TLT trainees

Overcoming the barriers: practical tips for BAME students pursuing a career in law

We hosted our second BAME student legal conference at our London office in March, welcoming some of the UK's leading BAME lawyers to share their experiences and advice with students considering a legal career. Drawing on their insight and advice, here are the main takeaways from that event – we hope they're useful!   

 

Prepare

It will enable you to present your best and stand out from the crowd, whether in exams, in interviews, with a client or in court.

Have confidence

In yourself and what you can achieve. The more you do, the more events you go to, the more you seek to learn about a legal career the more confident you will become in what is possible. "When you have knowledge you have confidence, when you have confidence you have resilience." Lara Oyesanya, UK Counsel and Director Legal for Klarna Bank AB

Fill the knowledge gap

Make sure you know what you need to do to succeed. Speak to lawyers, attend law firm events whenever you get the opportunity and keep on top of current affairs and their likely impact on the legal industry.

Be proactive

Opportunities rarely present themselves without effort. Aspiring solicitors need to seek out their own path and find opportunities - once you take the first step the next one will present itself.  “If you don’t ask the answer will always be no” Dr Tunde Okewale MBE, Barrister and founder of the charity Urban Lawyers

Persevere

It may take longer and the journey may not be as easy as it is for others, but if you persevere it is achievable. One of the biggest barriers is self-elimination. 

See your background as an advantage - now more than ever, law firms are searching for the unique insights and experiences BAME students can provide. This can take the form of an additional language, cultural and religious understanding or anything else unique to your background. Don’t be afraid to show it off! "Confidence comes once you embrace who you are" Koser Shaheen, Chair of the Ethnic Minority Division Committee (EMDC) of the Law Society

Build your network

Being able to draw upon the knowledge of others can prove vital to aspiring solicitors. Developing these can seem daunting, but it’s all about proactivity, tenacity and confidence- identify people that could be useful, introduce yourself and keep the conversations going!  You will be surprised how many people are willing to help.

Don't forget the soft skills

Competition is fierce and nobody is the finished article when they apply but focusing on developing the softer skills will help you to stand out. Seminars, events and extra courses are great ways to start!

Understand your motivations

It’s no secret that a legal career can be challenging at times. Given the extra effort that is frequently required from BAME students, you must fully understand your motivations for applying. A genuine interest in the law and how it is applied is vital! "It is the cause, not the money that should drive your passion for law" Imran Khan QC

Never forget those following

As you progress, help those at an earlier stage in their journey. You can then play your part in making the industry fit for the future!

We would like to thank the panel for giving their time to share their personal stories and insights: Imran Khan QC; Dr Tunde Okewale MBE, Barrister and founder of the charity Urban Lawyers; Lara Oyesanya, UK Counsel and Director Legal for Klarna Bank AB; and Koser Shaheen, Chair of the Ethnic Minority Division Committee (EMDC) of the Law Society.