"Walking through the doors of the Sidley Austin London office, I was nervous but at the same time excited. As I entered the lift and came out on the 6th floor, it all felt so real. The moment I walked into the room, I saw so many friendly faces and the minute I started talking to people, I realised everyone was just as determined and driven as me.
As a 2nd year history student, I have applied for a few vac schemes this year and although I received rejections, I have by no means given up. Getting onto the First Headstart programme not only boosted my confidence after a knock back, but the event itself also gave me valuable advice. So many areas were covered, from application advice all the way through to commercial awareness and I was able to gain a real insight into what I needed to do to prepare myself for the applications to come.
I learnt so much about what is expected from me, how to stand out, and the networking session really just topped it off for me. Networking is something that you dread when you’re new to it. Having been to many presentations that have ended with networking and often feeling like I hadn’t gained much out of it, this time it was completely different. I gained so much advice from trainees who had been there before and been successful, each with a different piece of priceless information and I spoke to members of HR who were able to give key advice on how to tackle applications. I think that it’s sometimes so easy to forget that lawyers are people who despite working long hours, do have interests outside the law. The things I got to talk about during the networking session ranged all the way from how to stand out in applications to Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian’s latest drama.
I cannot recommend signing up to this programme enough. I happened to stumble across it on my university’s career page on the day of the deadline and forced myself to apply despite the looming deadline. I’m so thankful I did because it’s such a great opportunity and it really puts you on the right path. Not only have I gained plenty of knowledge, I also made new friends who are as passionate about pursuing a career in law as I am.
Be confident in yourself and apply for as many things as you can, do not let the rejections hold you back, if anything, they build your character and strengthen you as a person."
"The First Headstart insight day by BLD Foundation hosted at Austin Sidley London on the 5th July 2017 has been one of the most inspirational legal event I have had the pleasure to partake. The program for the day was planned extremely well following each item with precise and condensed information along with a wonderful lunch and drinks reception. I understand that the thought of pursuing a legal career that entails long hours and unexpected obstacles in a very competitive time can be extremely disheartening but, the day had given me another perspective to this fearful thought by exposing our minds to the first hand experiences and journeys of various types of lawyers on different career paths. The speakers had clarified many of the unknown legal questions I had and they were extremely welcoming in extending a comforting hand to guide us through this intimidating journey by encouraging us to contact them when needed, they were also content in sharing their most daunting obstacles and how they overcame that.
Although the legal career is a challenging and long journey, every speaker simply reminded me that you are only human. Despite mistakes, uncontrollable choices and unfortunate situations in life as long as you are persistent with resilience you will succeed and your efforts will be acknowledged. It was extremely comforting to know that through the struggles it is possible to achieve your legal ambitions through hard work and dedication.
Overall the event was personally very inspiring and boosted my confidence in tackling the potential challenges in the competitive pool of the legal world. I feel extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the program and I will use this source of positive energy to fuel my own legal dreams in the near future. I would highly recommend this insightful day to anyone that may be slightly discouraged in pursuing a legal career because of fear as through the event is evident that it is possible for one to succeed regardless of background, class or university ranking."
"The First Headstart training day was one of the most memorable days of my life, literally! I met so many friendly people, both students like myself and professionals who hugely inspired me to follow a specific career path. It was a day filled with extremely beneficial talks from different professions and large law firms.
I learnt about the different career paths in the legal sector and how to go about pursuing them. Although, the barrister route is not something I personally want to pursue, for me the talk from Lucinda Orr from Enyo Law was by far the most interesting of them all!
Being from an ethnic minority background, I always had this stereotype at the back of my mind, that ethnic minorities will never make it to the legal profession. I knew there was a push towards diversity in the legal sector but I was never aware of all the successful people from black and minority ethnic groups. The First Headstart workshop provided me with all the awareness, talks and success stories from the past and present and to be honest, it was such a surprise! A pleasant surprise as it officially got rid of that "I can't make it because of my skin colour or where I'm from" attitude! It made me much more confident in the fact that it doesn’t matter what your background is, talent will always shine and make you stand out from the rest. If you consistently work hard and try your best, you will achieve your dream career in the end.
A bit of advice I would like to give to all future participants is to simply make the most use of your time by talking to everyone there as it really does make the difference! That includes your fellow participants, professionals that came just to talk to you and Tricia who went out of her way to make the day perfect and comfortable for everyone! Make sure to find out everything you need to know and just make a conversation with literally everyone! I found everyone extremely friendly and simply eager to talk! After all, we are all on the same boat, right? Everyone wants to succeed so there is no need to be nervous!
