My name is Charlotte Earl, I am currently studying the GDL at the University of Law, Moorgate. Following the LPC, I will be embarking on a training contract at Baker McKenzie. I am also a History graduate from the University of Nottingham, having graduated with a 2.1 in July 2017. I have repetitive strain injury in both forearms which can develop into chronic pain. This disability resulted from being a pot washer, waitress and cleaner from a young age. I experience pain when writing, typing or doing other repetitive motions with my arms for an extended period.
Tell us about your journey through the recruitment process.
During my time at the University of Nottingham, I undertook many legal work placements. This confirmed that I wanted to do a law conversion. Open days, law fairs and Aspiring Solicitors events were a good insight into whether a firm would be willing to accommodate my disability. I would explain the nature of my disability and ask whether the firm would be able to provide the technology and assistance I would need to succeed as a lawyer at their firm. I applied to Baker McKenzie because of their huge emphasis on diversity and inclusion, it was even included in the application form!
Prior to the assessment centre I had a phone call with graduate recruitment to explain my disability and the adjustments I would need. In the assessment centre I was provided with extra time to complete the written exercise (in the same way as I would for exams) and the use of a laptop. Throughout the entire application process my biggest challenge was being able to physically write the application forms and perfect them without hurting my arms. It is extremely difficult to edit pieces of writing using speech recognition. For this reason, I had to rely on the help of friendly neighbours and pay individuals to be my scribe. I used my disability to my advantage by placing a great emphasis upon my resilience and determination. Irrespective of the obstacles I have faced, I persevered to ensure that my disability does not prevent me from pursuing a career in law.
I was thrilled to learn that I had successfully made it through to the vacation scheme at Baker McKenzie. Yet again, graduate recruitment showed an unprecedented level of support. We had a phone call prior to the scheme in which I explained how I would need the use of Dragon Speech recognition software to dictate the work I complete. Graduate recruitment also asked that I provide both a list of tasks which I would be able to perform (such as drafting reports and reviewing documents) and those which I would struggle with (such as bundling and excel sheets). They forwarded this onto my work providers, ensuring they were aware of my disability and could prepare tasks which I would be able to complete successfully. Throughout the three weeks I spent with Baker McKenzie, graduate recruitment and the lawyers I worked with regularly checked up on me to ensure I was feeling supported and able to succeed despite my disability.
Tell us a little about the current work you do and what to enjoy the most about it?
I am currently working as a part-time nanny whilst studying the GDL. The things I most enjoy about the job are teaching the children and watching them learn. I like to be the best role model for them and explain the benefits of working hard at school. They often ask about University and what I want to be when I am older and is enjoyable providing them with the advice, I wish I’d had when I was younger. Alongside resilience and determination, my disability has enhanced skills such as positivity which is essential when trying to overcome obstacles. I believe the children I work with enjoy and thrive off the positive presence I uphold throughout my employment.
Advice for current students
My key advice to current students would be to seek out firms that hold values of importance to yourself. Be confident to ask the questions which are on your mind and ensure that you are only applying to firms which provide you with the response you want to hear. Moreover, believe in yourself and do not let anyone tell you that you cannot reach your dream career. Irrespective of your disability or circumstance if you continue to persevere, and demonstrate this essential skill to potential employers, you will end up where you want to be.