The OPEN Legal Sector Careers event took place on 3 February 2012 at the offices of Linklaters in central London.
Trainees, partners and recruiters from Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Eversheds, Freshfields, Hogan Lovells, and Linklaters came to meet talented disabled students and graduates aspiring to work in the legal sector.
Students in attendance were offered unique opportunities to meet with potential future employers in a welcoming, open environment where they could ask questions about disability, both in recruitment and in the workplace.
Faye Wimpenny of Linklaters welcomed the attendees and introduced Deborah Dalgleish, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Ashurst, who gave an overview of the legal sector, highlighted key skills and traits important to success, and spoke about the significance of diversity within the legal profession.
Following these keynote speeches, students took part in a series of small group discussions, in which representatives of the firms in attendance rotated around the room to speak to students and answer questions. Students spoke with six different representatives in ten-minute sessions, allowing for a broad understanding of the diverse motivations that can lead to a legal career, as well as adjustments made by various firms to accommodate disabled employees.
After lunch, Helen Cooke, Director of My Plus Consulting, explained how requesting and implementing adjustments in the workplace is a two-way street. In recruitment, employers and candidates must work together to ensure that proper adjustments are made, sharing the responsibility of helping ‘level the playing field’ for disabled candidates.
Students next enjoyed an interactive interview skills session. Recruiters and partners first explained typical interview structure, offering students a few sample interview questions to ask each other in pairs. Representatives concluded the session by explaining what is meant by ‘commercial awareness’ and how best to demonstrate this knowledge at interview.
This was followed by a panel session of industry experts, where the panel answered questions collected from students throughout the day. The panel included Philip Davies, partner at Eversheds, Feargus MacDaeid, trainee at Allen & Overy, Arunima Misra, trainee at Ashurst, Alison Peyton from Hogan Lovells’ recruitment, and Peter Quinn, Head of Disability Advisory Service at Oxford University. Panel members offered advice and guidance to the students, sharing their own personal experiences with having disabilities and working in the legal profession.
The day ended with a drinks and canapés networking reception.
Students found the day very informative and helpful, enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere, and said that the event encouraged them to pursue applying to firms with greater confidence.