Tell us a bit about yourself outside of work – what do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies/interests/sports – we’d love to know:
Cooking, baking and exercise.
How many applications did you submit for a graduate job? How many interviews did you attend?
Approx. 25 applications, I attended around 9 interviews.
What was the most difficult interview question you have been asked and how did you answer?
I always found the interview questions where the interviewer asks you to describe a time that you have overcome a challenge to be the most difficult. In the end I found the best approach to be to prepare a response based on a real life example and talk the interviewer through the scenario.
Were you open about your disability during the application process? What support was provided to you?
Yes, I was open for the duration of the application process. The support provided to me varied across different employers and gave me some great insight into the support that would be provided if I were to be offered a role. Many firms were very good at adding extra time to assessments and providing ‘generic support’. However, more specific support relating to food allergies or extra bathroom breaks were not always so easy to build into tight timeframes at assessment centres.
What led you to this role? Why did you choose to join this organisation?
I enjoyed many of skills that lawyers use on a daily basis whilst at university and knew that I wanted to work in an environment that was fast paced and could be challenging. I ultimately decided to join Reed Smith due to the culture at the firm. I found the people that I met whilst on my vacation scheme to be likeminded often having the same principles and interests and that really drew me to the firm. The work that LEADRs do (the firms disability network) also made the firm an attractive option for me, showing me that I would be able to be open about my disability and obtain help where needed.
Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment; what are your day-to-day tasks?
I am currently sitting in my final seat as a trainee with the firm’s employment team. Through this team I have been able to take part in both transactional and litigation work. Daily tasks include joining calls and taking minutes, drafting documents based on precedents and creating litigation bundles.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I have worked hard over the last few years to really work out what works for me in terms of managing my Elhers Danlos Syndrome. The condition can be very well managed but I have found I need to be very strict with my diet and exercise which is not always easy when working long hours. I also take breaks from my desk regularly and prioritise difficult tasks during my most productive hours (early in the morning).
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really enjoy the variety of work that my role offers, and the opportunity to get involved in anything that I would like to learn more about.
What was it about your job/organisation that surprised you when you first started?
How helpful and collegiate everyone is in their approach. People genuinely want you to do well and will take the time to teach you and explain things. You aren’t just thrown in at the deep end!
What aspect of the job have you found most difficult to manage? Is this affected by your disability?
I would say working late has been the biggest challenge. As chronic fatigue is a symptom of my condition it can be pretty tiring. But this can be managed through diet and exercise.
What is your organisation’s approach to disability; how has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
Reed Smith has an entirely open culture when it comes to disability. Employees are welcomed to be as open as they would like to be around their disability, support is provided at all levels to ensure that people can succeed.
What has been your proudest achievement since starting work?
Helping to co-ordinate a large scale pro-bono project on the rights afforded by different pieces of disability legislation in different jurisdictions.
Tell us about a personal strength or a valuable plus which you have developed, as a result of your disability. How has it helped you in your career?
My planning and organisation skills have definitely developed due to my disability! I have to be super organised and prepared for all situations to ensure my symptoms are well managed. This has helped me to think ahead and be organised at work too.
What do you wish you knew when you were at university?
To trust the process, put in 100% effort and not to be afraid to try things.
What advice would you give a student with a similar disability, who wants to pursue a career in the field you work in?
I would encourage them to really spend some time thinking about how their disability impacts them day and day and what they can do or put in place to limit these impacts. Work these things into your daily routine and life at university and it will be easier to continue them as you transition into the workplace.