Experience: 3 years PQE
Specialism: Corporate law - mergers and acquisitions/private equity
Firm: Debevoise & Plimpton
My ethnic background is still uncommon in the legal profession. I used to feel nervous during networking events, but I got over my anxieties and realised making connections through talking to people you don't know is essential to being a solicitor.
Even though it’s a very competitive process, I was determined to get a training contract.
I grew up with my mum and brother in South-East London. I attended a state school and was fortunate to generally have supportive teachers who encouraged me to work hard and succeed. I did well academically and wanted to continue my education and get a degree.
I didn't know anything about corporate law until I started university, where I had the opportunity to attend presentations held by law firms. These events gave me an insight into what it would be like to be a lawyer.
I was eager to find out more, so during my second year I applied for vacation schemes at a number of major firms.
I was successful with several of these applications, and I spent that summer interning at three City law firms. I liked the idea of working with some of the largest companies in the world, on challenging and complex transactions, and I decided that it was the career for me.
The challenges I faced in joining the profession centred around 'soft skills'. While I found the academic side of my degree rewarding, I struggled with activities such as networking.
During my vacation scheme placements we were expected to go into a room full of solicitors and mingle with people we didn't know.
I found this whole concept totally alien and very daunting, especially because at the time my perception was that most of the people at these firms came from a similar middle-class type background; it was a completely different world from which I was accustomed.
I now know how important it is to be able to network, not just as a training contract applicant, but as a qualified lawyer. Establishing working relationships with people across your business and client base is crucial.
I also struggled with the social side to vacation schemes. During the course of these placements, I was taken to very expensive, fine dining restaurants by the firms I was working for.
The kind of places where there are five types of fork, a huge wine list and a tasting menu! I had never been to these types of restaurants before and, although it was a lot of fun, it was also a very steep learning curve and at the time quite nerve wracking.
I had no contacts or family members in the profession to give me advice about how to behave in these types of situations, and so I had to overcome my anxieties through sheer determination and being adaptable.
My goal was to obtain a training contract and I wasn't going to let anything get in my way. The way I saw it, I had been through more difficult situations in my life before so this gave me the confidence that I could achieve anything, provided that I worked hard and put my mind to it.
I viewed the process of obtaining a training contract as simply another hurdle that I had to jump over.
I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of getting a training contract and so I checked and double checked each of my applications to make sure there were no errors and that my answers to the questions were succinct and well written.
I dressed appropriately and spoke well during interviews. I didn't want to give anyone an excuse to say ‘no’ to me at the first hurdle and wanted to be considered as strong a candidate - if not stronger - than any of the other applicants. I was extremely pleased when I secured a training contract at a City firm.
Black men are underrepresented in the legal profession, and I often find that I am the only black person in the room during meetings and when I visit other law firms.
I know that many firms are beginning to take steps to improve diversity and I am glad the profession recognises this as an issue.
A career in law might not be for everyone and the hours are often long. My mum has been a source of great inspiration to me. I have never met someone more hard working than her. I think a key factor in my achievements to date has been my ability to adopt her incredible work ethic in my studies and my career.