them with new skills, experiences, and connections to kickstart their careers.

You can read more about our partnership with VisionPath here.

The importance of early engagement

For lots of young people, the prospect of entering the legal profession can feel remote or even unachievable without the benefit of personal connections and contacts in the industry already. This can act as a barrier to entry and sometimes even become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where students who believe that their background will hold them back don’t even try to pursue the career they want to begin with. That’s why engaging with students at an early age is so important: because it can instil confidence that career paths are open to everyone, regardless of their background. Similarly, by talking about the skills needed to succeed in practice, we can encourage the students to recognise their own strengths and abilities which will help them on their way to becoming the lawyers of the future.   

What the sessions look like

Our first session took the students through a series of exercises which helped them to recognise and respond to challenges effectively. We began with an activity introducing different ‘zones of control‘ and asked the students to think of how their responses might differ to events which are (i) within their control, (ii) within their ability to influence, or (iii) entirely outside of their control. We then brought the discussion back to the law office and asked the students to think about how they might respond to some real-life scenarios which we as lawyers had each recently faced. This included a scenario negotiating a contested point during a commercial transaction which gave the students a tangible sense of the issues that lawyers might face at work. After some group discussion, the students clearly grasped the key points and they understood how different responses in each situation may result in a better, or worse, outcome for the client.

In the second session, we talked to the students about how our strengths often tie into our personal brand, as well as how other people’s perceptions of us are influenced by the way we present ourselves. We also engaged in a healthy conversation about the overlap between professional profiles and private personas by discussing appropriate and inappropriate social media posts. For current students who have grown up in the digital era, having an online presence is expected. Therefore, it is important to equip them with an understanding of how the posts they make public may create positive or negative associations with their personal brand.

What I get out of volunteering

The Momentum programme is obviously about raising the confidence and aspirations of the students themselves. However, taking part in the programme has also helped me develop as a young professional. For example, I have gained practical experience delivering in-person presentations and this has cemented my confidence in public speaking – if I can present to a class of twenty teenagers, presenting to a room full of lawyers holds no fear for me!

It has also been a good way to organically build my network within the Firm, as I have delivered each session with colleagues in different departments who I wouldn’t normally work with. Making connections with colleagues outside your immediate team is a good way of increasing your profile as a junior lawyer and can help you to feel more settled in the wider Firm. This is particularly helpful as a trainee who moves between departments regularly throughout their training contract.

Finally, giving back to the community, even in a small way, helps me to feel a sense of pride in what I do and brings an extra layer of variety to my to-do list throughout the year.

Numerous routes into law

At Michelmores, we have a number of paths into the Firm, including for school leavers, so it is never too early to inspire (or attempt to!) high-potential students to think about whether a career in law could be for them. This fits in with our Firm’s wider strategy to build a socially diverse, early careers pipeline to widen access to law and support social mobility at every stage.

To find out more about the different routes into Michelmores, please read my colleague Tatiana’s blog here.