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ShoosmithsLIVE: Equality & Inclusion

Samantha Hope and Daniela Porco discuss equality and inclusion in law firms. This is a topic Shoosmiths are passionate about and have invested in by growing our health, wellbeing and diversity team, going some way to show our commitment.

Shoosmiths are an equal opportunities employer, and we want to attract aspiring solicitors from all backgrounds, including from underrepresented groups to apply to us for opportunities.

To help us get this message out there, we partner with Aspiring Solicitors, who are an organisation committed to increasing diversity in the legal sector. We are running a number of events in partnership with AS across our offices in the coming months, as well as interviewing the founder, Chris White, live on Facebook on the 17th October 2018. Click here to sign up for the broadcast.

Of course, you still need the skills required to do the role of a trainee solicitor, and that's what our #ShoosmithsLIVE videos are all about, helping you to learn exactly what skills and attributes will be required in the role, and helping you to succeed with Shoosmiths, or indeed, any other law firm.

Daniela Porco is an ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors and although she is currently a paralegal in the commercial real estate team she has recently been offered a training contract commencing in 2020.

Throughout the Live broadcast she openly describes the feelings and the emotions she encountered throughout her career to date.

  • Shoosmiths is Daniela's first legal job.
  • She has been part of the team at Shoosmiths for over two years. Her journey began in business to business Debt Recovery as a Case Handler.
  • She was state school educated and her family were not academically focused.
  • She experienced a lack of support from teachers and found herself in low sets for almost all of her subjects. She achieved mainly C's in her GCSE's. 
  • She had no links to anybody in the law profession or indeed any other professional company. 
  • She had never had any work experience/volunteering experience (until she reached University). All her spare time was spent working on her part time job.

A snapshot of some of the key questions:

Have you ever felt out of place because of your background?

Throughout secondary school and University I felt out of place because of my background. A lot of people I knew already had legal experience and volunteering under their belt, they knew the 'right people' and they had great grades. Compared to others, I felt like I didn't stand a chance. My family were not academic and so I felt very alone and unsupported in academia.

I got myself in such a rut by comparing myself to others that I nearly gave up. If you are feeling this way, or know anybody that is, have a think about the one thing that you are really good at. There will always be something and it can be as simple as making people feel at ease or making people laugh. For me, it was my ability to talk to people I don't know, about absolutely anything.

When I applied for my job at Shoosmiths, I had niggles about who else may have applied for the job and I still thought that I didn't stand a chance. Despite my thoughts, I always made sure throughout the whole process that I was honest (which even included an explanation as to why I didn't have much legal experience!) - This counted for a lot.

I think it's important to remember that whilst academia is one of the ways employers gauge your ability as a professional, it is not the be all and end all. Charisma and personality stands for a lot and in the legal profession and how else are you going to win clients.

Is there any advice you can give to viewers who feel like they need to act a certain way to impress a law firm?

As difficult it may be, and as exposed you may feel, it's imperative that you are yourself in everything you do. Law firms do not want carbon copies. Don't change the way you speak, say what comes naturally and most importantly don't worry about 'sounding clever'. A family judge, his honour Judge Levey, once said to me the most intelligent and convincing person he ever met was "somebody who spoke the simplest English".

Throughout the discussion Samantha addresses how a common misconception we hear a lot about is that people who went to lower ranking universities (or non-Russell group unis) aren't as intelligent. At Shoosmiths we don't believe this is the case, we think that intelligence can't simply be measured by academics or the university you attended, which is why we don't score against the university on the application form, and why we do CV-blind interviews on the trainee assessment centre, to combat any unconscious bias.

We know that diversity isn't an issue that is just solved overnight. It's something that needs to be supported from inside the firm, as well as in the way we attract candidates and recruit.

Listening to Daniela's journey from school to securing a training contract should provide others with the self-belief that they too can be successful.

If you enjoyed this video then we're live again on the 30th August at 12:30pm where Samantha will be talking to Bethany from LCN and Louise, a future Shoosmiths trainee. They'll be talking about the benefits of attending the LawCareersNetLIVE student conference - if you haven't heard about it, it's the best way to develop your commercial awareness and find out more about a career in law. You can find out more by clicking here.

Disclaimer

This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

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