‘Wellbeing & Mental Health for Law Students’; an interview with Elizabeth Rimmer of LawCare.

Words by Liz Barrett, Mature Students Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law. This post originally appeared on Liz’s personal blog, Silks and the City. The original post can be found here.

As part of the ongoing student/young lawyer wellbeing series on this site, I am very excited to say that Elizabeth Rimmer, the CEO of LawCare, agreed to answer some questions about student mental health, how to support your wellbeing and strategies for when you’re struggling. If you would like to explore the support LawCare offers, click here, and read on for some nuggets from Elizabeth…

This piece is also especially relevant today, Thursday 1st March 2018, as we mark University Mental Health Day, a national campaign to focus efforts on promoting the mental health of people who live, work and study in Higher Education settings.

  • Where did the idea for LawCare come from?

LawCare has its origins in the Lawyers Support Group, a group of lawyers from all walks of the profession in recovery from alcohol addiction. Formed in 1983, the group met regularly in London.

In 1995, partly prompted by a letter in the Gazette, Charles Elly, President of the Law Society, set up a working party to look into helping members of the profession affected by alcohol misuse. SolCare, as it was then called, was established in April 1997 and Barry Pritchard, a solicitor living in North Wales who was a recovering alcoholic with 13 years sobriety, became the first co-ordinator. He was given a modest grant and a surplus-to-requirements Law Society computer, which he set up in a corner of the kitchen in his renovated farmhouse. During that first year, he took 60 calls from lawyers with alcohol problems. Members of LSG were among those who became the first LawCare volunteers, offering ongoing personal support to these callers.

LawCare has now grown to cover all the jurisdictions in UK and Ireland and all legal professions, support staff and families; supporting wellbeing and mental health. We are also trying to raise awareness about student mental health. Wellbeing has become especially important in recent years, as people have become more aware of mental health issues and the fact that last year, the Health and Safety Executive found that lawyers were the third most stressed profession.

Yes, we do receive calls from students, pupils and trainees. The figures vary between countries and professions, but last year we received between 9% to 20% of the proportion of our calls from students, pupils or trainees. We have seen a rise in phone calls, and we are working with our partners across the legal community to raise awareness about why mental health matters.

Law can be a pressured industry to work in with long hours and a heavy workload which can lead to stress and mental health issues. LawCare is here for all legal professionals and through our helpline, we offer one-on-one peer support and we also work with employers to promote wellbeing at work. We would encourage anyone in the legal community worried about a professional or personal issue not to stay silent and to contact us for support if needed.

Call the helpline on 0800 279 6888 in the UK and 1800 991 801 in Ireland.

  • Do you feel there is enough support for students and young lawyers to aid wellbeing?

My sense is that programmes to promote wellbeing are becoming more common and this is something we encourage and welcome. There are growing initiatives around student wellbeing. For example, BPP and University of Law have started providing more support and resources to students.

In Ireland for students taking the equivalent of the LPC they have a module called ‘Shrink Me, I’m a Lawyer’ – where students get a session to help them understand some of the pressures they may face in practice and the strategies they can use to help. We would like to see a mandatory module on wellbeing at all law schools in the future. This could take the form of signposting – teaching students to recognise the signs that their wellbeing may be compromised and what positive steps they can take to maintain their wellbeing. I think it’s important to flag up that understanding your own wellbeing can help you thrive and be the best lawyers you can be. What should be key in any education programme is to frame this positively. We want to encourage the legal community to be open about mental health which will make it easier for those in need of help to seek it.

  • We are heading into exam and revision season – what do you think helps people most during this time?

Your vocational, professional legal training is the first step towards what we hope will be a rewarding and successful career, but many law students sometimes feel daunted by the pressures of legal study, sweating about deadlines and worrying about exams.

