Author - Emily

Stepping into the unknown

I began this blog because I felt out of place in the legal sphere. I felt like it wasn’t open to people like me. At Clifford Chance, I didn’t feel at all like this. They allowed me to feel like I belonged there.

10943717_10203774863949138_5161171544458839200_nOn 29th January, I was invited to Clifford Chance for an interview for the First Year Springboard Vacation Scheme. I can honestly say setting foot in a leading international law firm is as fantastic as it sounds!

 

My experience of Clifford Chance was incredible. Everyone I met was exceedingly kind, welcoming and helpful. I felt immediately at ease: something I did not expect when setting foot in Canary Wharf for the first time.

Accompanied by an overwhelming sense of pride, I looked up at the 32-floor glass palace that is 10 Upper Bank Street. I will never forget the moment I stepped inside, and nervously made my way up to the 1st floor reception to wait to be briefed. The graduate recruitment manager, Aasha Tikoo, put me at ease immediately with kind words of praise, recognising the excellent achievement we’d all attained having reached the interview round of the process. After an hour’s interview, we were taken on a tour of the building to get a feel for what it would be like to work at Clifford Chance. The views, swimming pool, gym, cafeteria, bar… you name it, they’ve got it! Yet amongst all this grandeur, what stood out as the single most impressive part of the building was the people. Everyone was so friendly and answered all the burning questions I had about a career in commercial lIMG_20150129_191542aw.

My experience of Clifford Chance showed me that there is no reason to think I can’t be successful just because of my background. The two hours I spent there inspired me further in pursuit of my career goal. It showed me the importance of giving everyone the opportunity to succeed: if I hadn’t been invited to interview, I never would have had the opportunity to see Clifford Chance from the inside. I never would have known how at home I could feel in a leading, international commercial law firm. Everyone deserves to be given a chance. I am so grateful to Clifford Chance for giving me this opportunity.

So, I guess I’m trying to say that what’s important is that you seize every opportunity you are given or can make for yourself. Never give up: one day someone will open the door which gives you a glimpse into what the future could hold. And that glimpse will allow you to feel that it just might be possible. And that feeling will inspire you to continue on your journey to achieve your dream.

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Ethnic Diversity

Happy New Year!
I’ve been looking into ethnic diversity in law firms, as the beginning of a new year has provided us with up-to-date statistics to evaluate 2014.

In order to make best sense of the figures, I’ll quickly run through the general structure of a law firm.
There are three levels of solicitors in a firm:

1) Partners – business directors and owners, most firms have a two tiered system: ‘equity partners’ have a stake in the firms profits, whereas ‘non-equity partners’ usually have a fixed salary. Also, non equity partners are likely to have more restricted voting rights about firm matters in comparison to equity partners.
2) Associates –  Associates are more senior than assistant solicitors, but not as senior as partners. According to ‘legalcareers.about.com’, ‘The typical law firm lawyer works as an associate for six to nine years before ascending to the partnership ranks (“making partner”) (3).

3) Trainees – before fully qualifying as a solicitor, you work in several ‘seats’ in different practice areas as a trainee.

Law firms also tend to be identified with a certain ‘type’. I shall make use of those that Chambers takes up to best make sense of their survey.

Magic circle firms generally refer to the following ‘big five’ (3):
1- Allen & Overy
2- Clifford Chance
3- Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
4- Linklaters
5- Slaughter and May

US firms are those based in the USA. Regional and national firms are those outside of the ‘City firms’; those based in London.

Chambers (1) have gathered data for ethnic diversity (henceforth BME data) at all three levels of practice, for all ‘types’ of firm.

So how do the percentages stack up?
Overall, only 5.1% of partners were BME. Although the average for BME trainees was 13.8%, it still doesn’t marry up to the number of BME law students.
Pleasingly, BME students made up ‘32% of those studying law at university in the UK in 2012-13’ (4) making Law one of the most ethnically diverse subjects to study at University level. Given that there is no reason to think otherwise, it is reasonable to extrapolate that figure to last years’ intake of law students. Yet still, these figures would suggest BME lawyers are under-represented, and more so as you transcend the levels of seniority within a firm.

Is this the picture for all types of firm?

Well, Magic Circle firms have the highest percentage of BME trainees, with almost a quarter (23.9%). Chambers reports that Regional/national firms had the lowest percentage of BME trainees at 8.8%.
But it is worth noting the limitations of these figures.
Law firms are not obligated to report their data: ‘confidentiality concerns’
provide a legitimate reason why this overall picture may not be representative. However, Chambers is pessimistic about the intentions of firms who didn’t respond. 27 firms did not submit data, and 86 did. (The full list can be found here:
http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/where-to-start/newsletter/2014-ethnicity-in-the-law-survey/ethnicity-in-the-law-data)

On a more positive note, Clifford Chance and Linklaters were the UK leaders. Clifford Chance have 0.7% more BME trainees and 0.7% more associates however Linklaters have the highest percentage of BME partners at 11%.

Those responsive regional firms are currently less ethnically diverse, with 7 respondents have no ethnic minority partners. Yet evidently the ethnic diversity of the population surrounding the firm makes regional firms’ figures difficult to compare as opposed to evaluating those within the City. For example, Birmingham-based SCH Martineau has 16% BME partners: almost 50% more than Linklaters.

