How did you get started in your career and what drew you to Mayer Brown?
No one in my family had any connection with the legal industry, so it was only when a teacher at school suggested I look into a career in law that I even considered it as a degree subject. Throughout my degree and after spending a week’s work experience in a small law firm, I was drawn to the combination of academia and practical commercialism particularly required for a career in law. Clients will rarely just need you to know the law – they will also look to you for your advice on how to practically and commercially solve their problems by using your legal knowledge.
I knew I wanted to work in a firm which offered a full legal service to interesting clients. I knew variety in my career was very important and therefore I applied for the firms that could offer a broad range of services, clients, industries and jurisdictions. I also knew that as part of the role (wherever I practised) I would be spending a lot of time in the office and therefore it was very important to me that the firms I applied to had a good working environment so that I would enjoy, rather than resent, being in the office.
How do you manage your disability at work?
When I was young I was diagnosed with dyslexia which affects not only spelling but also my attention-span and how I absorb information. Whilst at school I had developed a number of coping strategies which had helped me manage my dyslexia with revision and exams. Everyone will have their own strategies, but I find (when possible) going to find an empty room to work in very helpful as it is quiet and I can read out loud without distractions.
I also have ‘voice to text’ software on my computer as I often find it easier to vocalise by thoughts than write them down. I may have to go back and amend the wording, but it is a really helpful place to start when you have a blank piece of paper.
Taking regular breaks is also very helpful. I do not have a fantastic attention span but I find by taking breaks I am more efficient and attentive than if I had not. This may be as simple as doing a lap of the working floor or grabbing an afternoon coffee for 10 minutes.
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
Despite my dyslexia my work product must be completed to the correct standard and delivered by the deadline, just if any of my other colleagues had completed it. However the process and methods I use to complete the work may be slightly different to others. It is in managing this process where Mayer Brown has been able to help me.
From the beginning Mayer Brown have been keen to help me manage my dyslexia. In my assessment centre for the role, I was able to type by written answers rather than handwrite them which would have taken me considerably longer, putting me at a disadvantage to the other candidates. On starting work I also had workplace assessments where HR tried to understand how they could help and provided various pieces of software – some of which I didn’t find personally helpful but others which I now use regularly.
Each workplace and role presents itself with new challenges which you may not have come across before and so it is important to be receptive to new ways of managing your work.
What advice or top tips would you offer?
Be honest with your employers about your disability and the adjustments you require. You may have your own coping strategies but they may be able to suggest new ones which you had not previously considered to help you cope with the various specific challenges of the workplace.
It is important to embrace and understand your strengths and your weaknesses so that you can more effectively target your development.