Society diversity

How the Diversity Access Program boosted my self-confidence

When I was a young girl, I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue, which I think was pretty commonplace for a mixed-race girl growing up in a housing estate.

I knew I wanted to help people, but I couldn’t decide how, due to financial constraints and my lack of connection to the jobs offered to me at school career fairs.

Only until I volunteer to participate in the Mock trial competition for magistrates that I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.

Endless Obstacles: Following My Career Plan

However, as my time in public education passed, I felt like the career I had in mind was too far out of my reach. I’ve sent dozens of cover letters asking for legal work experience, just to find that positions were already filled, or to hear nothing at all.

I didn’t have the connections to get work experience and was already studying full-time for my bachelor’s degree, in addition to working part-time as a senior administrator at a tree surgery company after school and the weekend. I told myself that I couldn’t afford it and that I had to concentrate only on my studies.

But the center of my studies was marred by tonsillitis and I worked too hard at my job. As such, when the day came when college degree applications were due, I hadn’t even started. So, my sixth-grade principal led me to the one-stop computer just outside their office and insisted that I submit applications to universities for their law course.

Despite my best efforts and with the help of my sixth grade director, I was deeply disappointed to receive rejections from everywhere I applied. But my parents encouraged me to try the compensation process, where I made an offer and to my disbelief it was accepted.

Throughout my three years of reading law, as I tried to support myself financially, I found my work hours skyrocketing. My summer ‘holidays’ were scheduled for studies and extra shifts. I couldn’t afford to consider unpaid work experience.

Despite my growing concern about my financial limitations, I was overwhelmed with joy when I graduated with first class honors in law. I thought this would be, perhaps naively, one of the last two steps towards getting a Legal Practice Course (LPC) sponsorship from a law firm that would also offer me a training contract.

Almost immediately I got a graduate job on an in-house legal team while volunteering to become a magistrate and was humbly invited to sit on the Suffolk bench. During this busy period, I applied to local, regional and municipal companies – hoping that someone would recognize my potential.

But each time, I never made it to the first checkpoint.

Obstacles: I begin to abandon my goal

Times got tougher: my father fell seriously ill after the death of my grandmother and I acted in his place as executor, while being the main support of my family.

Amidst rejected applications, family tensions, and moving into a new role, I decided to stay conscious of my dream of becoming a lawyer and focus on serving my community, while working in private practice.

In truth, I concluded that I could not obtain a training contract, because I did not have the means to finance myself on the LPC. I was at a disadvantage to begin with and as a result felt incredibly stuck and stagnant. As far as I’m concerned, my dream of becoming a notary was over

I remained discouraged until my partner suggested I apply for sponsorship with the Law Society through their Diversity Access Program (DAS). Immediately I was dismissive of his suggestion – could I make the cut?

Get where I want to be

Hesitant but with nothing to lose, I applied and was called in for an interview. I still remember the exact feeling of my heart leaping out of my chest once I got the call to say I was fully sponsored for my LPC fee.

It was as if all the socio-economic barriers had melted away. The Law Society itself believed in me – they saw my potential and recognized my hard work.

Shortly after receiving the award and starting LPC, I got a training contract, which I know I couldn’t have done without DAS. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am to the Law Society for DAS – it has boosted my confidence, my career prospects and rekindled my self-confidence.

If you are reading this and are wondering about your career path in law due to your socio-economic background, then I urge you to have confidence and know that your work ethic and resilience will pay off. You will be recognized and you will get where you want to be.