A Scholar's Perspective

The support I received from the Lawscot Foundation throughout my legal education was invaluable. I did not come from a middle-class background, I did not attend private school, I did not come from a family of Lawyers. Indeed, until starting university, I never even knew any Lawyers. The LawScot Foundation went a long way to making up for that for me and for that, I owe them a huge debt.

The support of the Foundation came in three forms: an annual bursary, a mentor, and networking events.

The bursary made a huge difference to me throughout university. I was brought up by a single mother and I moved from Glasgow to Dundee to go to university. She could never have afforded to support me fully in another part of the country like many other parents would. The bursary took many of the financial pressures of moving away from home to go to university away.

The first time I ever met a Lawyer was when I first met my mentor, Tim Haddow. His guidance and support throughout my time at university was invaluable and something I will always be grateful for. He was always on hand to discuss career options, the realities of the job, Traineeship applications, the complexities the COVID-19 pandemic brought on him practicing law and myself studying law, right down to general things. I should say that first thing I was reminded of when I first met Tim was that despite the status of Lawyers, they are still human beings. This I found comforting and served me well throughout my legal education, the hunt for a Traineeship and even in practice. I will always be grateful for his support. I also note that Tim is an Advocate and I Train in a criminal defence practice meaning that I am always in Court and it is an ambition of mine to one day become an Advocate myself.

The networking events that were offered to me by the Foundation were extremely useful. They offered me insight into what it is like to practice as a Lawyer, what to say in Traineeship applications and interviews and plethora of practice areas there are in Law. I do not believe given my circumstances, I could have got this experience from any other source.

In summary, the Lawscot Foundation was my main support through my legal education. Without the financial support, mentoring, and unique exposure to the legal profession that the Foundation provided me, I cannot envisage how I would have got to where I am today – a Trainee Solicitor.

A Mentor’s Perspective

As someone who has had my own unusual journey to the legal profession, as a mid-life career changer, I have always been conscious of two things. Firstly, the challenges presented at each stage: having to get stuck straight into your professional subjects from the first day of first year at University; taking the gamble of competing for, and paying for, the diploma, often with no assurance of what comes next; and the dispiriting test of perseverance and resilience that traineeship-hunting can often represent. And secondly, the advantages I enjoyed of financial security, so betting on myself was a less daunting gamble; or family or social connections into the legal profession, who could provide the sort of informal guidance that could demystify the process and reassure me that it will all be worth it one day.

The Lawscot Foundation has an important role to play in addressing the barriers faced by some really talented young people who do not enjoy the advantages I had.

I was paired with Paul in 2018 and was his mentor through his five years of LLB and Diploma. It was a pleasure to meet with him a couple of times a term in Dundee, and then Glasgow; and occasionally chat by phone or email. Our conversations over the years ranged widely across the practicalities of studying law, tricky bits of subjects and subject choices; to my experiences of studying, training and practising law, what my day-to-day involved and the cases I was working on. More recently, I was able to look over traineeship applications and chat about what recruiters might be looking for. Nothing special really! But hopefully it helped to level the playing-field with others who will have access to that sort of support through family or social networks.

I saw being mentor as a way I could make a small but immensely practical contribution to the task of making sure our profession welcomed those talented and dedicated enough to succeed, regardless of their backgrounds. And it’s been hugely rewarding to be part of Paul’s steps into the profession, seeing him develop from a first-year law student to a court-hardened trainee solicitor. All the credit goes to him, but it’s been great to witness his achievements so far!

So, if you’ve considered mentoring, it’s not really that hard. Don’t underestimate how much help you can be just by being available to be an occasional listening ear, friendly face and sounding board for a Lawscot Foundation student; or how much value you can bring just through being a practising lawyer and having been through the process yourself. It can make a real difference to helping a talented young person unlock their potential.