Advice thus far
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
With many interviews posted and more to come, at Queer Lawyers of Tomorrow we have decided it is time to send more positive vibes your way, and with the plethora of interesting advice we’re beginning to accumulate, what better way to inspire and encourage you lovely lot than to offer you a shortlisted guide to the top 5 best pieces of advice for aspiring LGBTQIA+ solicitors.
Dr. S Chelvan
“Find your Unique Selling Point (‘USP’), sit down and find what drives you. Like a Contract Law question, you have the implied term, that’s the headline -that’s your USP. Then you have to evidence the answer, with cases to support the legal answer, with evidence of skills to support your USP. Think of it as footnotes, that’s the way I have always worked. When you're reading an application form, you want something to jump out from the paper. What makes them unique? That is one of the first questions I sometimes ask in an interview, what is your USP? And it’s amazing that so many people have never even thought about who they are – and what drives them.”
Whilst we are giving these in no particular order, this piece of information is incredibly important. Dr. S Chelvan has given advice in relation to both the application process but also what internally drives you. With a unique selling point you can find what skills and characteristics you have that are unique to you and apply them to your desired field, not only will this help you stand out but also help you realise that as an individual you are one of a kind.
“Take the time before you obtain a training contract or pupillage to sit down with yourself and listen to yourself and establish who you want to be, what are you interested in, what is going to drive you? Everybody in the profession has different motivations and different reasons for doing the job. It is a hugely demanding and fast paced profession. You will be expected to always work really hard and the reality is that the hours are long and not always sociable. With this in mind take the time early to try and define yourself and establish your drivers. Your career is going to take up a lot of your time so make sure you’re making the mark that you want to as soon as you have the platform to do it.”
Scott Halliday’s crucial advice both supplements Dr S Chelvan’s and elaborates on the importance of establishing your personal drivers. Careers within law are often both very competitive and demand a lot of work, with different fields having different requirements. Therefore, it is pivotal that before applying your time and money to the area you wish to pursue, you sit yourself down and figure out where you see this training taking you and what is going to motivate you during the harder times.
“First, do your research about the places you’re applying to, and do lots of it! Don’t just limit it to their website. If they mention clients, look into them. And Look at the guides. Not just the student guides but the Chambers Legal Directory, the Legal 500. This applies if you’re LGBTQ+ or not. By doing this you’ll find out what their diversity policies are, and it’s also fine to ask them about their policies.”
Stepping away from motivation, Helen Randall highlights the importance of background checking the places you are applying to. This practical advice is so important as it is not uncommon to be working in the same organisation for the majority of your career. Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community you will want to be working for an employer that celebrates diversity and encourages individuality, which is why you should go beyond looking at the company website to find their policies, as Helen points out. It is very easy for a company to tell applicants and that the public that they are an inclusive organisation, but it’s a very different thing to prove this and back up their statements with actions they’ve taken, such as charity or fundraising events or even through talking to current employees.
“To be able to take your own experiences, negative experiences especially, as a driver for change. So, if you've been treated unfairly or been discriminated against, to kind of use that to speak up to make a change. And I know not all aspiring lawyers want to be social justice lawyers but there are so many other things that you can do. So even if you're in commercial law, there is so much CSR or pro bono work that you can do to make some kind of a positive difference.”
This piece of advice is incredibly empowering. Given that the majority of people decide to pursue a career in law because they want to make a difference or change, it’s important to acknowledge the experiences you have had on your journey, and as Caitlin suggests, even more-so the negative ones. This puts you in the unique position of having experienced a shortcoming of either societal values or issues directly related to the legal field, and by putting the time and effort into pursuing a career within this sector, you are effectively giving yourself platform in which you can advocate for the changes that you know need to happen. As Caitlin says, this is not only limited to more private sectors like Family Law as there are tons of ways you can get involved across the entire legal sphere.
“There are role models in the profession who have made their way and shown the irrelevance of protected characteristics to legal practice. Take comfort and support from them in terms of the view your profession takes your ability to do your job and whether any of the protected characteristics are relevant or not.”
We’ve decided to end on the excellent advice from Robin White, which really highlights the changes happening within the legal sector to promote diversity and inclusion. You may find that you feel the odds are stacked against you or that you are fighting an uphill battle, which is where it is really important to look to other’s who have been where you are and have managed to overcome the challenges they have faced. Use these individuals as beacons for both support and encouragement.
We hope that you have found this blog informative and helpful, stay safe and stay positive.