Pursuing a legal career did not come naturally to me. My family lacked any legal professionals and few of those who attended my local comprehensive became lawyers. In fact only two out of 180 plus students, myself included, would go on to read law at university. So when I first saw the Pathways to Law leaflet in the school library, I was pleasantly surprised that I would be able to explore what seemed like an impenetrable profession.
Working in a ‘Magic Circle’ law firm through Pathways opened my eyes. Not only did it teach me what that fanciful term meant, but I also became aware of the possibility that I could one day work in such a firm. As I looked out of the shiny offices and into the view of the City, I began to physically see myself as part of this world. The importance of less privileged students being able to picture themselves working in an elite profession cannot be understated. With this in mind, I pursued a law degree with the aim of qualifying as a lawyer.
If I were to offer one advice, it would be this: look around, online or offline, for any opportunities to visit law firms or barristers’ chambers. There are more and more events put up for first year students, many of which require only a registration form. If you want your application to be successful, you must provide evidence that you actively researched the industry prior to applying. Open days and workshops are a good place to start.
Of course, that is only one piece of advice. Many of us who benefited from the Trust’s various programmes would love to pass on our advice to new participants. This is why I believe the alumni network is key to connecting members at different stages of our professional careers. It helps new members find their way into a career, as well as help those already in a profession to advance further up the ladder.
My hope is for alumni to actively engage with the network, be it via mentoring or networking. It would also be great to see it develop into a hub of volunteers, committed to addressing problems which hinder social mobility in this country.
Kelvin Ma is a graduate of SOAS University and is about to embark on a training contact with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.