Despite being academic at school, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at university. In the end, I chose to study Law with Spanish, with the intent to pursue a career in law. Although I was enthusiastic about my future career prospects, I soon hit a stumbling block.
I attended open days and campus presentations from a variety of law firms and read up on the application criteria. It all seemed great, but there was one big problem. I didn’t see anyone in law who looked like me.
I come from a working class family in the north of England, I’m black and identify as queer. I’ve always been fiercely supported by my family and family friends, but they can only do so much. It felt like a lot to overcome for me to feel confident and ‘fit in’ in this sector.
I came to hear of DiversCity through an acquaintance at the LGBT Bar Business Conference in 2014 in London. I was surprised that there were influential and talented openly LGBT individuals at the top of the legal profession in the City, and was bowled over by the fact such a scheme such as DiversCity existed to help make the profession become diverse. This came at a time when I was still considering law, but the likelihood of me actually entering the profession was diminishing.
I completed the application form, and to my surprise, I was accepted. I took the trip down to London, and was pleasantly surprised. Physically being in a City law firm was inspirational in itself. Furthermore, I had never felt that commercial law nor the City could ever reflect me, but here I was in a room full of people just like me, who had all had the doubts I have, and were proud of who they were.
Seeing people on the same page as you at varying levels of the profession completed changed my mind, as I was close to abandoning law completely. Being offered a fantastic mentor after the event was a great bonus as well. I’ve had incredible support from someone who has been in my position and understands all my fears and doesn’t ignore them. My mentor helps with training contract applications, and has given me the critique and scrutiny that every trainee-hopeful needs.
DiversCity has given me the confidence to openly address diversity issues in a commercial law firm environment and to be my true self, even at a junior level. I’m proud of my diversity, and DiversCity has given many other LGBT people aspiring to the law access to influential and inspirational figures within commercial firms. I’ve really appreciated the honesty and support I’ve received from Daisy Reeves, a banking partner at Berwin Leighton Paisner. It makes an incredible difference receiving encouragement from such a senior figure in the profession. It’s difficult to get started in City law, but DiversCity makes it that little bit easier. They want people who look like me, who have experiences like mine and want diversity in the legal profession – and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.
Written by DiversCity mentee Isaac Eloi