By Stacey Alexander – future Blake Morgan Trainee Solicitor
I have just secured a training contract with Blake Morgan LLP, to begin in September 2021. This means that, if everything goes to plan, I will qualify as a solicitor when I am just 24.
My journey to where I am now has not been straightforward. I attended a state-funded, underachieving, secondary school that went into special measures just before I started my GCSEs, which resulted in frequent staff changes and inconsistent teaching (resulting in me predominantly having to teach some subjects to myself). I am the first person from my immediate and extended family to ever attend university, and I come from a low socioeconomic background and a single parent household. I was also a recipient of free school meals during my time at secondary school. Many people have doubted my ability to become a lawyer, including my own family members. This is most likely because it is still the case that individuals from backgrounds like mine are less likely to enter the legal profession than their much richer, privately educated, counterparts.
Pathways to Law
Upon joining college, I received an email about a legal access scheme called Pathways to Law. I applied and was one of ten students from my college who successfully made it onto the programme. Pathways to Law is run in collaboration with the Sutton Trust, and seeks to provide those from under-represented backgrounds with the ability to gain access to the legal profession through work experience placements, talks, workshops, debating sessions, and residential trips. The goal of the programme is to implement high levels of social mobility, so that individuals from all backgrounds have the chance to access opportunities suited to their talents and aspirations. The programme aims to give its participants the confidence to then apply to leading universities and consider highly prestigious careers, such as those found within the legal profession. As a result of the programme, I had the confidence to apply to the University of Birmingham for their LLB Law Course as my first choice university, and my place was accepted after achieving AAA in my A-levels. I went on to have the best three years of my life there.
Additionally, the Sutton Trust runs a scheme known as Pathways to Law Plus, designed for undergraduate students. I applied and was accepted onto this programme during my first year at university. This gave me access to additional work experience placements at leading law firms, advanced skills training, and access to a mentor who was a trainee solicitor from a Magic Circle law firm. My mentor provided me with significant help, advice, and guidance throughout the duration of my degree and beyond.
It is because of these programmes that I have obtained the work experience and skills I have, and the programmes helped me to discover exactly what types of law firms I liked. Pathways to Law enabled me to obtain my first ever legal work experience placement when I was 17. This was at Blake Morgan LLP, and it was this incredible experience that encouraged me to apply to Blake Morgan for a training contract. Much like the Sutton Trust, Blake Morgan seeks to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, which focuses on the talent and achievements of the individual in front of them, rather than their background. Blake Morgan is an Inclusive Top 50 UK Employer, and currently runs eight different diversity access schemes, ranging from PRIME (which seeks to provide fair access to quality work experience for students from low-income households) to working with Aspiring Solicitors (which actively promotes and seeks increased diversity within the legal profession).
It is because of my active engagement with the Sutton Trust that I chose to apply for training contracts at firms which actively help individuals who come from backgrounds like mine. I wanted to train and work at a firm that I could not only contribute professionally to, but also where I could participate in their diversity access schemes, so I can show young students that I am proof that their background is not a barrier to their success. As such, I am going to undertake my period of recognised training at Blake Morgan, a firm that represents all my core values and actively provides individuals who come from backgrounds like myself with an opportunity to fulfil their potential.
It is well known that coming from a background like mine can make entering an already highly competitive profession even more challenging, but that does not mean it is impossible. The legal sphere is changing for the better by becoming more diverse and inclusive, but it can only continue to change if individuals from under-represented backgrounds continuously try to access it.
Firstly, take advantage of all the opportunities you are offered. I enthusiastically accepted an offer of work experience at Blake Morgan over four years ago. This experience massively influenced me to apply to Blake Morgan for a training contract.
Secondly, always be yourself in a training contract interview: firms want to see if you will fit in with them. My final interview with Blake Morgan was far from perfect. To name just a few issues, I did not answer every question perfectly, my laptop completely crashed during my final interview, and I had to continue my interview via video call on my phone. However, I was open and honest and was 100% myself, which my interview panel recognised and liked.
Finally, do not allow your disadvantages to manifest into setbacks; use these as your motivation to work even harder to get to where you want to be. A person’s background does not have to determine their future path if they have the determination to succeed and the motivation to do better. I am just one of many examples of that, and you can be too.
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