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.

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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.

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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.

Remembering Your Wellbeing When Revising

Exam season is nearly always a stressful time, and no matter what shape your preparation and planning has taken, I’ll bet that there’s a really important part you haven’t factored in as much as you could have: looking after you.

Doing well in your exams is important. Feeling like you’ve covered every possibility, learned every case study, and reviewed every lecture and seminar is important. But you, also, are important. Yes, that might sound cliché, but a 2010 report by the National Union of Students in Scotland, found that 90.5% of students felt that exams and assessments were ‘reasonably or very stressful’, and while a bit of stress may get our adrenaline pumping and push us to do work, this is not absolutely not sustainable or possible for all.

So, what are we suggesting? First and foremost, you need to find time to relax. You can’t be revising for twenty hours a day, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to. There is so much research out there (just have a quick Google!) which tells us to take regular breaks, and that short breaks can even be useful for improving our memories. Most importantly, taking an evening to yourself and making sure you get a full seven hours’ sleep are key to maintaining a good sense of wellbeing and being your most awake and aware for your revision the following day!

If you don’t believe me, take it from one of our academics within The Dickson Poon School of Law, Senior Lecturer Jane Henderson; ‘allow yourself breaks – schedule them in, so you don’t miss them out; no one can study from dawn ‘til dusk! And having some fun is also a good idea – a relaxed person works better than someone who is tense.’ So there you have it – although everyone revises and learns in different ways, however you work best, a good nights’ sleep and some regular breaks are going to be more helpful than working solidly for three weeks with next-to-no sleep!

So, how can you use all this spare time I’ve just given back to you when you were planning to be revising? Well, my first recommendation would be to get involved with the #KCLWell campaign we’ve just started up within the School. Through the campaign, we’re putting on some short and sweet events for students to drop into, just to take ten minutes out of your revision day and do something fun!

fruits-82524So far, we’ve held a small pop-up with fruit smoothies and colouring in, and a film night, with more similar events planned over the coming weeks. Check out our Student Wellbeing page for more information on these, and also make sure to check out King’s Wellbeing’s Take Time Out campaign for more great events and advice over the exams season!

And if you don’t find anything you like the sounds of across either of these campaigns, you can take the advice of one of our undergraduates from our recent wellbeing pop-up; ‘go to a pub with friends and then go to Five Guys!’ Whatever works best for you, make sure to find something to do each day which helps you relax and think about something other than work!

Jack Kilker, School Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator