I recently graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in Law with European Law and, having undertaken their 2014 Summer Vacation Scheme, I was delighted to accept a training contract offer from Reed Smith. I’m due to begin the firm’s bespoke MA (LPC with Business) in 2015 and greatly look forward to joining the London office following this.
As well as their standing as a market leading international firm, as a disabled student, Reed Smith’s diversity and inclusion programme which attracts candidates from the widest possible pool was crucial to my initial decision to apply to them. Furthermore, the genuine commitment to these principles which I witnessed during my time at the firm made my decision on being offered a training contract an extremely easy one.
How does your disability impact you?
During my penultimate year of university, I was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia. Having gone undiagnosed throughout my time at secondary school, it was only on being pushed to my academic limits at university that the condition began to significantly affect my studies. I particularly struggled with the intense time pressure of exams and consequently achieved disappointing 1st and 2nd year results, leaving me severely disheartened at my prospects of fulfilling my aspiration of securing a training contract with a top international law firm.
It was initially with great reluctance that I went for a dyslexia screening as, although both my siblings had been diagnosed with the condition, pride and the wish to fit in had always stood in my way. However, my eventual diagnosis, in fact, acted as a reassurance, as it went some way to explaining why I had struggled so much in exams. Whilst adjustments to my exam arrangements, including additional time, helped directly improve my performance in assessments, the broader support I received helped me adapt my study patterns to mitigate the effects of my dyslexia. In turn, this led to a significant improvement in my exam results, giving me the confidence to overcome my previously disappointing grades and apply for the top legal job I desired.
How has Reed Smith helped you to do well at your workplace?
Of the firms I applied for none were more understanding of my dyslexia than Reed Smith. From the very outset I was made to feel completely at ease, as they not only allowed me additional time for the assessment process but demonstrated flexibility and a supportive approach that meant I was really able to be myself and perform to the best of my ability throughout the vacation scheme. This openness allowed me to be confident in communicating the effects of my dyslexia to my supervisors and peers. In turn, this meant I was able to adjust my work pattern to be as effective as possible.
What advice or tops tips would you offer?
Whilst people deal with their disabilities in different ways, I think that being open is hugely important and is certainly the best approach when applying for jobs. In being realistic and acknowledging your disability’s effects, it not only allows you the best chance to mitigate or overcome them but also puts potential employers at ease, demonstrating that you know how to deal with your condition. Although it sometimes does feel slightly uncomfortable asking for adjustments for assessments, or more generally in the workplace, in doing so you are simply putting yourself on an even playing field with those applicants without disabilities, and it will only improve your chances of performing well and being successful with your application.
I can only thank Reed Smith for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to joining the team.