Advice

I have a learning difficulty and am gay – will I succeed at the bar?

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The legal profession and its true approach to diversity

lead12

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one law student wonders whether being LGBT, disabled and “regional” will blight his barrister dreams.

areer

I’m a 25-year-old starting an undergraduate degree this year at a good Russell Group university. I’m also gay, “regional” (Scottish) and have a learning difficulty. I would like to know whether this could affect my chances when it comes to interviews and networking. I’d like to become a barrister, but I don’t want to pursue a career I don’t stand a chance in.

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to careers@legalcheek.com.

52 Comments

Rump-hole

Being gay is irrelevant, if an employer “doesn’t like it” it is their problem.

Re: learning difficulty – would this affect your progress as a lawyer? If so, perhaps you may find it hard in practise?

You may even decide not to be a lawyer after your degree. Don’t worry, it was certainly my regret qualifying.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Or you might even find it hard in PRACTICE.

(20)(6)

Anonymous

Practise is the verb moron

(11)(18)

Anonymous

Sorry, you may “practise”, but you are “in practice”. So try not to throw insults around when you’receive wrong.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Just replace practice/practise with advice/advice.

You can advise [practise] law, but in advice [practice] you certainly would not advice [practice] it.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

*Advice/advise

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Your sexuality and accent I don’t think will be an issue at all.

With regards to learning difficulty- it depends what that is. If it’s something like dyslexia I doubt it will made a difference but if it’s something more impeding – then it’s hard to say. If it means you find it difficult to talk to strangers, networking and interviews may be hard.

(1)(0)

Trumpenrich

Not a chance mate. Soz.

(2)(17)

Trumpenkrieg

Are you kidding me? They/xhe/xir/it will be the toast of the profession… ticks all the diversity boxes.

(1)(7)

Anonymous

As long as you don try and engage in sexual exploitation’s with a straight interviewer, it should be fine.

(4)(25)

Anonymous

What?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Can’t use an apostrophe = not worth listening to.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

virgin

(0)(4)

Anonymous

Atlantic, or Megastores?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Trains.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Would your learning difficulty hold you back in any job that required fast reading, fast assimilation of fact, fluent writing and thinking clearly under pressure? If so , think again. If not, go for it.

The other stuff is irrelevant (unless “Scottish” means you talk like Rab C. Nesbitt).

(9)(0)

Anon

A legal education is not set up for those of us with learning differences… The average (figures valid for a few years ago) was 80% examination as the assessment methods, although this should be getting better.

It’s a difficult journey- but a Russell group university will have a disability student service that will help with reasonable adjustments. It depends entirely on your circumstances, but the basics will be: provision of materials well before lectures/seminars so you can order your own workload, recording equipment for lectures, extra time/breaks in exams. Etc. You will know what your preferences are and I encourage you to take charge of them and organise your support. 58th to remember that your lecturers will want to help but eill normally have limited experience. If you tell us what you need we can normally sort it out… Identify people who understand and have an awareness and use them. I had a brilliant dyslexic lecturer who had the clearest slides and really visual ways of lecturing. She was brilliant. Also remember that these are equalizing measures, not advantages.

Consider your own plus points as well. I have dyslexic students who create brilliant verbal arguments from the top of his head – his memory is astounding. Try to focus on the fact that this is a learning difference rather than a difficulty. Far too much time is spent on whether it’s ‘appropriate’ Or ‘too limiting’ for a legal education and career to be open to those of us with learning differences. There are plenty of us out there – if you out your strategies in place and demand your rights, and also manage to battle through the regular complexities of a legal education, you’ll make a fine lawyer 🙂

(14)(0)

Anon

Also – find the LGBT But of the law society, join and network. Have fun 🙂

(3)(0)

Anonymous

What is the learning difficulty? Can’t possibly answer this question without that information.

(2)(0)

Anon

As you will no doubt have seen in these comments being gay isn’t an issue at all. It would be an issue if you hid that and tried to be something you are not. Having a learning difficulty may be an issue but it is something which you can tackle.

I have dyslexia, and kept it quiet for along time in fear of people thinking I was stupid. I was producing drafts of documents which whilst legally accurate and in line with what the client wanted I kept being pulled up for silly spelling errors which annoyed the Partners. In the end I had to tell them and instantly they put support in place which has been life changing.

If you are pro-active, highly organised and prepared to be open about your learning difficulty (especially with ideas of how to tackle the issue) you will do just fine. Crack on and make a success of yourself!

(13)(0)

Anonymous

*partners*

(0)(0)

Anonymous

You may be able to qualify but not sure how far you will climb the ladder.

