STRIVE – Sana Shafi – S2E11

This week on the Legally Speaking Podcast, our host Rob Hanna is joined by Sana Shafi.

Sana is a Trainee at Travers Smith, popular law blogger, Presenter of the #StriveSpeaks Podcast, regular panellist at various diversity events, and Founder of Strive Consultants which in the space of one year has gone onto become a winner of the Legal Diversity Awards 2020 and a Finalist at the British Muslim Awards.

STRIVE aims to redefine diversity beyond categories of race and gender and make representative diversity in the City a reality. STRIVE exists to address the imbalance of diversity in City Law, to identify and nurture potential, and to ensure that there is an equal playing field. STRIVE helps students by providing free training, mentoring & resources to help them get Training Contracts.

Sana also runs a successful law blog called CynandLaw, which provides advice to aspiring solicitors on how to apply to Training Contracts and Vacation Schemes.


[0:00:01.1] Announcer: Hello, this is a quick message from the production team. I hope you are enjoying the Legally Speaking Podcast, due to the current COVID-19 link crisis the next few episodes will be recorded through our video communication software. Thanks for your understanding and do stay safe. The episode will now begin.

[0:00:23.5] Rob Hanna: Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast powered by Kissoon Carr. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. This week, I’m delighted to be joined by the highly impressive Sana Shafi. Sana is the founder of Strive, an organization which was founded to address the imbalance of diversity in city law, to identify and nurture potential and to ensure that there’s an equal playing field for all. She doesn’t stop there, she’s also the current trainee solicitor for Silver Circle law firm, Travers Smith in London and popular law blogger. So, welcome Sana.

[0:00:56.0] Sana Shafi: Hi Rob. Thank you very much for having me, it’s so great to be here.

[0:00:58.8] Rob Hanna: No, it’s an absolute pleasure. Now you may or may not know that we have a customary question on the Legally Speaking Podcast before we go through all of the great achievements and what you’re doing in your career today and beyond. So, starting with that question on the scale of one to ten, ten being very real, how would you rate the hit TV series Suits?

[0:01:22.9] Sana Shafi: To give it a rating? I love this question. I would give it a rating of let’s say seven.

[0:01:30.0] Rob Hanna: Okay. That’s quite high, that’s quite high.

[0:01:32.9] Sana Shafi: Seven is quite high. It’s just because I’ve got a particular affinity for Suits, I don’t see any reason, very loyal.

[0:01:40.6] Rob Hanna: Yeah, you bought into the Hollywood, right?

[0:01:43.2] Sana Shafi: I did. I did. They told me, they got me nicely, even though I sit there going, no, that’s not what happens. Everything isn’t accurate, it’s a seven for me.

[0:01:51.2] Rob Hanna: Okay, good, good. Well, it’s good. We’ve had a few low scores and high critics recently, so it’s nice to get a [plus] by, before we jump into everything. So, as I mentioned in the top, you do so much, you know, not only just within the legal day-to-day job, but the wider field, but what I want to do is sort of start right at the beginning in terms of your journey. But even before that, in terms of telling us less than a little bit more about you and your family background and your upbringing, would you like to kind of share with us a bit about you?

[0:02:20.8] Sana Shafi: In terms of family background, well where should we start from, so I actually wasn’t born here. I basically, I was born in India and then I came over to the UK when I was seven, picked up English as a second language, and basically attended your local comprehensive. That was around the corner, probably wasn’t the best in terms of the stats that came out at the end of the year. So, it was just you you’re very average run of the mill comprehensive and from there, I decided to pursue Law at Uni. So, I tried to get a couple of various different internships here and that time when I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into, as it was very much a new, it was very much a new area for me. I didn’t really have any, I don’t have any lawyers in the family, and they were no kind of family connections or anyone to kind of tell me what this journey was going to look like. So, it was very much a blunder in the dark, so to speak.

