Emily works for Reed Smith as a Trainee Solicitor. She has sat in the Commerical disputes group (International arbitration) and the Competition Law team, and will shortly be joining the Media Litigation team.
What led you to this role? Why did you choose Reed Smith?
Before I started with Reed Smith, I tried working at a variety of different firms and practice areas, but found it difficult to find a firm where I felt truly accepted. It was quite by chance that I made contact with someone at Reed Smith, and I was intrigued at the range of practice areas and commitment to diversity and inclusion.
I eventually secured a place on a work experience programme at Reed Smith, and my time at the firm only confirmed that it is the firm for me. Even as a work experience student I felt an integral part of the firm, and Reed Smith became the only place where I wanted to complete a training contract.
How does your disability impact you?
I have sensory difficulties (light and touch) and auditory processing problems. While my visual memory is very good, I can often quickly forget verbal instructions, which may make it appear that I am disinterested or ignoring people. I ‘stim’ a lot, usually swinging my legs or rocking back and forth, which I’m usually not aware of doing. I also have difficulties making small talk when in a workplace setting – if I’m thinking about work, I can’t ‘switch off’ and think about much else!
On the plus side, this means I am very focussed in my work, and adaptable in thinking about ways to improve my performance at work – these are useful skills in the legal profession.
How has Reed Smith helped you to do well at your workplace?
Prior to starting a new seat, I have a one-to-one meeting with my prospective supervisor, as well as a meeting with the supervisor, immediate team, and HR, to discuss my needs and differences. One of these key needs is to either receive instructions via email or for instructions to be given slowly enough for me to write down the details.
We also have a disability network at Reed Smith (LeadRS), and our HR is also highly accommodating for disabled people. For instance, I requested to attend a training course for assisting autistic people with understanding the workplace, which was arranged for me by HR and I was permitted time off to attend the course.
What advice or tops tips would you offer?
I am a big advocate of early disclosure. Disclosing early allows people to be aware of your needs at an early stage, thus avoiding potential misunderstandings. If you are concerned about being judged by a potential employer and have your disability viewed negatively, would you honestly want to work with that employer in the first place?
Disclosure is particularly important if you have extenuating circumstances for academic grades or a disruption to your job history. Providing clear details of when the extenuating circumstances apply and how they affected you can help your application, rather than hinder it, especially if you made a notable achievement afterwards.
Finally, my main piece of advice would be that you should find a job and employer that fits you, not the other way around. Trying to mould yourself to an environment incompatible to your disability really does not work!