(6)(8)

Anonymous

What is your basis for spouting horseshit advice like this? Why would this student be held back from progressing in their career post qualification?

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Because they’ll be held back to ability and their more able comparators will climb the ladder ahead of them.

Seen it happen a lot.

The sexuality point is irrelevant. Nobody really cares unless you carry yourself as an unnecessarily camp queen.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

How do you know there’s more able people? You don’t know who this person is.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Gay and Scottish won’t matter a jot.
The learning difficulty depends on what it is and how severe it is.
I am a barrister at a very prestigious Chambers and have mild dyslexia. I can’t say it doesn’t have any effect – things take longer to read, however often I check written work I always make some mistakes, and I sometimes get words jumbled up in Court. I don’t know whether that will affect me long term or not.
I think you need to ask yourself whether the extra difficulties your learning disability will cause you (because they will), will prevent you from enjoying the job, and succeeding to an extent that you are happy with.
But of course even if you are not a lawyer, you are still looking for a professional job and still have the learning difficulty, which will probably hamper you in some ways whatever you end up doing.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

If you are dyslexic contact the BDA, the Dyslexic Bar Association, for advice.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Very funny

(0)(0)

Anonymous

OK who deleted the comedy gold that appeared here before?

Even if it was a bit of a Little Britain rip-off…

(1)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Yeah isn’t that hilarious?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Disgusting. Reported.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

I didn’t realise LC was a safe space.

Surely the only legitimate ground for censorship is posts which incite hatred against a group with a particular protected characteristic?

Humour, however poor the taste, which is aimed at a particular group should not be censored unless it is inciting hatred.

(2)(1)

Lucas Walliams Censored Posts Reconstructions Ltd

It is possible that reasonable adjustments, such as an interpreter may make it possible.

Usher: All rise!

HHJ: Yes, Mr McHaggis?

Counsel: EEE EEE EEEEEEEH!!!!!

Interpreter: May it please your Honour, I appear for the prosecution in this case, my learned friend Ms Thistletwatt appears for the defence.

Counsel: EEE EEE EEEEEEEH!!!!

Interpreter: The defendant is charged on an indictment containing one count of robbery, the particulars of which being that on 27th December he robbed one Mavis Twill of a handbag and contents, bloomers and contents, and a colostomy bag…. and contents.

Counsel (sotto voce): EEE EEE EEEH (sighs)

Interpreter: Before the defendant is arraigned, may I say what beautiful eyes your Honour has…

(1)(1)

Barrister (commercial chancery)

You don’t say your gender. I think that being a gay man would not in itself be a problem. However, I think that at certain old school criminal sets and also elite commercial/commercial chancery sets, eyebrows might be raised at both lesbians and non-“straight acting” gay men. This is not to say that such places wouldn’t take you on, just that, yes, it might be an alienating culture. The bar is quite old fashioned, in a bad way.

As for regional accents, it’s true that you don’t hear many of these at the commercial bar in London (where I practice). I think that a Scottish accent is fine though, as there’s less prejudice attached to it than a regional English accent (which I do think would be a problem, sadly).

Regional accents would not be a problem in criminal practice imo. Also the family bar, general civil practice, and of course more lefty areas like human rights, employment, public law etc are more likely to be accommodating of difference.

Learning difficulties – the key thing is how this would affect your work. If you can, I would not disclose it to any set you applied to or did pupillage at, unless you need adjustments to be made. If the latter is true, you would have to make a case that with such adjustments you would be able to work at the same level as anyone else.

(3)(3)

Barrister

Ugh, who would want to be at a chambers where a regional accent or being gay would be held against you? I’m astonished that anyone would say this about their chambers and (apparently) think that it isn’t disgusting. Happily, such chambers are in an extremely small minority. They are stuffy hell-holes where women and ethnic minorities are similarly viewed as lesser beings. However, even in those places I think the pupillage offer stage is pretty fair as Equality and Diversity is drilled into us and chambers want to be able to tick the diversity boxes. It’s just that in a few chambers you might feel like you don’t quite fit in when it comes to the tenancy stage. I doubt you want to be in those chambers (I don’t!).

At the vast majority of chambers, being gay or having a regional accent isn’t remotely an issue. The learning difficulty point I can’t comment on as you haven’t specified the learning difficulty.

However, bear in mind that unless you are really excellent academically and in interviews, you are statistically unlikely to get pupillage, and not because you are gay, Scottish or dyslexic but because the odds are against you just like they’re against everyone else.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

This is the biggest crock of shit I’ve read on LC in a long time. Literally none of it is accurate.

