Six months ago Amelia Platton thought she wouldn’t make it as a solicitor. Now, during Neurodiversity Celebration Week, she shares with readers her four tips to TC success
As a neurodivergent individual, it can be challenging to secure a training contract. Many law firms’ diversity and inclusion efforts are still in their infancy when it comes to neurodiversity, and assessment centres are not really built to accommodate us. As a dyspraxic person, I told myself six months ago that I probably wouldn’t make it as a solicitor, and then I was diagnosed as autistic, and my aspirations were shattered even further.
I’ve seen the complete range of issues in the sector, from reasonable adjustment failures to unconscious bias, to having neurodivergent strengths denied, and more. The trouble is that you can only control some of these issues, so each assessment centre makes you wonder if all your efforts will be in vain, producing significant frustration and upset. In this regard, I hope that my project, The Neurodiverse Lawyer, will assist to better the legal sector for neurodivergent individuals. In the meanwhile, I thought it would be helpful to share my strategy for obtaining a training contract as an openly autistic and dyspraxic future magic circle trainee.
1. Be firm and clear
It’s critical to make sure the firm understands your expectations for reasonable adjustments. While the firm should be similarly proactive, I’ve discovered that the best way to do so is to request a phone call with the recruiter and the interviewer, ask as many questions about the day as possible, and ask them to confirm which adjustments will be made and when.
2. Be proud
I highlight my neurodivergence in nearly every competency question I’m asked. I sell the benefits of neurodiversity and leverage how I think differently to my advantage. This isn’t to imply you should ignore the challenges neurodiversity presents but understanding your limitations can also be a strength. Furthermore, you may find yourself needing to enforce your reasonable adjustments or even provide feedback after the assessment centre is completed, which can easily lead to self-doubt. Believe in yourself and be assertive. I would not be where I am today if I had not stood up for myself.
3. Stop allowing yourself to hold you back
Many neurodivergent people, like myself, are unconfident and frequently wonder, “But why would they pick me over someone neurotypical?”. This, in my opinion, is a significant barrier to applying in the first place and showcasing my abilities, expertise, and experience. Before I applied, I even informed the recruiter at my future firm that I would never apply to them because of this. Personally, I’ve discovered that advocating for neurodiversity, learning about my conditions and how they are just differences rather than deficits, and confronting my fear of rejection by addressing what it actually means for me and thinking about what I can gain from the experience has helped grow my confidence to the point where I felt self-assured enough to go through the recruitment process without hesitation.
4. Be yourself
Finally, it took a long time for me to realise that a lawyer is not just one thing; you can be yourself and being authentic can sometimes work in your favour. I’ve always been open about my struggles with neurodiversity online, revealing what many would consider weaknesses, and in person, I’ve always been anxious that neurotypical people could regard my autistic traits as ‘strange’ and unprofessional. But guess what? Law firms that repeatedly hire the one cognitive type do themselves a disservice. You must understand what you contribute and what your limitations say about you; my firm simply regarded this as a sign of my resilience and tenacity to succeed. You may have a personality and show vulnerability and still be successful. Lawyers are, at the end of the day, HUMAN BEINGS.
Amelia Platton is a first class law graduate from the University of Leeds. She is a future trainee solicitor at a magic circle law firm.