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, or feeling low, listen to what your body and mind are saying and try the following:

  • Talk to teaching staff or your Personal Tutor
  • Organise your study time and deadlines into a manageable plan
  • Go to your GP and get an MOT, as you would for your car, to see if there is any underlying condition that could be treated
  • Consider the counselling that may be offered by your college, law school or university
  • Become more self-aware, and recognise when you have a stress trigger – the symptoms are different for each of us – and immediately after the episode take a few minutes to recover. This prevents the body storing stress chemicals, minimising their impact, and also helps you to avoid being wound up like a spring at the end of the day
  • Take time for exercise and activities that you enjoy; long hours are sometimes unavoidable, but don’t let them be the norm
  • Call LawCare: talking through what is worrying you can make you feel better

These feelings can develop at any time of the year, and not just during exam season, so it’s always important to stay tuned-in to your mind and body, and acknowledge what is happening to you. And if you notice someone on your course or a friend who may be struggling to cope, have a chat with them and let them know there is support.

  • There’s a trend going around that daily meditation helps maintain one’s mental health and stress levels, a lot of my friends have tried to practice mindfulness as a way to help deal with stress, and I wrote a piece on how I felt yoga is beneficial for mind, body and soul especially for lawyers. With so many ‘trends’ around – what do you think is really the best for creating good mental health and a sense of wellbeing?

It’s all about trying things out and what works best for you – and these are all great options. We created a top ten list with some suggestions.

  • Law is highly competitive – do you feel it is important to cultivate a community of supportive people within the industry to counteract this?

It is absolutely essential. Data from America suggests that the biggest issue for lawyers seems to be stigma; that coming forward for help will be perceived as a sign of weakness.

We want to get the legal community talking about mental health – encouraging those who feel able to share their stories of mental health concerns, to challenge the stigma and make it easier for those in need of support to find it.

There are also some incredible initiatives, like This Is Me – run by Lord Mayor of London Appeal, and the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society of England and Wales has just launched a guide on resilience, which we recommend students read.

  • In the modern world, where we are all rushing about – do you think it is harder to find time to look after ourselves? What would be a way to make time?

It can feel like we are too busy to look after ourselves; when we are busy with work we tend to ‘chuck out’ the things that we feel aren’t work-focussed, like socialising with friends or getting home in time for a meal with the family. They are often the first to go. Whereas these are actually the sorts of activities that can help us manage stress and improve wellbeing. I think we sometimes don’t value them enough, and recognise what a difference they can make.

If you think about professional athletes – they have a huge team around them. These teams help the athlete to rest, eat well, exercise and recover – as well as train. Think about how you will build your team around you, and find the time to make social connections.

  • You run campaigns to help reduce stigma and raise awareness of mental health. What can we, as students and junior lawyers, do to help? And if we, as students and young lawyers, wanted to get involved in LawCare to help others, how can we do that?

We are looking at expanding our volunteer roles, and maybe creating ambassadors for LawCare, and students will be key to this. We are looking at how we can widen our reach. Keep an eye on our website for opportunities.

  • Law students are often perfectionists at heart. Do you have any advice on how to let perfectionist tendencies go?

It can be hard to admit to making a mistake, or to admit that you may be struggling – but talking really helps. We advocate sharing with your friends, family and fellow students that you may have made a mistake or are feeling overwhelmed, it can be reassuring to discover that you are not the only one who feels this way. It can be hard to let go of perfectionist tendencies, but opening up helps.

  • If you could ‘prescribe’ one remedy for students who are suffering with stress, what would it be?

To talk to someone about how you’re feeling. This starts you on a journey to help and reassures you that you’re not alone. Many people feel the pressure of what they’re doing; this is not uncommon. Making that time to look after yourself is also key: enjoy yourself, eat well, and get some sleep!

As this is the last point in the article, it just leaves me to say a big thank you to Elizabeth for taking the time to talk with me. I think the main takeaways are: you are not alone, it’s important to share how you’re feeling, there are support systems both in and out of university/the workplace and it is vital to take the time to look after yourself – however busy you feel.

A little more about Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare: Elizabeth has been managing and developing charities in the mental health sector for over 20 years.  She joined LawCare in September 2014 from the Institute of Group Analysis, a membership and training organisation for group psychotherapists. Before that she headed up Alzheimer’s Disease International, a worldwide federation of Alzheimer Associations. Elizabeth started her working life as a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence, practicing at Leigh Day.

LawCare, a registered charity, supports and promotes good mental health and wellbeing throughout the legal community in the UK and Ireland. LawCare provides emotional support, information about the mental health issues that can affect lawyers and works to raise awareness about why mental health matters. www.lawcare.org.uk 

‘You Do Law’*

Words by Melissa Vance, Wellbeing Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law.

