Tue 22nd Nov 2022
Our first year of mentoring with Black Lawyers Matter
In 2021, Page White Farrer signed up to support two mentoring schemes, one of which was ‘Black Lawyers Matter’ which was established by the Stephen James Partnership in an effort to level the playing field for Black lawyers in the UK.
Would-be mentors and mentees can register their interest via the website https://blacklawyersmatter.co.uk and they will be matched according to their legal interests.
Partner and patent attorney David Roberts, who is also the firm’s lead on diversity and inclusion, put himself forward as a mentor. He was matched with Lydia Odedeji, who was studying for her Masters in Law at Glasgow University after she saw the scheme mentioned on LinkedIn and expressed an interest in commercial law and intellectual property.
‘I was keen to get a better understanding of the journey into the legal profession,’ said Lydia. ‘I believe that there is no challenge in the world that is new – there is always someone who has gone there before, so I was looking to gain some insight from David.’
Throughout 2022, David and Lydia have met for one hour each month to discuss a range of issues, and Lydia was invited to visit the Page White Farrer office in Holborn, London, where she was able to speak to the trainee patent attorneys and also met a number of more senior attorneys.
As the year draws to a close, did it achieve Lydia’s objectives? ‘Absolutely! It was good to get to know someone already experienced in the legal profession, and David has pushed me to dream bigger and be more confident in my own abilities. As an immigrant it is not always easy to break into different networks and get to know people, but David has encouraged me to go to a variety of events. Talking with him and preparing has been very helpful to practice my social skills with professionals and to develop other soft skills.’
If you have never been involved with mentoring, you may have heard about it and wondered “What is in it for me?” Like all lawyers, patent attorneys never have enough spare time and so it may seem like quite a commitment to devote to spending regular time with someone else, especially if that person is not a client or a colleague or family.
When asked what he had got from the project, David commented that 'It had been really useful to get an insight into the young people of today and issues facing Black people trying to enter the legal profession. It reminded me of some of the concerns that I had when starting out in my career, and how much confidence can grow with the right support and experience.’
‘One thing that we both had in common is a belief in ‘paying it forward’ and the structure of the Black Lawyers Matter programme has been a very helpful framework to do this.’
About Black Lawyers Matter
According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority:
- Black lawyers are the least represented ethnicity in the UK of all qualified solicitors
- Black lawyers represent only 3% of all qualified lawyers – source SRA 2020
- Black partners make up less than 1% of all partners
- Many law firms and legal teams have 0 Black partners or senior legal staff.
To volunteer as a mentor
Black Lawyers Matter welcomes mentor support from organisations and also individuals - the more support they have, the more people’s lives can be positively affected.
This briefing is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. We can discuss specific issues and facts on an individual basis. Please note that the law may have changed since the day this was first published in November 2022.