So, I did a couple of internships, realized that I actually liked it a couple of stints at the bar and where I did a couple of mini pupillages as well. And then I just decided to make an application and got accepted to Queen Mary, and that’s where I did my undergrad. And while I was studying there, I developed this interest into business. I have always been very entrepreneurial by nature when I did a couple of hackathons while I was there, and that kind of made me think that perhaps as well as my additional work experience, I had done previously, that commercial law was an area that I was potentially interested in. So, I kind of started to explore that with a little bit more interest, did a couple of placements here and there.

So, I did a work experience at Freshfields for a while, which was great and that basically refined my decision that actually the cities where I want it to be. It’s very high paced, sorry, fast paced, it’s very busy, there’s a lot going on and I really liked the idea of just being in the middle, where all the action was happening. So, from there on, I decided to apply for a couple of vac schemes, and you know, I did about three vac schemes, one of which was Travers Smith, and I got my GC offer off the back of that and accepted and here we are. And then while I was doing my LPC, I decided that actually I would like to do something to help prospective law students, get ahead and make sure that students that were like me, that didn’t really know what they were doing, or didn’t really have this kind of connections or insight or knowledge. I wanted to create something that would help them as well, and that’s really how Strive was born during my LPC years, and here we are one year on.

[0:04:56.3] Rob Hanna: Right. And we’ll definitely talk more about Strive, very, very shortly, but I guess it’d be helpful for our listeners listening in. It’s fair to that synopsis, then, you know, you didn’t come from a family of lawyers, sort of, you kind of dip your toe into it from the legal education side of things. And actually, you know, the more and more you kind of learned since sort of, you know, you have more experiences in it, you enjoyed it and kind of, I guess, possessed your passion, wanting to get into the law, which is really, really comforting because, you know, some people are kind of born and they kind of have lots of family influences or people saying you should consider law or something that you’ve found sort of organically through your own kind of workings or basically from what I’m gaining from that, which is great.

What lots of people listening in also like to know is how people secure that their training contracts, because as you know, it is so competitive, but you mentioned, we all know you’re at Travers Smith currently, and you mentioned in a vac scheme there, but could you just shed a little bit more light on that process and maybe how you handled starts and rejections, you may or may not have had along the way as well?

[0:05:50.9] Sana Shafi: Yeah, I’m sure. So, rejections were my favourite part of the process, Rob as they are with everyone. I had a fair few, and I remember, it is, as I say, it is a bit of a process, and it’s a bit of a difficult one because unlike other industries, law is probably one of the most competitive areas to pursue a career in. And there’s a lot of prep that goes into it even before you submit an application. So, it’s not a matter of just kind of waking up one day and going, Oh, you know, this is what I want to do. There’s loads and loads of background work that goes in even before you get to application stage. So, as I say for me, the process was very much, you know, it was very organic, it was just me trying to find, find my way along.

So, I initially started with just attending open days so for me, it was about familiarizing myself with the process because I was so unfamiliar with it. And for me, I found that the best way to start was actually to go out there and meet the firms and see what it was that they’re looking for and how their processes run. So, I spent a lot of time attending open days where I was successful and there were very many where I wasn’t, so where I wasn’t successful, I would just attend loads of networking events. I found that they were really, really invaluable for me, just because it’s just such a nice way to meet the people that potentially work at the company that you might be interested in and it’s a much more nicer environment, a little bit informal. So, for me, I really like a good networking event, I’m happy about it and obviously the food is great. Not that, that’s the reason you’d go there, but definitely the food is always a good bonus.

[0:07:35.6] Rob Hanna: It’s a good ice breaker, that’s for sure.

[0:07:37.5 Sana Shafi: Yeah, it is. And you can, if it gets really bad, you can just network with the food and nobody will ever know.

[0:07:43.7] Rob Hanna: That’s a really important point though. And we’ve had throughout season one and season two of the Legally Speaking Podcasts, we’ve had various people come on, Les and Chrissy Wolf, you probably know who runs Law and Broader. We’ve had the London, young lawyers’ group, who’s now sort of head up by Ollie Hadouken, Eloise Skinner and lots of people who have always kind of been banging the drum and sort of pioneers. And what you’re saying, there is the importance of networking, right from the start of your career, not only to get a break in a training contract, but also as you further your career, I think it’s time to changing and you’ve got to get yourself out there. And that was a lot of offline networking you’ve shown in that sort of particular success story for you, but it’s also online networking now, which is super, super important, which I’m sure you agree with.