(1)(1)

Not Amused

“You don’t say your gender. I think that being a gay man would not in itself be a problem. However, I think that at certain old school criminal sets and also elite commercial/commercial chancery sets, eyebrows might be raised at both lesbians and non-“straight acting” gay men. This is not to say that such places wouldn’t take you on, just that, yes, it might be an alienating culture. The bar is quite old fashioned, in a bad way”

I don’t know anything really about the Criminal Bar – except that they generally drink quite well at Inn events, have outrageous stories (and ties/suits) and tend to be incredibly tolerant loving and forgiving (and very loud). I am a commercial barrister. I definitely reject your suggestion that commercial or chancery are in anyway likely to discriminate against gay men or lesbians or anyone else.

I reject the very use of the term ‘straight acting’ because I refuse to believe it accurately describes anyone at either the commercial or chancery bars.

The commercial and chancery bars are the nicest, quietest, most bookish (to be honest ‘nerdy’) parts of the Bar. There are a huge number of gay men, extremely camp straight men, bi men and every form of LGBT you can fathom. No one would bat an eyelid or care in the slightest.

Say something stupid about a point of law – THEN – we care. But why on earth would anyone care about your personal life?

We achieved most the judiciaries first LBGT landmarks so it is actually quite offensive for you to try to paint commercial or chancery barristers as in anyway discriminatory. I imagine the criminal bar will feel similarly defamed.

(5)(1)

Chancery tenant

I don’t know there is some truth in what he says. I don’t think he was talking about the post 2000 Call sort, I think he means the Chambers clique of 70s 80s call who , lets face it, can be appalingly bigoted in private. Every now and again it spills out. Maybe that was just my set… In any event, the idea that regional accents would be a “problem” is nonsense, there are loads of accents at the Commercial bar. I suggest only a massively insecure person at a not very good mixed civil set wearing massive loud obnoxious pinstripes pretending to be a commercial practicioner would say that a Northern accent would be a “problem”.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

“Scottish accent is fine”

Middle class Edinburgh, Highlands & Islands maybe. Glasgae certainly not.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

What if it were “Glasgay”?

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I recently had a pupillage interview where I was grilled on my dyslexia and whether I could do the job. As a result I will not be disclosing it in the future.

(1)(0)

Question Poser

The learning difficulty I have is dyspraxia.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Mate, if you can’t even spell dislexea your gunna have a well hard time!

(1)(2)

Barrister

How does that affect you in practice? Like how does it affect anything that might be relevant to the job? Genuine questions, I’m not being sarky (feel the need to make that clear given the tone of some people on here!).

(2)(0)

Anonymous

My tip is to put page numbers on all your drafts. If you have trouble typing see what sort of dictation software you can get along with. And do not ever try to use the water jug near your notebook. Especially not in Breams Buildings.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

If you’re good nobody cares. If your bad nobody cares.

(0)(0)

Barrister

A schoolfriend had dyspraxia – she was incredibly poor at maths and science and incredibly good at everything else. And charismatic, articulate etc. My only concern would be whether it affects verbal reasoning? Because that is so crucial to the job. Thinking things through logically, even scientifically, applying abstract concepts to sets of facts, coming up with analogies, etc. If you do struggle with that sort of thing I don’t think the Bar would be for you.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

It’s more likely to affect digrammatical/logical reasoning. Lots of people with dyspraxia have strong verbal reasoning skills, but low(ish) performance IQ score. People with dyspraxia also tend to have poor spatial reasoning (i.e poor at maths/science)

Someone with dyspraxia (mild) could come across as lacking common sense/a little slow on the uptake. Someone with extreme dyspraxia would really struggle in an office environment, from what I’ve seen online.

I’m pretty sure that I have dyspraxia (not diagnosed ) I got a 2.1 in law from a top ten (no extra time in exams), so it didn’t really affect me academically, in the way that dyslexia would. In hindsight, I would have probably been wise to get diagnosed

(1)(0)

Stephen Staples

I think some of the answers on here are helpful and supportive.
However, I am ashamed of some of the hateful jokes and negative comments on here. The thought I work in a profession with bigoted morons like some of the anonymous idiots on here makes me weep.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

I’m sure the moronic and nasty comments on any LC article come from students rather than practitioners. They’re children’s mental vomit.

(2)(0)

Russell Le Ploom

I start fires, poo my pants, fall over all the time and spontaneously break into song, involuntarily.

I got a 2:1 from a Russell Group university in spite of the above. Will I succeed at the Bar?

(2)(1)

Comments are closed.