Amber is a Future Trainee Solicitor at Baker McKenzie and will commence her Training Contract in September 2022.
She graduated from Cardiff University in 2017 achieving a First Class Honours in her LLB.
Since early 2018, Amber has worked as a Data Protection Paralegal in Bakers Risk and Compliance team.
She is the Co-Vice Chair for the London Young Lawyer’s Group which is a legal network that partners with organisations to provide monthly events for junior legal professionals ranging from paralegal level up to 7 years PQE.
Amber is also an active member of the BakerOpportunity social mobility focus group and has previously coordinated Baker McKenzie’s Social Mobility Week campaigns in both 2018 and 19.
She is passionate about raising aspirations, improving access to law and building inclusive environments for all to thrive in.
[0:00:00.0] Harry Wilde: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast mini-series, powered by Kissoon Carr. My name is Harry, head ambassador for Kissoon Carr and host for today’s episode. Today I am delighted to be joined by our guest feature, future trainee solicitor at Baker McKenzie, Amber Parslow. Hi Amber, thank you for joining us on today’s episode.
[0:00:19.2] Amber Parslow: Hi Harry, thank you very much for having me today. It’s great to be part of the series.
[0:00:23.8] Harry Wilde: No worries at all. Amber studied her LLB at Cardiff University and has worked as a data protection paralegal at Baker McKenzie over the last two years. She was offered the training contract at Bakers in May 2020, which is due to commence in 2022. Amber is an active member of the Baker opportunity social mobility focus group and previously coordinated two Baker McKenzie social mobility week campaigns. She received the People award for diversity and inclusion in 2018.
Amber is also the co-vice chair for the London Younger Lawyers Group, which is a legal network of partners with organizations to provide monthly events with junior legal professionals ranging from paralegal level up to 7 years PQE. Amber, did you want to start by giving out a brief introduction or a bit more information about where you are currently at in your legal journey.
[0:01:10.0] Amber Parslow: I graduated from Cardiff University in 2017 and I’ve been a paralegal since early 2018. As you mentioned I’m a data protection paralegal sitting in the risk compliance team at Baker McKenzie. So, this essentially means I’m an inhouse paralegal and so Bakers is essentially my client rather than working in one of their practice areas. I predominantly specialize in advising on data but also assist the wider team with tasks such as anti-money laundering and contract reviews.
In terms of my journey to securing the training contract I actually applied to law firms for 5 application cycles. So, since my second year at university way back in 2015 and then as you mentioned I finally secured my training contract this year following Baker’s virtual assessment centre.
[0:01:59.9] Harry Wilde: Congratulations on that, it’s really great to hear. What would you say you did differently in the last application cycle which helped you secure your training contract at Baker’s?
[0:02:07.0] Amber Parslow: I think I finally kind of understood what I needed to do to you know jump through the hoops of the application process. So, that was through the help of an organization called STRIVE Consultant. They helped me really understand how to tailor my applications specifically to the firm, I discussed ideas and firm strategies. They actually kindly awarded me with the ones to watch at the 2019 awards, and I think this really boosted my confidence going into my last application cycle.
This kind of goes on to my second point about and it may sound quite cliché that I just started to believe in myself. I was terrible with self-doubt and you know feeling lucky to have fallen into my job at Baker’s rather than you know recognize that I’d actually worked hard to achieve that. So, of course it’s you know it doesn’t just come overnight. I have been working on my confidence by you know attending many different events as possible to strengthen my knowledge of the industry.
But I have also volunteered in what I call safe spaces. Just to essentially get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think this just really prepares you to you know realize what’s the worst thing that can happen and you got nothing to lose so you may as well go for it.
[0:03:19.7] Harry Wilde: Absolutely and having had the experience of working as a paralegal over the last couple of years, did you find this helped when applying for training contracts?
[0:03:27.3] Amber Parslow: I think personally it definitely helped me to develop my confidence but also because I sit in a risk compliance team, I observe how a law firm operates as a business. I think that it gave me quite a unique exposure at junior level and this really helped me to kind of articulate in my applications that I knew how the firm functioned and it’s strategies.
I also leveraged my experience I think working in a law firm by organising coffees. It was trainees, graduate recruitments and partners and then I also got involved in the firms diversity initiatives and so by doing all of these I was raising my profile and demonstrating my values aligned really closely with the firm’s. Having said that I don’t think every student listening to this should you know panic and go after a paralegal role. In my experience personally it’s very law focussed, but applications which are more successful focussed on demonstrating other skill sets and interests outside of law.
