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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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