I know, that should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Admittedly, your Law degree is probably going to be one of the most challenging, but significant, achievements of your life so far. You already know this: you gleam with pride at the mere mention of your degree subject (I mean, I know I do). But whilst you do Law, do you remember to do you?

I’m talking about remembering to be yourself in this cloud of reading cases and too-heavy-to-carry textbooks (although the knowledge within those we do so often love). You ask your friends, your fellow lawyers, your parents (please remember to phone home) but how often do you ask yourself “how are you”? It can be easy to get into the routine of university life, focusing on the academic and the absolutely essential, without remembering to look after you and your own interests. We become so focused on the best grades and competitive applications, we forget what we were ever interested in before KEATS and Westlaw.

Put those textbooks down for just a moment and take a look at my 7 tips for self-care:

  1. Allocate time for yourself – one of the best things that I learnt over the course of my first year was to schedule my time efficiently. I’m not just talking about scheduling classes and study time, but also the time in which I could do as I wished. By setting myself a time to stop working each night, and making sure I could stick to this, I found that I worked more effectively. Knowing that I could be back in my flat watching Netflix or catching up with my friends later, I always got the work done during my study slots within the time I had allocated myself. I got better at Law and at still having a social life!
  2. Get outside – this isn’t just me drawing on my own experience, fresh air and physical activity can have a proven positive impact on student wellbeing and productivity! It can be tempting to hide away in your flat, the library or the gym. Not only will spending more time outside allow you to get away from your work and your busy schedule, but it will also improve your mental-map and appreciation of London! From Waterloo or Strand campus, you can be at St. James’ Park, Buckingham Palace (visit near 11am for the Changing of the Guards!), the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square, all within the hour (can you tell I turn my running into a sightseeing opportunity?). We are so lucky with our location at King’s, so we must take advantage of it! Go for a walk for no purpose at all, you never know where your feet will take you.
  3. Make things happen – this brings me onto the feeling of loneliness a lot of people might experience during first year. You meet so many wonderful people during Fresher’s week and swap social media details, but that’s often the last you see of them. Make the most of these contacts – it’s never too late to get back in touch. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can even incorporate it into your regular schedule. Instead of sitting alone in the library, invite someone to walk to the library and work with you (you don’t even have to be studying the same subject, the company is always nice); instead of doing your own thing at the gym, invite someone to a class with you. Simple changes and contact with friends can really positively affect your mood.
  4. Re-connect – the same as above goes for old friends. My best friend from High School lives an hour away, but we made sure to call each other and took the effort to visit each other regularly: it can be so lovely to have the chance to talk about home with someone and to take a break from university life. Don’t forget to check in with your family too; it can sometimes be so easy to send a simple text that we actually forget to send them at all. Speak often if that works for you and your family, and be inventive with how you communicate; my Grandma and I even send each other letters, as a way of purposefully keeping in touch!
  5. Find your space – when I first came to King’s, I assumed I would have far more focus working alone in my flat. In reality, I would spend hours on tutorial and seminar preparation, and would never feel an end to my work. When I started exploring new places to work, I found that I could separate study time completely from my leisure time. I tried many places and still use a variety based on what type of work I’m doing. Coffee shops can be great (and are often so full of students you feel like you have your own study group), in the most part though, personally, I prefer the libraries. Not only is the Maughan beautiful (and reminiscent of Hogwarts) but it is a great place to focus and separate yourself from that carpet that needs vacuuming, your singing flatmate, or the food shop that needs doing.
  6. Reach out – so simple, yet so often forgotten. On busy days, I could go from my flat, to the lecture theatre, to a library, to a tutorial, to a run, back to my flat without speaking more than some answers to the Professor and an “excuse me, sorry” whilst whizzing past a tourist along the Thames. Find someone you can connect with and ask them about their day, physically meet up with them and show them that you care (not just a quick Whatsapp message), more often than not they will ask the same about you. This might seem ridiculously simple, but it can always act as a sure-fire way to make me feel happier and more in control. Friends at university aren’t always free? Then by all means call your friend from school, your parents or Facetime your cat and talk to them; there’s a life outside of exciting London too.
  7. Remember to love – not just the people around you (although this is v. v. important). Love what you do with every single day of your life. You might not enjoy all the aspects of your course, but make sure to remember why you enjoy some aspects of it! Importantly, remember what you loved to do before you came to university, such as sports, a certain type of music (hello Spotify student discount), reading, shopping, photography (even if just for Instagram). Remembering to love everything that you do will leave you much more fulfilled and leave you a much more interesting person for your applications! (I used to watch tons of YouTube, but completely ignored this for the majority of my course, allocating time to yourself as in self-care tip 1, will allow you time for what you like doing).

