I secured my Training Contract with Burges Salmon through their Diversity Mentoring Scheme

Offered in partnership with the Law School, the Burges Salmon Diversity Mentoring Scheme aims to bridge the gap in offering legal work experience and networking to underrepresented groups. Final-year LLB Law student, Nafisa El-Turke was one of the first mentees on the scheme which ran during 2023 and she shares her experience from application to being mentored and finally receiving a training contract with the firm. 

Smiling image of law student, Nafisa El-Turke looking into the camera wearing a smart dark suit jacket, white blouse and pale pink headscarf.

What motivated you to apply to the mentoring scheme?

As an underprivileged minority with no connections and no practical insights into what a legal career would look like, I was extremely excited by the prospect of having someone in my corner to support me. Having someone to talk to about firm applications, career worries, and generally about the legal industry is a real privilege many of us do not have and having my heart set on becoming a solicitor, I knew this would be an excellent opportunity.  

Despite drowning in coursework deadlines at the time and being fatigued by an unsuccessful application cycle,  

“I knew that having tailored support in conjunction with two weeks work experience and a training contract interview was an opportunity of dreams, and I knew I would regret not applying.” 

To say the least, I’m glad I listened to my gut! Essentially, I and others landed an elevated version of a vacation scheme that was designed to upskill us and help us on our legal career journeys. 

Another key reason I applied was the firm. I knew as a firm, they were super friendly and supportive, evidenced by their 3 consecutive wins of the Roll-on Friday Award. But also, from first-hand experience of their heavy involvement in the Bristol community,  

“I knew that the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives were not performative but sincere.” 

For context, I studied at a non-selective state school in Bath and at the time, Burges Salmon created an insight day for local state-schools and my tutor signed me up, along with others, to visit the firm. It was the first law firm I stepped into, and it gave me such an insight.  I believe Burges Salmons’ efforts of engaging with young underprivileged students is a real testament to their values. Given diversity and inclusion is a personal passion of mine, it was really important for me to train at a firm that shared it.  

What did the mentoring scheme entail for you and how were you supported?

The support I gained from the mentoring scheme was fantastic! After my summer exams, I would meet regularly with my mentor where we would discuss how she could support me with my direct training contract applications to other firms, tips and advice on interviews and understanding Burges Salmon on a more intimate level.  

“These conversations were invaluable to me, and I will be forever grateful for her efforts and commitment to mentoring me.”  

What was particularly unique and great about the scheme was that we were all familiar with our mentors before we completed our two weeks of work experience. This meant we were already familiar with someone at the firm and helped with calming nerves and settling in quicker.  

During the two weeks, we had support from a range of different avenues: our personal mentors, a trainee buddy, but we also had support from everyone else’s mentors collectively. This is because the two-week work experience was structured around all three mentors’ specialism, allowing us to sit in three ‘seats’ during our time there. For example, I started in dispute resolution, then commercial, and finished off in competition, allowing us to experience a diverse range of work.  

I personally also felt generally supported by the firm as a whole.  

“Everyone I spoke to was incredibly friendly and so willing to impart wisdom and help guide me, from the senior partner to trainees.”

It was a great experience that myth-busted the stereotypes I had formed in my head about law firms generally.  

What advice would you give to any students thinking of applying to the scheme?

  1. First and foremost, make sure you are answering the questions properly. Although this opportunity is like a vacation scheme, at its core, it is a mentorship scheme.  
  2. Secondly, be authentic. It sounds cheesy, but it really does work. Be honest in your answers and try to showcase yourself. I recommend really reflecting on why this scheme would be specifically beneficial to you and your legal career.  
  3. Lastly, research the firm thoroughly and demonstrate this in your answers. You can never over search a firm, but I recommend taking a tailored approach aligned with your interests and passions.  

How did you feel when you found out you were successful in receiving a training contract from the firm?

I cried. A lot! Due to a range of factors, a training contract very much felt out of reach for me. Deep down I knew I was capable of getting one, however, it’s so incredibly competitive! It truly comes down to marginal differences and this can be exhausting.  

“For those of us that were not traditionally designed for the legal industry, a steeply inclined battle against systemic inequalities awaits, however, it is not impossible!”  

It’s so crucial to remember this. Everyone’s journeys look different, and, in the end, you’ll get there.  

Further information

Find out more about the scheme, eligibility and deadlines on the Law School Careers and Employability Mentoring webpages.

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