Founded by former Norton Rose Fulbright corporate solicitor, Chris White, Aspiring Solicitors is a unique organisation committed to increasing diversity throughout the legal profession.
We offer a free service targeted at undergraduate and postgraduate students, and provide increased access, opportunities and assistance to individuals from underrepresented groups aiming to break into the profession.
What inspired you?
Since I secured my training contract with a US law firm, Dechert LLP, in 2006, I have been passionate about assisting others in securing access to a career in law. As a first-generation law student and coming from a working class family, I know how difficult it can be to get experience in the legal profession, let alone access it or obtain a training contract.
I had no family contacts or friends in law and had to find my own way on my own steam. All I had control over was my academic grades and my own motivation and determination to succeed. Having secured straight As at GCSE and A-Level, I was in a fortunate position when I came to apply to law firms for work experience/training contracts. However, I quickly discovered that the whole process required specific skills and awareness, in which I was severely lacking, not least because I didn’t know what to prepare for. At the time, attending a non-redbrick university didn’t help, as the opportunities available with employers were limited; few of the large law firms attended law fairs and there were no specialist workshops to assist with applications/interviews.
Despite various challenges, I managed to secure three vacation schemes at various law firms (a US firm, a City firm and a large regional firm). Following these, I secured a training contract with Dechert and moved to Norton Rose LLP in September 2010 on qualification, where I remained for three and a half years.
My awareness that there are aspiring solicitors out there, who either are not appropriately informed or educated about diversity in the profession, or who do not have the opportunities as a member of an underrepresented group, inspired me to set up Aspiring Solicitors. Since 2006, I have provided free assistance to aspiring solicitors with help on their CVs, applications to law firms, and mock interviews. I have helped hundreds of students to secure vacation schemes and training contracts at a variety of firms, from global powerhouses to small high street practices. This has all been on a voluntary basis and completed in my spare time.
How it works
We work with a cross-section of legal organisations, from magic circle firms to small regional practices, large in-house banking teams to academic providers. I have secured 10 founder members (Freshfields, Barclays, Norton Rose Fulbright, Hogan Lovells, Clyde & Co, Dentons, LexisNexis, Wragge & Co, Attwells and Accutrainee), and we have recently added two affiliate members (Arnold and Porter UK LLP and Bird & Bird LLP). Affiliate members and founding members are committed to providing increased access, opportunities and assistance to aspiring solicitors from underrepresented groups (via workshops, lunches, open days or work placements) based on a bespoke agreement with each organisation that takes account of budget and capacity. What is essential to Aspiring Solicitors is that we are recognised as a profession-wide organisation and not City-specific.
Aspiring Solicitors draws on assistance from volunteers called ‘professional ambassadors’. These legal professionals offer their assistance to solicitors from underrepresented groups on a rolling capacity basis (with dialogue being managed by Aspiring Solicitors), giving them useful contacts in the legal profession and additional professional assistance to that offered by careers advisers.
Aspiring Solicitors specifically targets all underrepresented groups in the profession, not only the most publicised underrepresented groups (ie based on race and gender), but also students who have may have been state-educated, graduated from a non-redbrick university, are first-generation graduates, are disabled and or identify as gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender, among other underrepresented groups.
Since September 2013, I have appointed student ambassadors at over 54 universities across the UK, and I am in discussions with a further 20 universities to participate in the initiative. Student ambassadors and representatives promote Aspiring Solicitors in their institution. This is completed through five key Headlights:
- pro bono
- sector awareness, and
- equality, diversity and social responsibility.
I consider these to be essential to the career of any aspiring solicitor.
Other vital members of the Aspiring Solicitors team include Joanne Cameron, a solicitor at leading employment claimant law firm in London, Pattinson & Brewer LLP. Joanne is editor of the Aspiring Solicitors website and monthly newsletter and has also been instrumental in developing our strategy and brand.
What next for Aspiring Solicitors?
I would like to continue to grow Aspiring Solicitors by adding affiliate members from a range of law firms and legal organisations, and to add to the growing professional ambassador network that I am establishing via the website (currently, over 30 professional ambassadors have signed up). Another goal is to appoint student ambassadors and representatives in every university across the UK to ensure that diversity is truly increased throughout the profession from the bottom up.
If you would like to contact me or Aspiring Solicitors, please see the various contact details below.
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Chris White is a former Norton Rose Fulbright corporate solicitor and the founder of Aspiring Solicitors.