Look to this list for inspiration on where you can improve your wellbeing across the next year. Not only will you feel better, but in you doing you, you’ll hopefully be more content, energised, and able to give more of yourself to what you’re working on. Yes, you do law, but if you are ever struggling to do you, stop and take some time for you. Self-love and happiness is the most important key to success.


*The title of this post was inspired by “You Do You” the third instalment of self-care trilogy by author Sarah Knight – I highly recommend checking out these books for more tips on how to live your life with happiness at the centre!

Advice on Self-Confidence & Self-Worth

Words by Francesca Stocker, Disability Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law.

I am writing this as one of the new Student Diversity Representatives, and as a way to introduce myself to the Law School. My name is Francesca and I am a final year LLB student. I have auditory dyslexia and dyspraxia, which affects my ability to learn, process information and my hearing. This is just one of the many types of disability that people can face, ranging in impact on a person’s normal day to day activity and general life. Disability can affect people in a variety of ways depending on the individual, and sometimes it might not be obvious that someone has a disability.

Here in the Law School, it is important that everyone, whatever their situation or story, feels welcome and able to enjoy their time and thrive at King’s. A key part of this, I believe, is to have confidence and self-belief in yourself. This can be easier said than done. So I thought it might be a good idea to offer some of my own personal advice.

  1. For every negative, find three positives

It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of negativity, pinpointing everything that is wrong with you and the world around you. Force yourself to think of some positives, to counteract belittling thoughts that can drag down your confidence. Searching for some positives can change your attitude, which in turn can change your behaviour. Now of course not everything can be diluted down into three perfect positives, but this trick might help with your own self-value and belief in yourself.

  1. Don’t limit yourself

When the environment around you doesn’t seem to want to include or accommodate you, it seems like the only option is to change yourself. Sometimes we might find that they have to lower their expectations of what they deserve or are capable of. Or pretend that we are coping just as fine as everyone around us seems to be. By doing this, we are limiting our true value as individuals and ignoring our talents and achievements. Law School can be challenging and competitive, but you have to at least give it a go and not leave out of fear that it will be hard, or people will be better. Yes, there will often be people who are better at one small thing than you, but that’s the case for everyone. So instead, why not compete against yourself to be achieve the best you can without confining yourself to less.

  1. Find a support network

Our self-worth can increase when surrounded by supportive and encouraging people. Whether it is family, friends, friends who are practically family, or a partner, it is key to have people who believe in you in your life, to have a mutual reassurance for when things might get difficult or too much. I thought I’d use this opportunity to highlight some contacts within King’s and the Law School, who you can reach out for further support if needed:

  1. Diversity & Inclusion at King’s: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/hr/diversity/D&I%20for%20Students/Our-services-and-activities-.aspx
  2. Disability Advice Service: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/campuslife/services/disability/index.aspx
  3. King’s Wellbeing: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/campuslife/services/health-new/Wellbeing/Kings-Wellbeing.aspx
  4. Law School Contacts: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/law/diversity/disabled-students.aspx

Mature Students: How to view your mature status as an asset

Words by Liz Barrett, Mature Students Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law.

I recently sat down with King’s Careers & Employability to gather some information for mature students in the Law School (and beyond). Apart from the university-specific support, which isn’t generally applicable, a few really important points came up which I thought were worth writing up briefly. This is in the hopes that anyone who doesn’t already realise it can know: your mature student status is an asset.

