updated on 17 January 2022
While many firms indicate their solidarity in improving social mobility and disability inclusion in the profession, among other diversity strands, what is the profession – as a whole – doing to break down the obstacles faced by aspiring lawyers from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and those with disabilities?
The Law Society’s social mobility ambassadors’ scheme
Having taken a non-traditional route into law herself, Lynette Wieland is now a health and social care lawyer at Browne Jacobson LLP and one of 13 ambassadors as part of the Law Society’s social mobility ambassadors’ scheme.
The scheme is designed to promote role models from non-traditional backgrounds who are “committed to sharing their stories and raising the aspirations of students and graduates interested in joining the profession”.
Every two to three years the Law Society chooses around 10 new solicitor ambassadors as part of its scheme to offer aspiring lawyers, among other things, practical advice and tips on pursuing a legal career. According to Christina Lambi, diversity and inclusion adviser at the Law Society, Lynette is “an active ambassador and an important advocate for disabled professionals and students. This focus on disability with social mobility is often overlooked. She is at the beginning of her role and I am confident she will go on to provide greater contributions to students and legal professionals.”
As a social mobility advocate, Lynette has shared her legal journey with LawCareers.Net
Lynette’s route into law
Following a change in housing and financial circumstances, the prospect of university and a career in law dwindled for Lynette who left school with no A levels. After her secondary education, she secured an apprenticeship with a vocational training provider, where she became an advocate of learners studying through apprenticeships.
Off the back of Lynette’s apprenticeship, she became a member of a National Learner Panel, funded by a government department. As part of this role, she was invited to present a speech in the Houses of Parliament building for the Skills Commissions.
But, Lynette’s dream of becoming a lawyer hadn’t disappeared.
She later applied to the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme (DAS), which provided both funding for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and invaluable work experience opportunities. Lynette then secured a position as a paralegal in the clinical negligence team with Browne Jacobson in 2014, before qualifying as a lawyer in the health advisory and inquests team.
Aside from her desire to pursue a career in law, Lynette is also a champion for Neurodiversity in Law, an organisational network that promotes and supports neurodiversity in the legal profession and works to eliminate the stigma that is too often associated with neurodiverse individuals.
Lynette who has dyslexia, dyscalculia and Irlen Syndrome – a visual stress condition that can lead to difficulties around reading and spatial awareness – took up the position at the start of 2021 and regularly gives talks on neurodiversity. She has several additional mentoring responsibilities as a Law Society Diversity Access Scheme alumna, her role with Neurodiversity in Law and her involvement with the University of York’s widening participation group.
Diversity and inclusion
Lynette also plays a key role in Browne Jacobson’s Disability Network: “As someone who has overcome significant obstacles to become a solicitor, I recognise the importance of social mobility being at the forefront of any law firm’s future agenda, ensuring the profession has an inclusive and diverse make-up in terms of talent and clients.
“By continuing to share my experiences and story, I hope to empower aspiring solicitors to build self-confidence so that they can succeed in the profession. I also hope to advise change makers on how to make the profession more accessible to those who lack the traditional professional networks or financial means to enter it and to those with a disability.
Over the past few years, the diversity and inclusion work going on in the legal profession offers hope to students interested in pursuing a career in law. That’s not to say, the work is done – it’s far from it – but it’s great to see positive actions being taken, like The Law Society’s scheme, to improve access to the profession that goes beyond just words on a page.