This programme has provided me with so much support in a day and it has definitely been a pleasure to be a part of it!"
"As a law student, any event hosted by Sidley Austin is an extremely attractive opportunity. The opportunity to network, listen to talks, participate in workshops and be inspired by other young aspiring lawyers and those who have already qualified is very striking.
Firstly, being able to meet young lawyers was inspirational, and to then network with them helped me build my networking skills. Furthermore, the opportunity to pick up advice and experiences from these young professionals is so valuable and indispensable. The opportunity for ethnic minorities to invest and work within the law community has also been proven to be much easier than I previously thought due to organisations such as BLD Foundation. First Headstart has provided individuals like myself with the motivation to further develop skills and participate in such a sector.
This event consisted of many talks, workshops and training, which helped provide me with new information and further developed this notion of commercial awareness. The Q and A session on the LLP programme led by Alan Omogbai was a personal highlight. To view an individual such as Alan presenting with such confidence, and confirming his route into the legal sector was amazing and provides me with a great deal of confidence that the legal sector is one open to me.
Overall, I recommend the First Headstart programme to anybody, especially ethnic minorities who are considering the legal sector. The information received will prove to be priceless from this unique opportunity."
"I found the BLD Foundation website by an accident as no one has ever introduced it to me. As a mature student, I applied for this program with so much curiosity really. My concerns were that I am not attractive to law firms at all as I am too old to be recruited, or I am not coming from a privileged university and there must be no hope for me etc.
As I was offered a place to attend as a guest, I was motivated to give it a go and to see exactly how this programme would be run and how it would feel to be within Sidley Austin as an international law firm. I essentially went to the training workshop with low expectations.
However, upon entering the Sidley Austin LLP office, I realised that this was going to be a serious affair – the professionalism I saw from the receptionist to the BLD Foundation team gave me a positive first impression even before the workshop started. After we settled down at the fancy oval table in the board room, we had legal professionals coming to talk to us non-stop – even our lunch doubled as s networking session!
Participants were surrounded by barristers, solicitors, trainee solicitors, recruitment team members and even partners from big-name law firms that sponsor the BLD Foundation. The topics covered range from legal commercial awareness to career planning and development. We received numerous tips on how to apply successfully for training contracts and also got to hear from past beneficiaries of BLD Foundation’s programmes which was very inspirational.
I was most impressed by the fact that this programme is designed to make our legal career dreams become tangible, visible, within reach. I also observed that the number of legal professionals who attended the workshop and networking sessions was greater than the number of participants. This gave plenty opportunities to talk to them, and for them to help to shape our future legal career at this early stage.
After attending the First Headstart workshop, I feel that my legal career goals have become much clear and I am much more passionate about achieving them! I have also now got my answer from speaking with several qualified professionals that people will never be too old to pursue a legal career. I am building on this amazing opportunity by following up with some of the contacts I made to seek more support towards achieving my career goals.
Finally, I would like to say what a fantastic event organised by the BLD Foundation team, they have worked so hard to push us through the doors of legal profession without even receiving any benefit from participants. I would highly recommend the BLD Foundation and its programmes to everyone who wants to pursue a legal career, especially for first year law students who, like me, do not even know where to start with pursuing a legal career."
Fang Liu, FH 2017, Birmingham City University
"My aspirations of becoming a lawyer were first met with severe doubt and disbelief in sixth form, crippling my confidence and directing me into a non-law degree. The First Headstart Programme offered by the BLD was truly the first monumental event in my life that has reversed the effects of being told so strongly that I cannot achieve this.
One of my deepest worries as a non-law undergraduate before attending the workshop was my lack of knowledge in actual Law content I had in comparison to my first law year peers. I had established a mental inferiority within myself that my experiences as a non-law undergraduate was insufficient, and was more than surprised to find myself easily being able to engage in conversation about interests and information with my peers easily. I also found that this gave me more of a conversation starter with many of the young professionals, both non-law degree holders or LLB holders were interested in the reason I was present at Sidley Austin through BLD Foundation today.
Something I found to be truly invaluable was the breakdown of commercial awareness in a relevant and interesting workshop with Claude Brown from Reed Smith. The discussion of Deliveroo and its current employment method, as well as its implication on Employment Law was extremely thought-provoking. Never before had I really been given a true example of why non-law undergraduates are just as viable as a lawyer as LLB holders, and an insight to commercial awareness was what I needed to see that Law is truly an interdisciplinary practise.
