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.