My name is Bam, I am a trainee solicitor at Linklaters LLP. My journey into law started at the University of Sheffield where I studied Law with International and European law, which included a year aboard at Sciences Po, Paris. I have dyslexia, a learning disability which impacts the speed and accuracy with which I process information.
Tell us about your journey through the recruitment process
Whilst at university I knew that I wanted to practice law after graduating, but I did not have a clear idea of what type of law would suit me best. During my university holidays I did a few mini-pupillages at a criminal, civil and commercial chambers in London. I also worked as a legal assistant in an in-house legal team at a large car leasing company. These experiences helped me to narrow down my interests to commercial law. I was also fortunate enough to have interactions with a variety of commercial firms at law fairs and networking events on campus.
When the time came to apply for vacation schemes I applied to large city firms, because I found their clients interesting and the prospect of working for them exciting. Additionally, commercial law drew my interest because it requires a great deal of technical skill and also commercial prowess; it requires you to put yourself into the shoes of the client and to account for the unique pressures they are under. Additionally, I knew I wanted to be a part of a big firm, so that I could benefit from being a part of a diverse cohort of other trainees and a tried and tested training programme.
I chose Linklaters in particular because of great interactions I had with the firm and its people, particularly at the OPEN event in 2016. This was the precursor to the Explore the Law event. The representatives of the firm described it as a hardworking environment, but one without a face-time culture – something I have found to be the case since starting my training contract. I also decided to apply because of the quality of training the firm offers and the many opportunities available to go on secondment to one of our international offices or to a client.
Throughout the process I was very open about my disability. It was important to me that I ended up in a firm that understood the things that I struggle with as a result of having dyslexia. I disclosed my disability on my application form and so was able to receive additional time to complete the Watson Glaser test and the written assessment which at the time formed part of the Linklaters Assessment Day. A portion of the Assessment Centre involved me going through my written answer with a Partner and a Managing Associate; they were aware of my dyslexia and so were able to evaluate the quality of my work in light of that.
My biggest challenge during the application process was producing quality applications which accurately reflected the significant amount of time I had put into them. I overcame this by asking the careers service at Sheffield to read over my applications. They gave me candid feedback on parts of my application which were unconvincing or generic. I also improved my applications by choosing to write about the deals/work that I actually found interesting as opposed to the most widely publicised ones.
Initially, I also struggled to build up my commercial awareness. I improved this substantially over time by making time to read mainstream and corporate news on a regular basis. I followed particular issues in the news closely across a number of months to see how they developed. I found this to be much more effective in applications and interviews than having a more basic, superficial understanding of lots of different, but unrelated, commercial matters.
How do you manage your dyslexia in the workplace?
I manage my dyslexia at work by using a number of different methods:
I tend to come in early to give myself a 30-45 minute head start on my work for the day.
I keep a list of the common mistakes I make and use this as a checklist whenever I have completed a piece of work.
I allow myself as much time as possible to complete difficult tasks, particularly when doing something for the first time.
Use text-to-speech software to listen back to what I have written, this helps me to pick up more mistakes than just reading.
Taking regular breaks to rest and reset my mind.
I do not usually require formal adjustments such as extra time in my day to day work, as the deadlines I am given are typically more than sufficient. What is most important to me is that the people that I work closely with are aware that I have dyslexia, what that means for the work I produce, and the ways in which they can help me. Most of the help I receive from my colleagues is specific feedback and a second set of eyes. Detailed feedback from those I work with helps me to identify problem areas for me to which I can then pay more attention in future and add them to my checklist. Additionally, it is a big firm and really supportive so I can, and often do, ask my fellow trainees to give me their thoughts on a piece of work or give it a quick look over for obvious errors I may have missed before I complete it.
Tell us a little about the current work you do and what you enjoy the most about it?
I am currently sitting in the Corporate team; most of the work I do involves drafting, due diligence and process management. My favourite part of my work is getting to know the details of deals I am working on and building up an understanding of who the client is, what they need and how best we as a firm can provide this for them. I enjoy being part of a team that is working hard to make the clients’ ambitious goals a reality. As a trainee I am not yet able to be involved in major decision making or strategy, but I enjoy being able to add value to a transaction by running with the workstream I have been put on and being proactive.
Name a personal strength you have developed as a result of your disability. How does this benefit you in your current role?
Having dyslexia means that certain tasks will take me longer than the average person to complete, and therefore I have had to significantly develop my organisational and time management skills. I have made a habit of consistently updating my team on my progress and managing their expectations in relation to work I have been delegated. This has other benefits, in so far as one of the most important skills of a good commercial lawyer is communicating effectively with clients and managing their expectations.
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