Here are a few reasons why…

  • Mature students often have had previous careers or undertaken other degrees, making them more experienced and well-equipped when they come to studying and job-hunting.
  • Even if you have other responsibilities (a mortgage, a family, etc.) which you feel narrow your options or put extra stress on getting a paid and stable job, mature students are likely to be more focused, and therefore more likely to succeed in reaching their goals.
  • If you have been a full-time carer, full-time parent, etc. this can be put in the ‘Work Experience’ section of your CV to show an impressive set of skills you may not have realised you had. It’s worth remembering that just because you have a ‘gap’ in your CV, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a void where you learned nothing and showed no abilities.
  • Generally, there is no need to address/justify an ‘alternative route’ into a legal career; that’s the beauty of law – it attracts a range of people, with a range of backgrounds, and often people come to the law later in life.
  • Mature students are often more self-aware as to their own experiences, skills and attributes. This helps when you reach the stage of (the often relentless and energy-sapping) applications and interviews.
  • This one is a biggie – start thinking of yourself as offering a better investment – a 32-year-old trainee/pupil costs the same as a 22-year-old, but the 32-year-old probably offers a bit more value from the get-go…If you want to be a solicitor, City firms spend (ballpark) about £250,000 training someone. That’s why mature students, if they sell their experience and skills with confidence they’re providing better value, and firms are getting more ‘bang for their buck’.

These are just six reasons why being a mature student is a big plus when it comes to getting on the job ladder – there are countless others. Everyone – mature or non-mature – has lived their own, unique life. The key thing to take away is that it’s all about identifying the valuable experiences and skills you’ve picked up along the way which will help you to reach your goals. Chances are you have a lot more transferrable skills and positive attributes than you realise.

Read more from Liz on her blog, Silks & the City.

DiversCity 2017

Words by Julia Norris, LGBTQIA Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law.

In December, I attended ‘DiversCity in Law’ hosted by Clifford Chance in conjunction with thirteen other City firms including Taylor Wessing, Slaughter and May and Millbank. DiversCity was founded in 2011 by lawyers from BLP and HSF who aimed to challenge the perception that the legal sector was unwelcoming towards LGBT+ students. Now seven years later, the attendance at DiversCity has grown from thirty students in 2011 to approximately one hundred students attending each year. The whole-day event aims to combat misconceptions about being ‘LGBT+ in the City’, whilst providing workshops on interview skills and commercial awareness.

The event began with a presentation from Claire Fielding, a gay, transgender lawyer responsible for being a founding partner of Town Legal LLP (and previously a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills). I found it both fascinating and encouraging to see someone so confident with their identity, someone who refused to let labels hold them back. Perhaps most reassuring, was to hear how supportive her employers had been despite the fact that her transition began in the early ’90s.

The experiences shared at each panel demonstrated one key point. Whilst it can be easy to feel bogged down by the seemingly never-ending list of firms to apply to, it is important to consider whether you would feel genuinely comfortable working at a particular firm. If a firm demonstrates little effort towards creating a diverse workforce, or you fear your identity may be a burden, you should perhaps consider if this is what’s best for you. Make an effort to research a firm, see if they have LGBT+ networks or are involved in any LGBT+ student events. It is important to put yourself and your mental health first, these shouldn’t be disregarded in favour of a high salary or high-ranking firm.

Workshops held by Taylor Wessing, RPC, Herbert Smith Freehills and Hogan Lovells were available to give advice on key interview and application skills. The workshops provided in depth information on how to cater applications to each firm. Furthermore, they placed emphasis on the importance of discussing the skills gained through work experience and how they are applicable in the legal world.

Furthermore, DiversCity also provides the opportunity to join its mentoring scheme. This programme pairs up a student with an LGBT+ lawyer currently working at one of the fourteen participating firms and is open to everyone who attends DiversCity each year. Through the scheme, the mentor will provide advice on what it’s like being a City lawyer, and help students throughout their vacation scheme/training contract applications. Additionally, they are a point of call to discuss career goals and to determine what field of law is most suitable for the individual. The mentoring relationship will last for at least a year, or until the mentee successfully obtains a vac scheme or training contract. Mentoring is confidential, therefore creating a safe environment for mentees who wish to voice concerns. A scheme such as this provides vital reassurance for LGBT+ students and is successful in helping create a more diverse legal sector.