Overall, these statistics would suggest that ethnic minorities are yet to be sufficiently represented in the majority of law firms. However, with the highest percentage of BME Law students ever, we should look positively to the future of diversity in law firms. 

References
(1) http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/where-to-start/newsletter/2014-ethnicity-in-the-law-survey
(2) http://legalcareers.about.com/od/legalcareerbasics/a/Legal-Jobs-Part-I-Lawyer-Careers.htm
(3) http://allaboutlaw.co.uk/law-careers/training-contract/magic-circle-law-firms
(4)  http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/dec/16/how-do-we-bring-diversity-into-law-at-the-top-levels

My Christmas Wish has come true!

AFTER TWO INTERVIEWS AND SITTING THE CAMBRIDGE LAW TEST, I HAVE JUST BEEN TOLD MY APPLICATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL!

I HAVE BEEN OFFERED A PLACE TO STUDY LAW FOR THE FINAL TWO YEARS OF MY BA DEGREE, STARTING NEXT YEAR, SUBJECT TO ATTAINING A 2:1 OVERALL IN PHILOSOPHY THIS YEAR.

I WILL CONTINUE TO WORK AS HARD AS I CAN TO MEET THE CONDITIONS OF MY OFFER.

IT IS GREAT TO KNOW THAT MY JOURNEY TO SOLICITING HAS BEGUN!

BRING ON THE NEXT CHAPTER!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU: I HOPE YOUR WISHES COME TRUE TOO!

Women in law

We may not be quite as glamorous as our movie counterparts, but myself and Billy (my chihuahua) could be likened Elle and Bruiser in some ways!
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Equality for women in careers is constantly being discussed in the media.
Just this week the BBC reported that the International Labour Organization (ILO) found a substantial, and unjustified, gender pay gap. It claims that women ‘may be better educated or work harder than men’ yet are paid much less. Here’s the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30340870

Take a look at Lady Justice Hallett’s comments from last year for the Telegraph. She highlights the 2012 Council of Europe report’s findings which place Britian as the worst in Europe for employing female judges.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10078243/Law-firms-have-unconscious-bias-that-stops-women-from-getting-promoted-says-senior-City-lawyer.html

Yet the number of female law students seems promising: women make up 62.4% of students accepted onto law undergraduate courses (Law Society, 2014). Perhaps there’s been a significant shift in the trend against women in law in the last year? Or perhaps it will just take time for this higher proportion of women to translate into the highest legal positions?

Starting out

Hi there, I’m Emily.

I’m currently a first year Philosopher at Robinson College, Cambridge. After much research, I am intent on becoming a solicitor.

A number of careers meetings later; after attending a ‘Law for Non-Lawyers’ Event, law lectures, speaking to as many lawyers as possible, reading Catherine Barnard’s ‘What About Law?’ and a LOT of guides to the legal profession; I am certain that soliciting is the right career for me. Law has always been at the back of my mind: I’ve always found lawyers inspiring. But I never thought I could have the chance to be one.

I feel pretty lucky that my hard work during A Levels paid off and I achieved a place to study Philosophy at Cambridge University. Before coming here, I didn’t have the confidence to think I had it in me. Eight weeks later, I’ve just finished my first term and have never been so sure of anything in my whole life: I know I can be a great lawyer. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to achieve my goal. What’s more, the biggest lesson I’ve learned this term: your background is no reason you can’t be too. I guess what I’m trying to do is share my lesson of confidence with you. I won’t let my background stop me pursuing my dream, and neither should you.

I know the road to becoming a solicitor can be a very long one. I do not think for a moment any stage will be easy. In fact, I would say that it’s far from an underestimate to expect every step to be extremely difficult. For example, at first I certainly didn’t find it easy to convince myself I had it in me. But getting to Cambridge has taught me that no barrier is insurmountable. There’s no achieving high without aiming high. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Access to law: a bit about Emily

 

Think you can’t have a career in law because of your background? 
First in your family to go to uni? Low income? Female? Ethnic minority? Disabled? LGBT? Non-law degree?

Hi, I’m Emily!emily

         

I always thought law was reserved for those with friends in high places. If you didn’t have family, friends or connections in law, the door to a legal career was firmly closed (excuse the legal pun). Now I know this simply isn’t true, and I want to prove it to you.

         Look to your future, not your past. 
      We can be the future of the legal sector.

There are a number of under-represented groups in the UK Legal profession. Like you, I thought a career in law was closed to me because of my background. I’m from the first generation in my family to go to uni, and am determined to give my family a better life. I hope I can show you we were mistaken: ANYONE sufficiently committed (with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work) can be successful.

Join me as I embark on my journey from first-generation-student to solicitor.

I’m hoping to come across a diverse range of people as I work towards qualifying as a solicitor. I want to talk to as many people as possibleabout their legal experience, and share what I find with those who doubt themselves. I will post anything useful here and on the blog section at http://access2law.weebly.com/ I hope it will help those who were in the position I was in before I got to Cambridge see that law is open to them too.