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‘I’m an immigrant from a modest background who battled depression and bulimia to gain a London training contract’

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Billy Yu-Lok Ng is now the Law Society’s social mobility ambassador

I am a trainee criminal defence solicitor who is currently practising in London, having graduated with a law degree and a masters degree from Kent Law School. I shall be admitted to the roll of solicitors in July 2018. In 2017, I was appointed by the Law Society to be its social mobility ambassador, a scheme launched in 2015 that raises the profile of social mobility and awareness of fair access in the legal profession in the UK. This is something close to my heart.

I came from Hong Kong to the UK seven years ago with English being my third language. Coming from a humble background — my mother worked as a tailor in a factory and my father worked as a dumpling maker who left school at a very young age — I went to a comprehensive school back home and arrived in the UK for university with no friends, family or connections in the legal profession.

While studying, I worked three different jobs: as a housekeeper at Kent Hospitality, a salesperson at Debenhams and a warden at a local Japanese college. However, it is very unfortunate that due to the stress of juggling my studies, work commitments and undertaking various internships, I fell into depression and had a long history combating a serious eating disorder, namely bulimia. This came especially because of the pressure of meeting family expectations and the anxiety of career prospects many law students have.

Thankfully, it was through counselling and relentless support from the law school that I found strength in volunteering work. Alongside working at various legal pro bono centres, I fundraised for the Kent Law Campaign, a £5 million fundraising project for a new Kent Law Clinic and Mooting Chambers assisting the local community who cannot afford expensive legal advice. In 2014, my continued charity work was recognised and I was highly commended for the Anthony Nolan Supporters Trust Award 2014 at parliament. In 2015 when I graduated, I was awarded the prestigious University of Kent Chancellor’s Prize. In the same year I was awarded a scholarship to complete a legal internship at a top commercial law firm in Bangalore, India, as well as one in Beijing, China.

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Now working as a trainee solicitor at various courts, police stations and prisons, I endeavour to continue with my work for philanthropic causes. I am beyond honoured to have been appointed as an ambassador by the Law Society in England and Wales. The responsibilities of an ambassador include sharing his/her journey into the profession, which I am doing here, and providing insights to aspiring solicitors and actively engaging with members of the community from a low socio-economic background.

Since becoming an ambassador, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with several social mobility charities including the Sutton Trust and Big Voice London, and have served as a mentor and guest speaker at various law schools including Queen Mary University of London, London Southbank University, University of Liverpool and Coventry University. I’ve also been back to Kent, telling aspiring solicitors that regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, race, disability and socio-economic background, if there is a strong will, in addition to strong work ethic, nothing should ever stop you fulfilling your dream to become a solicitor.

‘Strength lies in differences not in similarities’: as a strong believer of equal opportunities for all, I’m not the most comfortable with the ‘disadvantaged’ label that’s often attached to students from, for example, low-income backgrounds. We all are different; we should not feel that we are labelled with any sorts of disadvantages. It is vital to be proud of your worth, realise we are all unique and be wise enough to use your differences as your asset.

Nowadays we come across the topic of social mobility more and more often, and it is undoubtedly always encouraging and inspiring to read that the number of lawyers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds is increasing, as too are females and those from the LGBTQ community. It still remains, however a work in progress and, despite the baby steps taken, promotion of social mobility and raising awareness of diversity and inclusion within a profession, and even as a society as a whole, will always involve persistent hard work.

Nonetheless, through the continued work and combined force of many social mobility campaigns and initiatives out there, including the Diversity and Inclusion Team at the Law Society of England and Wales, I strongly believe changes are surely forthcoming.

Billy Yu-Lok Ng is a trainee solicitor at a criminal defence firm. He has an undergraduate degree and a masters degree from Kent Law School.

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30 Comments

Not Amused

What does his identity have to do with his ability to do the job?

(30)(39)

Anonymous

The difficulty he has overcome in order to enter the profession makes his route into law a hell of a lot more impressive than people taking a more ‘traditional’ route into law, as I’m sure you’re aware NA.

To use a sporting metaphor it’s like he started a footrace 100m behind the other runners and still won.

(59)(14)

Billy Ng

That’s very kind of you. Thank you ☺️

(21)(14)

Anonymous

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

(2)(4)

Commercial barrister

The article doesn’t claim that his “identity” has anything to do with his “ability”. No one thinks that he is a good lawyer because of a non-traditional background and the difficulties he has overcome. However, these are noteworthy because (1) as the commenter above says, having overcome these things and succeeded in law is in itself an impressive achievement, and (2) because shining a light on members of our profession who come from a non-traditional background is apt to encourage others with a similar profile to put themselves forward where they may not have otherwise, which is a good thing for the profession (which otherwise misses out on good applicants from non-trad backgrounds) and society as a whole (the justice system should be administered by members of a cross-section of society, rather than of a small and privileged subset).

(27)(2)

Anonymous

I don’t see how someone from a non traditional background benefits anyone other than himself

(11)(23)

Anonymous

Yet another forum for Billy to “humbly” boast on… *rolls eyes*

(61)(38)

Sarah B

Wow! Are you an ex coursemate or something? You sound salty.

(18)(9)

Anonymous

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

(25)(20)

Anonymous

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

(1)(8)

Anonymous

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

(8)(11)

Anonymous

which small town in HK? HK’s already pretty small…..

(12)(2)

Anonymous

Hi Billy, did the Law Society approach you to be an ambassador, or did you apply ?

The article reads like they approached you…It is nice to be wanted in life !

