I used my autism to my advantage and secured a training contract at Reed Smith

Why keep quiet about a disability when it has so many positive aspects?

RS

Few people in life are brought up thinking being disabled is a good thing.

To many ‘disability’ is a hair’s breadth away from ‘inability’, and that’s why job hunters with less visible disabilities are sometimes tempted to keep schtum about their conditions. But, if you can convince potential employers of the advantages to your disability, you’ll be a far better candidate for it.

This according to Jonathan Andrews, who has autism. A current Legal Practice Course (LPC) student, Andrews studied English at King’s College London where he secured a training contract at Reed Smith in his final year. He went on to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) at BPP Law School, where he obtained a high commendation. He’ll be starting his TC at the commercial giant later this year.

Long interested in forging a career in law, Andrews soon set his sights on the City. Why? He tells us:

I was attracted to commercial law because I think there’s more chance of making a career in this sector. In other areas that are more heavily reliant on the government — like crime and family — there’s always uncertainty about costs and funding.

It isn’t just money and professional success motivating Andrews. He goes on:

Larger firms tend to have more resources for pro bono work. That’s something I want to get involved with. I’d really like to help people with disabilities coming into the profession.

As he mulls over the possibility of taking a pro bono seat during his training, Andrews is already working with the firm on its approach to diversity and inclusivity. To give one of many examples, he has introduced Reed Smith to My Plus Consulting, which works with corporate firms to identify why so few disabled students apply or disclose their disabilities at the application stage.

JA LinkedIn

According to My Plus Consulting, there is a strong disconnect between the percentage of university students self-defining as disabled and the percentage of applicants applying to corporate firms doing the same.

Andrews himself knows how it feels to worry about disclosing a disability.

In his case, this is because people tend to have very stereotypical views of autism. Often, it’s assumed that all autistic people are socially inept and can’t get on with others, even though the condition is a spectrum. At the early stages of his TC hunt Andrews worried recruiters might assume his condition is severe enough to bar him from being able to work to the high standard expected of a lawyer. The temptation to keep quiet was there.

However, after attending a number of ‘diversity in law’ events, Andrews soon realised there was a place in the profession for him. “I also realised there weren’t many people talking about autism in law”, he adds, “and that made me want to be more open about it.”

There are a number of reasons why Andrews believes this is the favourable approach. For starters, it can help the candidate’s interview experience run far smoother.

This is because law firms and other recruiters are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates. “A lot of disabled applicants worry about reasonable adjustments and convince themselves ‘I can’t ask for this’”, Andrew thinks. “But if you need something, just ask for it.” In his case, he requested firms not ask him open-ended/abstract questions, as he particularly struggles with these.

But disclosing a disability doesn’t just bring about practical benefits. Being honest at this early stage helps build trust between the employer and employee, and, if conveyed correctly, can make you a stronger candidate. Andrews explains:

The application and interview stages are good opportunities to dispel the stereotypes surrounding autism and to show the firm what benefits being autistic can bring. If you’re going to talk about it, you might as well do it in a positive way.

Andrews believes his autism means he possesses a number of personality characteristics law firms seek out in their trainees. These include honesty, punctuality, reliability, loyalty, and attention to detail. Back these up with practical experiences — his membership of the House of Commons’ Autism Commission, for example — and you’ve got yourself a strong TC application form.

Following this method paid off. Of the 16 vac scheme applications Andrews made, he secured 14 interviews, four vac schemes and, of course, that highly sought after training contract.

Andrews will be a fully-fledged trainee at the firm come August, and is looking forward to working at such a “welcoming” and “friendly” office. The main reason he chose Reed Smith over the others? Because:

The firm is so open to people who are different.

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71 Comments

Anonymous

And I have been downrated for this why?

Would you prefer that high-functioning autistic people were not at the Bar?

Please explain.

(19)(13)
Jonboy

That’s when you can do cool tricks with numbers like Rainman but you also manage not to shit your pants regularly.

(20)(2)
Anonymous

Yes, autism shouldn’t have a stigma, but not all autists are Mike Ross from Suits and it’s wrong to glamorise the condition in this way.