The networking event was perhaps the most enjoyable but disorientating section of the day, as I was always used to attending to patrons, even having waiters offer me appetisers was a weird moment. I felt important and included in a world I always felt was unreachable. Along with this, I managed to have an interesting conversation with interns at Vodafone, and even established an important contact who is now my mentor, with a promise of a short work placement.
The First Headstart programme was really an eye-opener to the tedious and applicant-saturated journey of being a commercial solicitor. What I have taken from the day is a relentless thirst to use every moment of my waking hours towards making my dream of being a city firm solicitor a reality. Knowing more about alternative career routes from my intended journey was truly instrumental, and there was never a moment that I felt that anything being discussed by alternative professionals such as Barristers were irrelevant to me.
My final words are words of advice therefore are to take every moment of the First Headstart programme as way to work on yourself to become a career-driven yet globally aware individual. Take lots of notes, prioritise networking with your peers as you would professionals, and give yourself a final pep talk in the Sidley Austin toilets if you must. Just be confident that when sitting in the comfy black seats or networking over a flute of your chosen drink, that you are making one huge step in becoming an individual better than you were the day before."
Hamdi Aden, King’s College London
"Throughout our lives we are constantly bombarded with mantras and advice to live successful lives. My mother was always telling me ‘preparation is the key to success’ or ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, as she would remind me to pack my school bag the night before. But, how does one truly effectively prepare for a career in law? Effectively, how does one ‘pack their bag the night before’? Other than the general advice I received such as to ‘read Know the City’, there was never any clear advice to guide me through the legal career. The BLD Foundation provides an amazing opportunity to build a solid foundation and hear this advice from a variety of successful professionals, to help us to pave the way for a successful and career.
Armed with Google Maps, I survived the daunting London rush hour commute and arrived at Sidley Austin on the morning of the First Headstart training workshop, meeting my fellow budding lawyers. As we bonded over how similar the interior of the firm was to a set from Suits, we had a lovely and welcoming reception, before settling in ready for the day ahead. Being naturally inquisitive, I was eager to ask questions, learn about people’s personal journeys and gain a greater awareness into how they see the legal sector evolving in the future.
The day comprised of an assortment of insightful and engaging presentations delivered by professionals from all areas and levels, from trainee solicitors to partners and barristers. The sessions were informative, honest but often humorous and designed to answer all the questions we had. Moreover, in addition to learning the various career pathways to becoming a barrister or solicitor, we also received advice and tips on how to get the most from our vacation schemes from Graduate Recruitment and Trainee Solicitors who had not-too-long-ago been in our position. I felt very privileged to have been receiving such a wealth of knowledge.
A particular highlight for me was the commercial awareness talk delivered by Claude Brown from Reed Smith, as this was something I had understood to be a key area when applying for training contracts. His interactive use of on-topic examples, made understanding what seemed a confusing concept more accessible, whilst he also highlighted the importance of why lawyers must be commercially aware in their practice. Furthermore, the insight from solicitor Alexandra Simon from Pinsent Masons was most valued, as she covered interview practice and talked through what the day to day life of a solicitor would involve, even briefly mentioning some of the cases she had worked on in the past. It was particularly inspiring and motivating hearing of these accomplishments from a person whom I found very relatable. I was given confidence that any goal is achievable if you are determined enough.
During the day, the importance of networking was stressed. Thus, the networking sessions proved fantastic opportunities to practice these skills. Any nerves we had approaching such successful people were completely put to bed straightaway as everyone was very friendly and happy to talk to us. After hearing how tough, competitive and busy a career as a Commercial Lawyer was, I felt very grateful that they were giving up their time to help us. In this way, the BLD Foundation’s Headstart Programme exceeded all expectations; whereby the opportunities provided not only just gave us an insight into a variety of legal careers, but surprising actually provided the depth in the insight, for example, the opportunity to hear first-hand from people who have ‘made it’ could not have been anticipated. I understand now how incredibly privileged I was to attend such an informative event.
Overall, this programme was incredible and will have a remarkable effect on my career. I have learnt that despite its challenges, a career as a Commercial Lawyer is possible; thus, making me more than ever determined to reach my goal.
I would highly recommend anyone thinking about a career in law to attend this workshop packed with invaluable information and amazing people, both professionals and fellow students. The BLD Foundation provides a supportive community and that will stay with you through the rest of your legal career and I for sure will be applying to their other programmes!"
Sherena Masharani, Law with Business- University of Plymouth