I will never forget the feeling of walking across the stage in McEwan Hall to receive a First Class Law (LLB Hons) degree from the University of Edinburgh. It really was one of the best days of my life.

I still pinch myself in wonder that such amazing memories are real: who would have thought it when I was a child? Growing up in a disadvantaged area, it was uncommon for people like me to aspire to be a solicitor.

From a young age, I had some awareness of how poverty, violence and crime affected others. It was this sense of injustice that lit the fire in my tummy – how could two children from the same school have such different upbringings and life experiences.

Why were some more likely to die from war, hunger or disease just because they were born in a different country than others; why were some more likely to suffer hate crime because of their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation; why was there so much injustice in the world? I chose to study law with an aim to help people.

My stepdad died suddenly when I was 15, leaving my mum to raise me and my younger sister. My mum taught me to work hard and encouraged me to believe that I could be or do anything. She never sought to limit me and would remind me that if I stuck in at school, “the world is your oyster”.

Sticking in at school is exactly what I did. While even being accepted to study law was a long-held dream, little did I know that I was just getting started. I was about to meet some of my best friends, to be first daunted then encouraged and inspired by my incredibly smart lecturers, tutors and peers, and to experience exciting legal opportunities outside of my comfort zone.

Many of these legal opportunities are thanks to the Lawscot Foundation, who believed in my potential and acted as a catalyst to my success.

Mentors – lighting the path to success

I didn’t know any lawyers and stepped into the LLB somewhat blind. However, as a Lawscot Foundation scholar, I have been fortunate to have the encouragement of three mentors who have helped me define what a “successful” lawyer is – integral, insightful, creative, ambitious, values driven.

During my first few weeks of university, I was introduced to Mandy Louise Rawlinson, Head of Client Risk & Governance at Abrdn. From helping me navigate the somewhat alien environment of university to giving useful study tips, Mandy provided me with authentic guidance, support and information.

Mandy taught me the importance of being able to question myself to develop personally and professionally. Together, we set goals and reviewed them regularly, which helped me to determine whether a change of direction was needed to achieve my desired outcome.

I owe a similar debt to Katharine Hardie, Chair of Scotland and Northern Ireland at Pinsent Masons. I was introduced to Katharine after becoming the first recipient of the Kirk Murdoch Scholarship.

Katharine not only instilled in me an interest in commercial law by offering a brand-new exposure and perspective to the work she carried out, but also went beyond her mentoring as a commercial lawyer. She taught me the importance of networking and encouraged me to find value in my own voice and have the courage to share it.

When considering which route to take for my legal career, the Lawscot Foundation introduced me to Rohi Shah, a Trainee Solicitor at Anderson Strathern. When I first met Rohi, I was in the midst of traineeship applications and interviews. Like Rohi, I wanted to work in a full-service firm. Rohi helped me prepare for interviews by conducting mock ones, and really was a vital source of advice and feedback. I am excited to work alongside Rohi when I begin my traineeship with Anderson Strathern later this year.

I believe it is so important when doors begin to open for you that you also hold them open for others. So, when asked if I would like to mentor a fellow Lawscot Foundation student, I jumped at the opportunity.

As a peer mentor, I provided advice, insight and guidance to my mentee throughout their own legal and university journey. For me, it is important to champion others, and I remained committed, investing the necessary time to assist with their personal development. I benefited from a sense of fulfilment and personal growth and was able to improve my interpersonal skills as well as leadership qualities. It was so rewarding to see my mentee graduate last year.

The importance of saying Yes

My experience has shown me that sometimes you have to go outside your comfort-zone to become comfortable in yourself. Over the years the Lawscot Foundation has encouraged me to say yes to opportunities, test my limits and apply myself in things I didn’t think I was capable of.

Prime examples include being a panellist on a Women in Law panel; participating in a ministerial roundtable on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession at the Scottish Parliament; delivering a presentation to summer students at the RBS Legal First Steps Programme and addressing MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on how mentorships work. 

Being awarded the Kirk Murdoch Scholarship for writing an essay on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is another example of putting my own capabilities to the test. I heard about the scholarship run by Pinsent Masons through the Lawscot Foundation. Since winning, I’ve completed two vacation schemes and presented in front of some of the firm’s most senior employees, something I could only imagine doing a few years ago.

Through the Lawscot Foundation, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend several exclusive insight days at commercial firms, the Scottish Parliament and Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Such experiences have allowed me to explore a variety of career paths and expand my professional network whilst gaining personal and professional confidence.

The hard shell – making the world your oyster

The Lawscot Foundation supported me financially throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. This allowed me to find a balance between my part-time job and studies, experience volunteering abroad in rural Fiji and has enabled me to use my bursary towards tuition fees for the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice.

Ultimately, the Lawscot Foundation has helped me find the confidence and inspiration to achieve my goals. Thanks to them, I have been set up with skills that I know will benefit me in my future life. All in all, I am incredibly grateful for the last five years with the Lawscot Foundation, for the people I’ve met and experiences I have had along the way.

I now look forward to completing the last few months of my Diploma before starting my traineeship.

I hope that by sharing my story I encourage others, showing they too can achieve their goals, notwithstanding their circumstances. If I can do it, then anyone can: the world really is your oyster.

Demi Scorfield is a Lawscot Foundation student from Edinburgh. She  graduated with a First Class degree from the University of Edinburgh in 2022. She is currently studying her Diploma at the University of Edinburgh and starts her traineeship with Anderson Strathern in 2023.