(2)(5)
Anonymous

I don’t see people glamourising anything here. And Mike Ross was not portrayed as a character with autism.

(11)(3)
Anonymous

Reed Smith now offer secondments to Pro Bono clients as part of its training contract.

(13)(7)
Top City titan firm trainee

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(10)(8)
JAFLAS

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(1)(1)
Anonymous

Well done Jonathan. Also extremely important to speak up as you have done – as a future trainee I am sure that in a sense it would have been easier for you to stay under the radar, but (speaking as someone who has an autistic direct family member) what you have achieved is commendable.

(29)(2)
Iami Tafari

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(0)(0)
Iami Tafari

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

(0)(0)
Rzbg

Excellent. I have several friends at the Bar who are also autistic and they are extremely talented. In some ways, it appears to help!

(3)(1)
Cannonball LADderley

Ah yes, the LC censor-fascists are back in action. Go suck a veiny dong, Alex.

(7)(1)
Oh please, it is I who is Spartacus

The comments were offensive and juvenile.

(1)(3)
Anonymous

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(0)(1)
Anonymous

How’s the non-existent TC at Jones day working out for you?

(3)(1)
Anonymous

What kind of handle is “£63k NQ?” Pathetic.

Another one of the petty bourgeoisie skulking on legal cheek, obsessed with the vanity of small differences.

(0)(2)
Anonymous

That’s what Reed Smith pays its NQs. Agreed, it is pretty pathetic, they ought to bump it up at least to £75k.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

If Andrew was “long interested in forging a career in law” as stated per Legal Cheek, then why did he study English at KCL as opposed to Law?

(11)(15)
Anonymous

…because he knew he can game the current system by doing an easier degree like English, then plodding through the GDL funded by his firm, as many do.

“High commendation on the GDL”, well done Andy.

(23)(4)
Anonymous

Looks like 4 non-law grads were unhappy with what I wrote? I mean, can you really say that studying an English degree as an English native speaker is challenging? No.

(8)(5)
Anonymous

You know that an English degree isn’t actually learning the English language, right?

(20)(0)
Anonymous

The irony of incorrect use of “your”… oh well. Swing and a miss today.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

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(0)(9)
Iami Tafari

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(0)(1)
Iami Tafari

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

(0)(0)
Iami Tafari

Es no hablo Espanol Edmund
Por favour un educación
mas profundo no tienes
Desafortunadamente

(2)(1)
Anonymous

Congratulations! You worked out how to use Google translate!

(3)(2)
Iami Tafari

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Iami Tafari

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

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Anonymous

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Anonymous

All due respects to Jonathan for getting the TC at Reed Smith, but the way he goes about promoting himself (and I believe RS picked up on this) it does seem like he’s more concerned about screaming and shouting about Autism, forgetting that there are other people out there with other disabilities. So from Reed Smith’s perspective – its great marketing for them to seem like an “inclusive” firm. Youre being used mate!

(14)(1)
Anonymous

This is the third time I’ve seen him talking about this in the media. It makes him come across more enthusiastic about disability campaigning than a career in law.

(11)(0)
Anonymous

Of course he is enthusiastic about a career in law – that’s why he studied English at KCL!

(7)(2)
Anonymous

You’re both right, he literally doesn’t shut up about this. I’ve seen innumerable self-penned articles about his autism and miraculous journey to a TC.

(9)(0)
Iami Tafari

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Iami Tafari

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Iami Tafari

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

(0)(0)
Anonymous

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Anonymous

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(1)(1)
Anonymous

He’s lying. The only reason he chose RS is because that was the only firm that offered him a TC… Still more than me though.

(11)(0)
Zyzz

I’m not surprised. MC shops don’t recruit betacuck chubsters like him. Only shredded alphabrahs with sufficient supplies of clen and tren get in.

(8)(1)
Anonymous

Will you ever stop shouting about this Jonathon? We get it already…

(5)(0)
Amoyninuis

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(2)(0)
Chegal Leek

I Wish I could get firms to not ask me any hard questions at interview!

(2)(0)

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