Overall, I would highly recommend this event to any LGBT+ students interested in a career in law. The day provides vital reassurance and supplies relevant advice on how to tackle being ‘LGBT+ in the City’. Below are three key pieces of advice I learnt from DiversCity:

  1. Don’t be afraid to put that you are LGBT+ on applications if you feel it is relevant. For example illustrate the skills you gained by attending a law-oriented LGBT+ event or the responsibilities you held as an LGBT+ representative.
  2. When deciding which law firms to apply to, think about whether you would be comfortable working there and take into consideration the firms’ efforts to promote diversity.
  3. It is perfectly fine to keep your identity to yourself, you shouldn’t feel pressured to reveal that you are LGBT+ in the workplace if you are not comfortable in doing so.

Wellbeing: Yoga for Lawyers

Words by Liz Barrett, Mature Students Representative, taken from her blog Silks and the City.

Wellbeing (noun) – the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.

In a new series on the blog, focusing on wellbeing, I will be posting pieces on how to improve health and happiness while in the process of studying and finding jobs. The first of these is all about the benefits of yoga.


Everyone always says that second year is the hardest year; the biggest jump; the year you just grit your teeth and endure. But I didn’t want to think like that. I wanted to enjoy the new challenges, and embrace the myriad opportunities that second year law brings. With that in mind, and also knowing how much exercise benefits the mind, body and soul, I decided to take up yoga at university. For me, it supported a conscious decision at the start of second year to maintain a balanced life.

Bearing in mind I am probably the most un-yoga-ish of yogi types, I now consider myself a convert. In an effort to convert you, or at least to try and persuade you to give it a go, here are my top 5 reasons why lawyers should take up yoga (or something similar)…

Five reasons why yoga is great:

  1. GREAT for getting some ‘HEADSPACE’ and RE-CENTREING – for me, this is the number one benefit. Law is a very analytical, (at times self-centred), brain-heavy, intense subject; and I think yoga is an easy tool to clear your mind, focus on your health, and regain some balance and perspective. Exercise produces all manner of body-boosting, life-enhancing, mood-lifting hormones: endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, to name a few. On top of these, yoga also provides a space and time to relax and breathe; something I think we can forget to do in our hectic, modern lives. Often, after a yoga class, I am in such a ‘zen’ space, that I don’t even want to speak to anyone, for fear that that hour of inner peace yoga has brought will disappear like a bubble bursting. However, I believe that the positive effects of this ‘peace bubble’ stay with me, and benefit me; and I think you may feel the same.
  2. GREAT STUDENT/EMPLOYEE DISCOUNTS – my university offers inexpensive classes, with fully-qualified teachers, who deliver quality classes. If the cost is stopping you – ask your university or your workplace if they run sessions.
  3. GREAT WORKOUT – I was really shocked by how intense yoga could be (and how sore I was for a few days after my first few sessions). Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a bit of stretching. It’s a fantastic low-impact workout, that improves flexibility, core strength and works-out the whole body.
  4. GREAT FOR POSTURE – law students (and lawyers) are often sat hunched over computers or papers for hours on end, leading very sedentary lifestyles. These things, on top of heaving books and laptops around, can all add to bad posture, bad backs, and bad overall physical health. Yoga keeps you supple, flexible and improves core strength.
  5. GREAT FOR ALL ABILITIES AND FITNESS LEVELS – being rather unfit, myself, I worried yoga would be too much; and although it is hard work, it’s easy to pick up and complete a session with no experience and limited fitness. I do ‘Vinyasa Flow’ yoga, but there are plenty of other types which are more or less intense.

So, I hope that this has shown you that yoga can be especially beneficial for lawyers and law students alike. Yoga is not only great for your physical and mental wellbeing; but it may be an outlet or support during times of intense study and work, and could help counter-act a natural tendency towards ‘overthinking’ and the keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ mentality that can pervade law school.

Aspiring Solicitors’ Ability Event, in collaboration with Reed Smith

Words by Francesca Stocker.

In April, I attended the Ability Event hosted by Aspiring Solicitors and Reed Smith. The event was designed to promote diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, with a particular focus on disability and mental health. The event included a series of panel talks: solicitors and trainees talked about their own experiences with disability in the workplace, whether it was a visual impairment or wheelchair use, and how their workplace welcomed and accommodated them.

There was an additional segment focused on mental health and how to cope with the pressures of everyday life, as well as within the legal profession.

