By Aleksander Kalisz
Current law firm statistics at partner level paint a bleak picture of diversity in the legal profession. At BLP, Britain’s ‘most’ diverse law firm, only 16% of their partners are from BME backgrounds, whilst the majority of commercial firms hover around the 4% mark. Gender and ethnic diversity remain problematic.
However, there is a good chance that this could change in the future. Increasingly, social mobility services are assisting people from diverse backgrounds whilst they are still in school or university. The aim of these organisations is to increase access to law firms for diverse candidates. Aspiring Solicitors is the largest organisation of its kind.
Aspiring Solicitors provides free of charge services which help four core groups to enter the legal profession: people who identify as LGBT, people from a BAME background, people with disabilities or long term health conditions and people from disadvantaged social backgrounds. They assist diverse candidates in obtaining training contracts and creating a network of professional ambassadors across law firms who they have helped. There are several key services offered by Aspiring Solicitors including mentoring, open days at law firms and intensive workshops focused on vacation scheme and training contract applications.
There is a compelling case for improving diversity in the legal profession. Not only is the law increasingly regulating the diversity of the workforce, but there is a business case as to why we need diversity. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, law firms will have access to a better range and calibre of candidates if they are more open-minded about who they recruit. Research by scientists has shown that socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogenous groups. People with a range of individual experiences will bring those experiences to the workplace and use it to inform the decisions that they make. This enhances an organisation’s ability to problem-solve and reach the best outcome for their clients, who are also increasingly diverse. Businesses are likely to want to see their own gender, race and sexual orientation reflected in the people who are serving their business needs.
To translate that into practical advice, use your diversity in your favour. Explain to potential employers how your characteristics or experiences may add value to their business and why you believe it’s important.
It is, however, not enough to rely simply on your background – you need a strong application. You can find some tips below:
- Start early – Law firm applications are very lengthy, require appropriate research and proof reading. To increase your chances, you might want to consider applying to a number of law firms. If you haven’t got the time you will not be able to do it. If you are in your first year, consider whether there is anything you can do to improve your career profile at this early stage.
- Ask for help – There are few things which feel more rewarding than helping someone. People with experiences are frequently eager to help you with any issues and answer any questions. However, there is one condition, you must take the initiative and ask.
- Develop holistically – Nowadays, it is obvious that your academic performance is not enough to convince a potential employer that you are the best candidate. You must prove you can go beyond what is normally required of you. Developing skills like cooperation, leadership, commercial awareness and public speaking, will make you a more attractive candidate. To that end, join societies, take part in competitions and volunteering, do sports. You will have more to talk about with your potential employers.
- Understand yourself – In advanced, try answering some basic questions about yourself. What is your greatest strength? Greatest weakness? How did you overcome a challenging situation? What is your ultimate goal? Why do you want to be a lawyer? If you have such questions answered, both the applications and the interviews will be much easier. It will also show to the employer what kind of a person you are.
- Network – It is amazing how many opportunities you will be able to access by meeting new people. Make a LinkedIn account, participate in society events or simply make a friend on the bus. More friends will give you access to even more people, so keep at it!
- Stay open-minded – Perhaps you would be a better litigation solicitor-advocate than a corporate solicitor? Don’t get overly attached to your future expectations. Try different career routes and constantly ask yourself what you really want to do. Don’t make assumptions about yourself, university is all about discovering your true talents and predispositions.
- Deal with failures – You will have failures. A lot of them. True strength comes not from the fact you achieved success, but from being able to withstand failures and keep moving forward. Take small steps and take your time. Always put 100% of your effort and if you still fail you will be given invaluable feedback in return.
To conclude, there are many sources where you can find help with your career. There are also various techniques which you can use yourself to improve your chances. Law is a competitive profession and any experiences which can make you stand out from others may be the deciding factor for your success. Aspiring Solicitors could be an excellent starting point from which you can gradually build your profile or further diversify your existing experience. Good luck and feel free to contact us if you have any follow up questions!
Facebook: Aspiring Solicitors – Nottingham University
Arian Thomas, Lead AS Campus Ambassador ([email protected])
Aleksander Kalisz, AS Committee Member ([email protected])
Olivia Burn, AS Committee Member ([email protected])
Aleksander Kalisz, AS Committee Member
Arian Thomas, Lead AS Campus Ambassador
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