So I think law firms really understand diversity is more, is beneficial for their business particularly in commercial law. So, they don’t just want legal advisors they you know, want innovators and industry experts and business people so I think paralegal experience is good but even if they don’t have it it’s not the end of the world.
[0:04:44.4] Harry Wilde: Of course, and what barriers did you face when entering the legal market for the very first time?
[0:04:49.3] Amber Parslow: I think the initial barrier was not knowing anyone in the industry and being quite naive to the legal journey. I personally just didn’t know who to reach out to for support and well, I was often paying catch up in term of understanding the training contract process compared to some of my peers. My parents have been always they have been so, so supportive you know in every possible way they can, but bless them, legal profession is alien to them.
And then I always have to explain the journey I’m on and kind of what each stage means. I think some people may take this for granted, I think it really does build into your confidence. And personally I definitely allowed imposter syndrome to kind of you know take over me and you know I don’t feel like I belonged and nobody at assessments that I attended were like me and then everyone spoke much more eloquently than me, I think someone actually once said to me you know you’re too bubbly and you’re not going to make it as a lawyer.
And so, I think these kinds of small experiences start adding up and I just didn’t feel I had anyone to aspire to but I just knew this is what I wanted to. So even with kind of self-doubt sometimes weighing me down I just kind of carried on pursuing it and fortunately I had a really great support network through the London Young Lawyers Group and I think it’s great now to see so many resources out there online for students.
[0:06:05.7] Harry Wilde: Absolutely and you are heavily involved with the London Young Lawyers Group as you mentioned. Can you tell us a little bit more about the work you do with them and what led you to get involved?
[0:06:13.8] Amber Parslow: Yes, of course. So as you mentioned at the beginning the LYLG is a network which connects you to solicitors and we organize monthly events ranging from seminars to networking and socials. I originally was a member so I kind of got involved to meet more people in London and build my own network. In early 2019, I was invited to join the committee by our current chair Oliver Haddock, think this is off showing my interest by attending lots of events and promoting their offering online.
Once on the committee I think I was first responsible for coordinating events, so one of these included a panel discussion at my previous firm in the Gherkin, which was pretty cool. And we explored legal technology and its impact on junior lawyers. At the end of 2019 I think it was I was appointed co-vice chair, so now my responsibility involves leading on monthly projects and I helped run the mentor scheme and I regularly liaise with our partner organizations just to discuss how we can collaborate and bring more useful contents and events to junior lawyers.
I do always joke that if I wasn’t going to be a lawyer I would have loved events management. So, I think the LYLG probably allows me to have the best of both worlds you know, and I struggled in various ways myself in the early stages of my career. So, I am quite passionate about helping others and you know then building their network. So if you haven’t already definitely check out LYLG on social media platforms. Hopefully, we can do an in-person event soon.
[0:07:51.0] Harry Wilde: Absolutely great stuff and I wanted to conclude by asking you something I’d like to ask all of our guests, what changes do you think need to be made within the legal profession to make a career in law more accessible to everybody?
[0:08:01.9] Amber Parslow: I think this is really good question to finish then and it’s such a big topic. With all my work in social mobility I can actually discuss this for ages and I was trying to keep it focused. I think although there has been developments there’s probably three areas that I’d raise. Firstly I think firms you know need to be developing their traditional recruitment processes just to make sure they are reaching out to a wider pool of candidates and recognizing you know the different skill sets really shine better through different assessments.
Secondly, I think it’s really important the candidates see role models that they can aspire to and who are like them, and then finally I think it’s more important for inclusivity just to be embedded throughout law firms cultures. I think this is actually more difficult than it sounds. It’s you know the micro aggressions that are sometimes difficult to recognize but you know it can really have a huge impact on different individuals experiences. So, it’s kind of getting all employees across the firm to understand that and work on it together.
[0:09:02.5] Harry Wilde: All brilliant points, I wanted to say a huge thank you to our guest feature, Amber. Thank you ever so much for coming on today Amber.
[0:09:08.1] Amber Parslow: Thank you so much, yeah, I’m really looking forward to listening to the rest of the series.
[0:09:12.2] Harry Wilde: Great, it’s been a real pleasure having you on and it’s great to hear your insights alongside many of the things you have learnt throughout your legal journey. I wish you all the best in your future and good luck in starting your training contract in September 2022. Thank you all very much for tuning in to today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed listening.