What led you to this role? Why did you choose to join this organisation?
I studied law at Selwyn College, Cambridge University and had completed a couple of vacation schemes in London, but not yet secured a training contract when I graduated. I moved back to the North West after graduation and realised that living and working in Manchester would offer the best of both worlds – an international firm's regional office would ensure good quality, interesting work and yet there would be a better work/life balance than in London.
I took a year out after graduating and carried out legal voluntary work which enabled me to put some of what I had learnt into practice and gain an insight into a client's perspective. Ultimately this experience helped me to secure a training contract. I completed a couple of vacation schemes during that year and one of those was with Pinsent Masons. I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation scheme and was delighted to be offered a training contract with the firm.
I commenced my training contract in 2014 and I completed seats in Pensions, Commercial, Employment and Structured Solutions. My favourite seat was Employment and within about a week of being in the department, I knew this was the area I wanted to qualify into. I was fortunate to secure an NQ position within the Manchester Employment team and qualified into the team in September 2016.
Congratulations! What was your experience of the LPC like?
I studied the LPC at the University of Law (UoL) in Manchester. I use a powered wheelchair and the UoL team went out of their way to ensure I could be as independent as possible whilst I was there and arranged a number of adaptations to the building as well as offering support during my studies. After completing the LPC, I had a year until the start of my training contract and so I secured a job as the UoL's Business Development Assistant in Manchester. This 11-month position involved organising and hosting Open Days and events as well as attending careers fairs at various universities, schools and colleges in the area.
How do you manage your disability at work?
The firm has made a number of physical adaptations for me at the Manchester office, both when I began my training contract and subsequently when I qualified. I found it helpful to arrange a meeting with Facilities, both prior to my vacation scheme and again before commencing my training contract, so that I could visit the office and discuss any potential issues and adjustments. During my second seat as a trainee, my supervisor gave me the opportunity to work from home one day a week, which was particularly beneficial due to the length of my daily commute and the fact that I get tired more easily due to my medical condition. This also meant that if I had any medical or physiotherapy appointments, I could work from home before or after the appointment if this was easier. I continued with this working pattern until I qualified.
What is your organisation’s approach to disability; how has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
During my training contract, I had support from the Graduate Development team and together we produced an 'Information Passport' that I updated every 6 months. This set out details of any assistance that I might require and provided some information about my physical disability. The 'Information Passport' was disclosed to my future supervisor (and the Partner in my new team) prior to each seat move, meaning that I didn’t have to repeat the same information when I had my initial meeting with each new supervisor.
When I qualified I was offered the chance to work 4 days per week, which is a real benefit as it means that I can have physiotherapy more regularly and I am less tired due to the longer weekend. In addition, I still work from home one day each week, as the Employment team really embraces flexible and agile working. The head of the Manchester Employment team, Neil Black, has been particularly supportive in respect of adaptations and flexible working. The HR team liaised with the Facilities team on my behalf to ensure the relevant adaptations were put in place for me following my workstation assessment by Access to Work.
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 advise anyone who is considering a career as a solicitor and applying for vacation schemes/training contracts, to be open and honest with the firms that they are applying to about any adjustments they might require. This will allow the relevant support to be put in place during the assessment process.