As students competing for jobs, our application focus is largely about catering to each individual employer and making ourselves seem as employable as possible. The experiences shared at the Ability Event reminded me that it is also important for the prospective employer to impress you. If an employer is not willing to accommodate you, help you fit into the work environment or views you as a cost burden, then it might be worth reconsidering whether you want to work in that kind of intolerant environment. When you are researching future employers, look beyond the diversity awards posted on their website and actually ask the HR team how they help employees feel comfortable at work or how mental health is dealt with.

Where disabilities and mental health are concerned, I think there is often a tendency to think of ourselves as the burden. However, hearing the trainees and solicitors talk, you could clearly tell they were confident individuals, who were not defined by their disability. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event to attend, with so much positivity and confidence being shared. I would like to pass on what I learnt with more people, so below are 3 pieces of advice I took away from the event;

  1. Avoid referring to yourself in the negative and try to showcase yourself and your skills in a positive light. There is no need to sell yourself short.
  2. On application forms, ensure you mention any mitigating circumstances or disabilities, so that the employer can make adjustments for application tests or assessment centre days.
  3. When researching employers, think about the type of environment you want to work in and what the employer provides to best support its employers.

Remember to check out Aspiring Solicitors, which is a great company focused on diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. Also get in touch with the Law Diversity & Inclusion team for support and information.

King’s Women in Law: Feminist Legal Theory Event

On November 16 2017, the King’s Women in Law society (KWIL) held their first academic event, titled ‘Is the Law Sexist? Feminist Legal Theory 101’.

This event involved presentations by various speakers, followed by an interactive Q&A session. Firstly, Dr. Leslie Taylor focused on the need to look beyond legislation to understand the position of women within Property Law; it is imperative to analyse case law and reflect upon the attitudes of the judiciary. Secondly, Dr. Emily Barritt introduced the concept of Ecofeminism, through drawing similarities between the exploitation of women and of the environment, and encouraged approaching environmental problems in a more discerning manner. Finally, Professor Davina Cooper discussed the need for a legal gender. This involved considering the growing recognition of other gender identities, the basis of criteria selection and equality arguments. The Q&A session led to examination of recurring themes running through the different aspects of law addressed by the speakers, including the role of Parliament and the judiciary in the context of changing social attitudes.

fem legal theory pic 3

From this event, students were encouraged to appreciate different views and to critically reflect upon the law with a feminist lens. It is hoped that this event encouraged attendees to recognise the increasing importance of feminism in today’s society and to continue contributing to the ongoing discussion on the topic.

Following the event, a drinks reception was held at Somerset House to allow for further discussion with the speakers, fellow attendees and the KWIL committee.

KWIL is thankful to the engaging speakers and to all attendees. For more information on KWIL, head to the KWIL webpage.

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Anti-Bullying Week

Words by Ioanna Bagia, Harassment & Bullying Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law.

Unfortunately there is currently no legal definition of bullying in the law of England and Wales. Quite apart from the law, bullying is a term that can be misunderstood, misinterpreted or simply not recognised as important. It is important to understand what bullying is, who the actors in bullying are and how those bullied can be affected.

What is a bully? According to the Oxford Dictionaries, a bully is: A person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. While there are numerous other respected definitions, the aforementioned one captures the essence of what bullying is. An act of bullying usually consists of a person or group of people that exert pressure on an individual or group with the purpose of belittling, ridiculing and/or humiliating them. There absolutely is no one typical act of bullying, however, the traits highlighted above are common features.

It is important to clarify that bullying is a diverse phenomenon, in order to be able to dismantle the illusion that bullying is simply an infantile behaviour exclusive to the school playground. Bullying can, and does, follow some people throughout their lives. It takes place in a variety of contexts, including: the school and work environments as well as on the internet and social media. Most importantly, it is not uncommon for a bully to attack their victim on integral parts of the victim’s identity, such as: sex, ethnic and cultural origin, sexual and gender orientation, socio-economic background, family status, illness and disability. Bullying can be intentional, systemic and malicious and is certainly not a phenomenon confined to certain ages, particular people, areas of life or relationships.

