How did you get started in your career?
I am a 2 year qualified solicitor, specialising in International Finance, more specifically Corporate Trusts and Agency work at Ashurst LLP. I trained at Allen & Overy and upon qualification in 2009, I moved to Ashurst to start my life as an NQ.
In my pursuit of a career in law, I have had to jump through much the same set of hoops as anyone else however my journey has been a little more unpredictable than I thought because of my disability. As a result of a tumour in my spine when I was three months old, I have a permanent physical disability called paraparesis, which means that the muscles in my legs are very weak. I cannot stand or walk unaided; I use crutches for short distances and the majority of my movement in the office and around London is with the use of a powered wheelchair.
My passion for a legal career was ignited at the age of 14 when I was chosen to be an interviewer for a Channel 4 schools programme called First Edition. My role on the programme (alongside my co-presenter, the legendary Jon Snow) was to interview politicians, celebrities and other influential individuals on the current affairs and controversial issues which they were involved with at the time. Often the interviews got quite heated, and I relished the opportunity to fight my corner in a logical and articulate way; thinking on my feet to ask poignant and probing questions, often putting my interviewee in a difficult position. I reveled in the limelight and realised that while my legs didn't work very well, my loud mouth certainly did!
Being a solicitor seemed like an obvious career choice and appealed to my argumentative and language-hungry brain. I had found a career path in which my disability would not get in the way of my progress and in which my mental, rather than physical, ability would be paramount.
What drew you to Ashurst?
Ashurst are a very welcoming and diverse firm, without compromising on professionalism. The work is high-quality and the team I work within is great. As an Associate, it is my job to run transactions, review contractual documentation and advise our clients on any difficulties, queries and concerns they may have. Just a typical lawyer really!!
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
A few of the obstacles I face with my disability are as follows:
- My disability makes me exhausted by the end of the day, meaning that I am unable to work the long hours often required of lawyers;
- I have numerous hospital appointments, which mean I often have to leave the office in the middle of the day;
- If my wheelchair breaks down I have to think about how I am going to get to and from work and who is going to rescue me;
- If it's raining, I have to organise an adequate wheelchair-friendly taxi (a much more difficult task than you would think) to take me to or from work; and
- Any social event has to be held in a disabled-friendly venue, otherwise I cannot attend.
These were all problems that had a solution and Ashurst were happy to provide the answers! I now work flexible hours and my team understand that I have to leave the office at a certain time of day in order to go home and rest. I found a wheelchair breakdown service which does roadside assistance for wheelchairs and I have my own black cab account with the firm in order to help me get home. I am now in the second year at Ashurst and things are going smoothly. There was a period of adjustment and learning for me and the firm, but Ashurst and I worked together.
How would you describe the culture at Ashurst?
Ashurst clearly recognise how important diversity is in the workplace in order for a business to progress and thrive. It's so inspiring being surrounded by people from all walks of life; everyone brings their own refreshing perspective. Crucially, in order to benefit from all the brilliant things that diversity brings, a business will have to take into consideration some of the things that come with their employees as a result of the life-path that the employee is walking. It's a two-way commitment and Ashurst certainly demonstrate that commitment.
They have inspired and motivated me to progress in my career and to do the best job I can.