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FAIRE: Fairer Access Into Real Experience

Career stories: Makhala Kirwan

Like many, I knew I wanted to become a lawyer from a young age. And so, I set out to best position myself to attain a training contract from as early as possible.

Following secondary school, I studied Law as one of my subjects at A-levels. I also participated in the college’s Law Peer Mentoring Programme, as well as the Mooting Club during my time there.

I then studied my LLB law degree at university. Over those three years studying my undergraduate degree, I also ensured that I participated in extra-curricular learning activities and legal work, such as attending an array of insight days hosted by law firms, working as a legal assistant during my summer holidays, and even undertaking a mini-pupillage with a reputable chambers. These experiences allowed me to soon narrow down what kind of law I wanted to work in and confirm that I wanted to pursue a career as a solicitor.

I also founded my own legal society during my time at university. In recognition of the need for a more diverse legal profession, this society had the aim of providing those from non-traditional, marginalised backgrounds with opportunities and access to the profession. This gave such students opportunities to learn further skills from experts, participate in workshops, attend insight talks and network with other aspiring lawyers as well as those already working within the profession. Not only did I develop skills which would support my goal of becoming a solicitor, such as leadership, communication and teamwork, but it also exposed me to environments where I would witness law in practice, first-hand which I found most valuable… there’s only so much a textbook can teach you, after all.

I was introduced to Browne Jacobson through this society which I had created, when I reached out for potential sponsorship and collaboration. It was then when I caught my first glimpse of the firm’s inclusive and welcoming culture. Their willingness to support initiatives which promoted equality, diversity and inclusivity was most notable, and the relationships I developed through this initiative led me to applying for a training contract with the firm.

I did not succeed in gaining a training contract straight away. Like many, my journey included rejections. It can be easy to become disheartened when faced with rejection, but rather than allow that to happen, I gained employment after graduation as a paralegal, so that I would continue to develop in a legal environment whilst I continued to work on my applications for training contracts and kept busy with internships also. And that’s what it often comes down to – acquiring the knowledge and skills over a period of time which will help your personal develop and support your applications in hopes of one day getting that phone call of congratulations.

I am most grateful and proud to now be training with Browne Jacobson. I am currently working in the banking and finance team, and since starting my training contract, the firm have been extremely friendly, supportive and collaborative. The banking team is very welcoming, and I have been able to develop my skills and knowledge, working within the team as well as being given enough confidence to work independently also. I have already been exposed to a wide range of matters and opportunities, and I am finding my time here most enjoyable. I look forward to what the rest of my training has to offer.

If I could offer any advice, it would be to:

  • Network as much as possible;
  • Be bold in your pursuit of opportunities to gain work experience, remembering that it does not have to be law-related to have value (there are transferable skills in everything);
  • Be inquisitive and passionate; and
  • Persevere.