Who takes part in bullying? There are 3 main actors, the: bully or bullies, victim or victims and bystander or bystanders. While bullies and victims are the main actors, bystanders are part of the act, whose failure to act to stop or prevent such bullying can be a form of consent to the act.

Finally, why care about bullying? 80% of young people who completed suicide did so because of peer victimization and bullying, according to NOBullying.com. 77% of students describe themselves as being victims of bullying according to BullyingStatistics.org and 75% of employees have been affected by workplace bullying, according to Forbes. Bullying genuinely can affect anyone and everyone, both in their public and private lives with impacts which can be as serious as contemplating suicide.

In conclusion, although it ranges in seriousness, bullying always involves bullies recognising and abusing their positions of power and influence over others. Many, if not most, people have been part of a bullying act either in the position of the bully, the bystander or the victim. It can and does affect everyone in some way, and therefore should not be disregarded as an issue no longer relevant or requiring significant attention.

Find out more about Anti-Bullying Week and the work being done at King’s by the King’s Wellbeing team.

Why we still need days like IDAHOBIT

Trigger warnings: Anti-Homophobic, -Biphobic and -Transphobic violence, suicide.

IDAHOBIT stands for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, an annual event, this year celebrated on Wednesday 17 May, which celebrates the social and political advancements of the LGBTQ community (largely in the Western world), and reflects on the global work which still needs to be done in the plight for true LGBTQ equality.

The first thing that strikes me about this day is, incidentally, in its naming. Often when we talk about LGBTQ inclusion, there’s a tendency to focus only on the ‘G’, with some smatterings of the ‘L’. IDAHOBIT asserts its inclusivity upfront, ensuring that bisexual and transgender members of the LGBTQ community, and those who identify more broadly under these umbrellas, know that this is a day for them. So often, both within and without of the LGBTQ community, bisexuality and biphobia are overlooked and homogenised with lesbian and gay issues, though bisexual people report experiencing very specific microaggressions which are not always felt by those of other sexualities.

So, why are days like this still so important? Many would argue that LGBTQ issues have moved on so far and fast in recent years that the fight is almost done, and days like this are now becoming redundant. I, however, would argue the complete opposite.

Below are some statistics taken from UK-based LGBT charity Stonewall, who do a lot of research and policy work, largely focussing on lobbying government, education and workplace equality;

  • 48% of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, and 30% said they had done so in the past year. 59% said they had considered doing so;
  • 26% of LGB people alter their behaviour to hide their sexual orientation in order to avoid becoming the victim of a hate crime;
  • 26% of LGB people are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation, and 42% of trans people do not feel they can live permanently in their preferred gender role, as to do so may threaten their employment status;
  • 55% of LGB pupils have experienced direct bullying, and 96% hear homophobic and biphobic language used in their school;
  • Sex with someone of the same sex is illegal in 72 countries, and punishable by death in 10.

As well as these figures, there are also a string of continued homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attacks often reported about throughout the world, and there are likely many others that we never hear about (Stonewall research found that two-thirds of those experiencing hate crimes do not report them). There are also nations in the world where homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination are not illegal, and so are less likely to ever gain international attention.

One such example is the current situation in Chechnya, which Prime Minister Theresa May addressed for the first time last week. We know so far that ‘gay torture camps’ have been established, and at least 100 gay and bisexual men have been detained and tortured. A number of these have been killed.

Aliv Karimov, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said the following;

‘You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.’

 ‘If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.’

With situations and systems of belief such as this present just at the other end of Europe, it becomes easier to appreciate that we may not have moved as far forward in terms of LGBTQ equality as we would all like to believe. There have undoubtedly been advances; for example, 23 counties allow same-sex marriage, and a further 28 recognise civil partnerships. 26 countries also allow same-sex partners to adopt a child that is not the biological offspring of one of the partners.

There are legal advancements happening for LGBTQ people all the time, but these are mitigated by social and societal barriers and oppressions, by legal sanctions against LGBTQ in some parts of the world, and by a general lack of tolerance or acceptance experienced by LGBTQ all over the world, which can, as seen in Chechnya at the moment, still result in the genocide of LGBTQ individuals.

This is why days like the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia are still so incredibly important.

If you have been affected by the contents of this blog in any way, please feel free to contact School Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, Jack Kilker, to discuss this further and seek support.