Linkcity Partners with the Law Society
Driven by Leasha Newman, a Solicitor for Linkcity, we are now offering work experience for students on the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme. Linkcity is delighted to be working more closely with the Law Society to offer valuable experience to students who might otherwise struggle to gain such opportunities. Having previously been awarded a scholarship for the Scheme, Leasha’s insight has been invaluable. We spoke to Leasha to find out just how crucial this scheme is, what her experience of it was herself, and where it has got her now.
What is the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme and why is it so important?
The Diversity Access Scheme is a scholarship programme offered by the Law Society to help aspiring law students from less advantaged backgrounds to pursue a career in law, by providing funding for the Legal Practice Course or Solicitors Qualifying Exam. In addition to the funding, awardees are provided with work experience opportunities and mentoring. The scheme receives hundreds of applications each year, but only 10 scholarships are awarded, so it is a highly competitive process.
The scheme is important because it removes the financial barriers that many students seeking a career in law face. The awardees come from a background which means that they don’t have access to funding from other means (e.g. family or loans), so would face great difficulty in moving forward in their career as student finance is not available for these post-graduate courses which are a requirement for a career in law. This, therefore, means that diversity within the profession can be promoted instead of the stereotypical law student who has come from a wealthy family who already has connections within the profession and access to many opportunities.
What made you want to work with the Law Society?
As a previous awardee of a scholarship from the Scheme, I have seen the benefits first-hand. Whilst the funding is the key component of the scheme, the access to a mentor to help guide you through such a daunting period is equally as valuable. Often the students don’t know others in the profession that they can speak to and get advice from, so having the chance to speak to someone already working as a qualified solicitor is very important. I have volunteered as a mentor to help offer some insight and advice to my current mentee.
Access to good quality work experience is equally vital, as this will give students experience for their CV which will in turn help with training contract applications. I wanted to give students on the programme the opportunity to gain access to life in an office environment in which they could get some hands-on experience in drafting, joining client meetings to understand how decisions are made, or conducting research that will benefit the business directly. I also felt that it is important for the students to get some exposure to an in-house legal environment, as this is an equally rewarding career path. Often the in-house route is not as talked about in University, but in my experience, the benefits of working directly with your client and being involved in the commercial discussions give you a much better commercial awareness, which feeds into your legal decision making.
How did the Law Society benefit your own career?
As well as providing me with the funding to take the Legal Practice Course, I found that the work experience opportunities were the most beneficial part of the scheme for me. I managed to secure several placements at large in-house organisations, which gave me invaluable insight into this kind of environment, meaning I had an open mind when looking for training contract opportunities. I also managed to secure a vacation scheme at a large private practice law firm, which then lead to me being hired as a paralegal full-time once I finished my studies. Without these opportunities, I believe that it would have taken me longer to secure a paralegal role (and ultimately a training contract) as I had a lack of legal experience on my CV.
Do you enjoy being a mentor?
Being a mentor is something that I often discounted thinking that I am ‘too junior’ to be able to help someone else out. But I have come to realise that I have valuable insights into pursuing a career in law and having come from a similar background to these students, I know I can share my experiences to help my mentee with their career choices. I am really enjoying being a mentor, knowing that I am helping someone and making a difference in their professional life.
What is so special about what Linkcity offers to their interns?
The first thing is having friendly faces around you to welcome you into the team which really helps you settle into what is quite a daunting experience for students. Everyone at Linkcity is approachable and willing to offer their support and advice and talk to students about their individual job roles to give them an insight into the business. The second thing is being involved in good quality work, having been on many work placements myself where you don’t have much involvement or get to do any meaningful work, I know this makes a key difference. Here at Linkcity, we are ensuring that students get a wide variety of experience and is involved in carrying out tasks themselves, with the support of the team.
Where do you see the relationship between Linkcity and the Law Society going in the future?
I hope that we can continue to offer work experience placements to the students on the Diversity Access Scheme for each new year of students. I will continue to offer mentoring support and assist with speaking at events and webinars where possible. Hopefully we can extend this to some of the wider team to raise awareness about the opportunities within the Linkcity legal team.