How did you get started in your career and what drew you to the organisations you have worked for?
I obtained a training contract at Norton Rose Fulbright after completing a vacation scheme at their London office in the summer of 2013.
At the time of making my vacation scheme applications, Norton Rose Fulbright was going through a massive transition, expanding into a vast number of jurisdictions, greatly increasing its global presence. During the vacation scheme, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the direction the practice was heading, and I wanted to be a part of this.
Additionally, Norton Rose Fulbright has a friendly, supportive and cohesive working environment that offers the opportunity to work with some of the biggest clients on the most cutting-edge work. This greatly appealed to me and, thus, I decided to accept the training contract offer.
How do you manage your disability at work?
Being visually impaired, there are a number of difficulties that I face in working. I find it difficult to read from hard-copy materials, so I usually require all documentation to be in an electronic format. Once on the computer, I am able to use specialist accessibility software which reads back the content of the documents to me. The more manual tasks, such as scanning in documents, checking signatures and creating hard-copy bibles are clearly more difficult for a person in my position. I am able to counteract these difficulties by getting assistance from the administrative support staff that are available.
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
Norton Rose Fulbright has been supportive in trying to put into place all the anticipated adjustments that I require. They have provided me with all the necessary supportive software I need to work and I have had individual 1 on 1 IT sessions so that I am familiar with the new systems and can flag any specific difficulties I may have in the future. Norton Rose Fulbright has also been proactive in ensuring that the necessary support staff are available to help me with any tasks which are more difficult and so far this has been very successful.
In regard to familiarising myself with the practice, the HR team were very supportive in organising meetings in which I could be taken around the building to ensure I knew my way around. They were also very good at setting up meetings with the team I am currently working with and making people generally aware that I am visually impaired.
What advice or top tips would you offer?
In my opinion, the best piece of advice I can give to readers is to have confidence and patience. I would advise confidence in two respects. Firstly, readers should have confidence in requesting that the necessary adjustments are put into place. It is in both your interests and those of the employer for all the adjustments to be put into place as they will help you perform to your potential. You should never be reticent or feel uncomfortable in making requests for adjustments, there is often a fear from employees that the employer will see their need for adjustments as a hindrance if pushed too hard, but in my view taking such a stance is not beneficial in the long-term and generally untrue. Secondly, I would advise employees to have confidence in their own abilities. Fundamentally, you want to be working to your absolute potential and the way to do this is by having confidence in yourself. Once you have all the necessary arrangements in place you should take the opportunity and try your best to make the most out of it.
I would also advise patience. One must remember that often, the employer is completely new to the systems it puts into place for you as you are. There will be glitches, there will be frustrations and it will most likely take you longer to fully settle in. There are almost certainly going to be scenarios with accessibility issues that arise, for which neither you nor the employer anticipated any difficulty. So, the process of finding solutions to all accessibility issues is an on-going one. Ultimately, however, ensuring the correct systems are in place will benefit you in the long-term.
What has been your proudest moment since starting work?
Given I have only been in the office for a few weeks, I can’t really put my finger on a specific moment. I would say, however, the fact I have gotten to this point is my biggest and proudest achievement thus far. Having always wanted to be a legal professional and having always achieved highly academically I always knew I had the intellectual potential to make it into the profession. I always had some doubts as to the translation of this ability into the world of practice given my inherent difficulties. Yet, having been able to overcome the practical difficulties, I am now able to embark upon my training contract with the confidence that I should be capable of performing most of the tasks that non-disabled lawyers are able to perform.
What does the average weekend look like for you?
Weekends are always a good opportunity to unwind from the working week. I always try to keep one of the two days free for general laziness, where I enjoy watching sport, listening to audiobooks or just general lounging. On the other day, it’s a real mixed bag as to what I get up to. Often, I try to meet with friends where we can get up to anything such as: going out for dinner, going to see shows or going to the cinema. Norton Rose Fulbright is very good at endorsing a work life balance. As of yet, I haven’t needed to do anything work related at a weekend. I think this is a practice wide normality rather than being exclusive to my team.
Kaleem has since left Norton Rose Fulbright and now works at Travers Smith.
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