Kind regards

(2)(1)

Anonymous

No, the position is advertised on the Law Society’s website. I don’t think that the article reads as if the LS approached him: it just says he was appointed as an ambassador. It’s normal to say you were appointed to a position after having applied and been selected for it.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Re read the paragraph in the piece. You will see that your summary of it is careless and that is was a valid question.

One of the stand out pieces of advice I received was – check yourself – never assume the other lawyer is an idiot.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

What exactly offends so many of you so much about an individual who has triumphed over difficult circumstances? He has achieved and persevered to help others as much as himself, which sounds like a pretty great thing to me. Something to be respected and celebrated. Keep hiding behind your screens and pretending to feel good about yourselves.

(27)(8)

LL and P

Some of the comments on LC are disgraceful. However we need to remember that everyone has their own problems in life and therefore we shouldn’t assume that some people with a veneer of a perfect life have things easy. There seems to be this accepted position that if you go to certain schools or have parents that earn a lot you don’t experience difficulties in life such as parents passing away when young, bullying, eating disorders, sexual abuse or mental health problems. Many people have to overcome their own challenges in life and may keep it to themselves.

Ultimately though, that is not what this article is about so I salute this young man for his achievements. And I believe he is doing this to inspire others so there is nothing but congrats from me.

(26)(5)

Anonymous

What offends them is that most of them have had it handed to them on a plate; genetically; socially; financially. So it chips away at their sense of superiority to see that someone claims to have done all that and STILL do as well as them. It just puts their entitlement to the best in light, i.e. they don’t deserve it. Just my two pence.

Though, I don’t buy his story. Modest background and can afford tuition fees of Lord Knows how much? Most poor Chinese can barely afford the VISA application, testing, IHS costs. But Billy here seems to have done it really well. He’d have to have worked three jobs full time to pay it all off.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

“I don’t see how someone from a non traditional background benefits anyone other than himself” Seriously? You need to go on a diversity awareness course! Having worked in large legal organisations for 25 years, my experience is that there are huge benefits in having employees from a diverse background who have had to overcome significant challenges to get in. The intellectual input, and the energy and enthusiasm people like Billy bring to a team, should not be understated. To exclude them would be a huge waste of talent which would leave many culturally diverse teams a far poorer place. The additional benefit is that they will act as role models to bring in other talented people from non-traditional backgrounds,

(11)(5)

Anonymous

What utter rubbish. Role models just encourage sheep

(3)(3)

Anon

I’m not sure how I feel about this article.

On one hand, I can identify deeply with his personal circumstances. My childhood was unstable, and I’ve battled with depression for most of my life. In a sea of perfect TC candidates, I often wanted to justify my shortcomings, but understood that revealing my background would do more harm than good.

However, I’d never write such a honest article on my personal life and achievements. There’s an unpleasant sense of self-promotion under the mask of furthering diversity.

Maybe I care too much about my professional reputation; perhaps I’m too cynical and world-weary. But I’m not sure if it’s wise to be so open on a public stage.

(24)(7)

Anonymous

“There’s an unpleasant sense of self-promotion under the mask of furthering diversity.”

That’s Billy all over. Always “honoured/blesses/humbled” but my god you’ll know about the 79 extra curricular things he does, on every available platform

(21)(9)

Anonymous

He is amazing! Such a lovely individual

(6)(8)

Person who couldn't nail/bag a TC

Skimmed the article looking for the name of the firm

it’s a “criminal defence firm”

pfff come back when uv got Slaughters lad

(13)(10)

BME Law Student

Thank you for this article, although some comments are unjust, it has inspired others readers- like me!

(11)(3)

Anonymous

THESE profile pics from his firm:
https://www.carterssolicitors.org.uk/your-legal-team/

(3)(3)

Anonymous

?

(0)(0)

NQ3

My god some of these comments make me sick. I wish I could meet some of you in real life and see if you’d be so brave to insult others in real life. Keabord warriors.

(9)(7)

Anonymous

If he is as good at the law as he is at self-promotion and boasting then I’m sure he will have a fine career.

(6)(6)

Anonymous

I think there is room in the argument to say “watch you don’t confuse diversity with a rising middle class current which will promote you in a legal market”

The profession needs people who will act for Sony and Apple, as Billy is happy to do, and those who speak Mandarin, as Billy does. But it is not necessarily a reflection of a wish to be diverse, it is a wish to make money.

Billy’s firm specialises in people trafficking and drug trafficking. I wonder if he will be the first port of call for a significant number of defendants who happen to have Mandarin as their first language and that that was his usp, not that he was once poor and from an unfashionable part of the world.

The other point is that once you have an award, as Billy does, it is a marketable thing on a piece of promotion. The root of the appointment is marketing, not a wish to be diverse.

Query whether there is true diversity or whether the situation is “we will have any young lawyer who will make us rich or give us a competitive edge”

I think of Boy George the singer, personally. Would someone relatively poor, without connections, who is anti establishment, like Boy George be given a break to learn how to practice law by the professionals who currently run it to make money ? What about the public sector lawyers who want to make money for the public sector ? No. Not for me. I cannot see Boy George getting taken on.

What about giving Boy George a run in a criminal firm ? Well , if he is so diverse that he thinks a life of crime becomes inevitable for some, and he wishes to change the system, is he what you want when you do your cost benefit analysis of what a trainee will bring versus the salary you are going to pay him ? Again, for me Boy George does not fit.

Can academia fill diversity prizes with student applicants without giving Boy George’s type a look in ? Yes it can. Does it mean the profession is diverse rather than middle class ? No. It means that the middle class is a broad church or temple, but it is middle class to the core. It just means the middle class is changing and it can recognise how it’s future growth needs to look.

(8)(4)

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