Being a trainee solicitor with a Specific Learning Difference

Choosing to disclose your Specific Learning Difference on your training contract application might feel like a scary decision.

However trainee solicitor Isobel Cairns explains how it will allow your prospective firm to fully support you in your application, and career, journey.

If I admit I am dyslexic, will my job application be affected?

“Starting a career in law often involves fierce competition to secure the elusive training contract. Wanting to stand out from the crowd and appeal to recruiters is understandable, so why should you disclose your Specific Learning Difference?

For many, myself included, there is a misplaced fear that disclosing at the application stage might result in the application being discounted, discriminated against and labelled, due to dyslexia being a hidden disability. I didn’t want to be seen as a weak candidate, due to common misconceptions about dyslexia.

When completing my training contract applications I chose not to disclose that I have a Specific Learning Difference. Then, during my interview at Royds Withy King, I was asked why I wanted to pursue a career in law. In order to explain my answer fully I had to explain that I am dyslexic.

As soon as I told my interviewers about my dyslexia, they wanted to know exactly what they could do to help me and support me throughout my assessment process. Adjustments were put in place there and then, allowing me the opportunity to demonstrate why I was the ideal candidate.

Their inclusive approach instantly reassured me, helping me to realise this was the right firm for me.

Trainee solicitors are encouraged to work collaboratively with their teams. This helps them to share experiences, skill sets, and create more robust solutions to legal challenges.

Speak out – it is the only way to empower change

Your prospective employer really wants to get to know you during your interview and part of that is supporting the individual to be able to demonstrate this to the best of their ability. They can only make adjustments if they are informed, which is why I would urge any aspiring trainee solicitor, or any job applicant or employee, to declare their disability at the first opportunity.

I have now started my training contract with the firm and the confidence I gained from the interview process enabled me to tell my supervising partner in our first meeting that I have dyslexia. Her response was everything I had hoped it would be. I have had a workplace assessment which looked at how I work and what supports my working style. My desk has been set up with equipment to support my working and my colleagues within my team have been informed that when giving me a task and instructions, putting them on a hard copy memo is most beneficial. My supervising partner has made it clear that I can approach any member of the team for support in checking my work. I also have the use of a quiet room when I need to complete work without interruptions.

We all have specific learning differences

We all work differently and in our own ways, we all have a specific learning difference. Some of us need high energy environments, some need quiet spaces. I think that when it comes to managing the working environment, employers across all sectors are starting to realise these differences and provide the support required – catering to all individual needs.

With regards to my experiences, all of these adjustments allowed me to complete work to the best of my ability and further develop my skill set during my legal training.  Royds Withy King recognises that as a trainee solicitor with dyslexia, I am able to bring a different skill set to my training contract that other individuals don’t have, which will have many benefits for the firm moving forward.

If you would like more information about Dyslexia, visit the British Dyslexia Associate website.

Contact us if you have a question about being a trainee with a specific learning difference.

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