Prior to becoming a lawyer, I studied German at Oxford University and I spent my year abroad in Berlin. I hadn’t seriously considered pursuing a career in law until I attended a negotiation workshop organised by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP during my final year of university. I really enjoyed it and so decided to apply for a vacation scheme with the firm.
When submitting my application, I was nervous about disclosing the fact I had just been diagnosed with dyspraxia and dyslexia because I was worried I would be treated differently. However, this was not the case. The HR team were really supportive and set up my extra time for the written assessments. The interview process was hard: as a non-lawyer who had studied German for the last three and a half years, I remember feeling completely out of my depth while trying to advise a partner on an area of corporate law during a mock client meeting! I’m pretty sure I also answered the question “What’s your worst quality?” with “I’m a perfectionist” which I’ve since been told you should never, ever say…
Luckily, I got offered a training contract and, subsequently, a position as an associate with the firm. I really enjoy the work I do, which is mainly focused on investigations at the moment. I’m also involved with some of the many pro bono initiatives the firm supports. I have been volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Whitechapel since I was a trainee and I am currently training to become an advocate with the Asylum Support Appeals Project.
The job is challenging but I feel supported and valued by the firm. I know that the firm is committed to trying to make our working environment a more diverse and inclusive one and that reasonable adjustments will be made to accommodate my needs.
One way in which my dyspraxia affects me is that I can quickly become mentally exhausted by certain types of work. I am still learning how to achieve the right balance between wanting to take on as much as possible in order to develop my skills as a lawyer, while also making sure I am able to perform at my best.
Separate from my work, I am involved with an internal network called the Ability Network, which aims to increase awareness about disability and mental health, and to provide support to colleagues, in various ways. We also help to organise events aimed at university students, such as the Annual Disability Mooting Championship at Oxford University and attend law recruitment events. As part of this, I’ve met quite a few students who said they were worried about pursuing a career in law due to their disability or struggles with mental ill-health. However, this should not dissuade anyone from applying and seeing whether a career in law is something they enjoy. I also encourage students to see their disability or experience of mental ill-health as something that will make them a more reflective and resourceful lawyer, both of which are significant strengths. I wish I had had more confidence and seen things in this way while I was still a student.