[0:08:24.8] Sana Shafi: Absolutely. Yeah.

[0:08:26.2] Rob Hanna: Correct. You’ve not qualified yet, you all going through your training contract, which area of law would do wish to specialize in?

[0:08:33.1] Sana Shafi: Wow. I think it’s very much very early days still, at the moment, I’m trying to keep an open mind as much as possible. And for me, the first part was just knowing what kind of [seats] I was potentially interested in. So, I’ve already, I’ve done a seat in corporate, I’m currently in funds at the moment, and you know, I was quite keen on employment being one of my option choices. And then for the third seat I was in a competition would be nice, but I’m not particularly fast because I’m just one of those people that gets enthusiastic about pretty much everything. There isn’t really anything that I kind of look around and go, oh my God, I’d kill myself if I was there. So, for me, it’s just trying to keep my options as open as I possibly can and just taking it on the basis of the TC and obviously a lot of thought doesn’t need to go into qualification in terms of what it is that you really want to, you know, qualify in and practice for the long term, but also just a way where you see yourself going. So, at the moment, I definitely enjoyed corporate and corporate remains a qualification choice, but I’m in funds right now and I’m absolutely loving funds too, so, that’s also a very much of an option choice. So, at the moment I think, I don’t know for definite, but I’m, you know, I’m happy to kind of take that as it, as it comes and decide nearer at the time.

[0:09:59.1] Rob Hanna        Yeah. And I guess it’d be helpful people listening in to know what it’s like, you know, in light of the coronavirus, being a trainee in a sort of leading city law firm, how you’re finding that, because ultimately, when you’re training, you know, you want to be around learning via osmosis from, you know, associates, partners around you, how are you finding your experience in current times?

[0:10:18.8] Sana Shafi        It’s very different. I think it’s slightly more different than it would have been if I was at a firm that didn’t put a massive, you know, massive influence on learning by osmosis, because of the way that Travers operates as a firm is that we sit in a room with four other people. So, you have a trainee all the way up to a partner. So, there’s five of us in one room and there’s always a lot of activity going on. So, I think as far as learning by osmosis goes, it really is a core part of the Travers culture to enable that to happen. So, with the coronavirus situation where a lot of us are working from home, that has definitely thrown a couple of challenges our way. And one of the things that I had to get used to very quickly, it was actually, it was learning to work from home as a trainee, which is quite difficult to do when it’s just your second seat, and you haven’t, you’ve never worked from home before.

So, the first two weeks was a bit of a learning experience in terms of A) getting the equipment to work properly. Like, you know, the tech is always a nightmare and B, just trying to find a way that works for you and your team. So, the way that one of the ways that I’ve tried to make that process a lot smoother is obviously maintaining the communication, which is always all as a key part. But also, just generally trying to be fairly regimented in terms of how I do throughout my day so scheduling in breaks, making sure that I am still talking to my colleagues, skyping them or Facetiming them for 10, 15 minutes or getting a Skype call, which is always great.

So, it’s things like that which are really helping to make sure that you’re still building that, you’re still building those relationships with the people in the firm that are fundamentally very, very important to your career and going forward, but also making sure that you are also being proactive because I find that when you’re talking to people and you’re all in it together A) it makes us less lonely which is great, but also it’s also quite motivating to know that everybody else is kind of in the same boat as you and you’re all kind of going through the same thing and you can always help each other out and give each other tips that you might not otherwise get if you just put yourself, just sit in front of a desk and just get on with it.

[0:12:32.8] Rob Hanna: Yeah, no, I think you’re absolutely right. And its sort of teaching everyone to remain more collaborative, more proactive, and to look out for one another. And you know, you ultimately get out what you put in which you put in which is what you put very succinctly and nicely there, so thanks for that. Before we go on to talk about Strive, one sort of final question, do you see yourself? I know it’s a long way off, but do you see yourself being a partner in a law firm one day? Is that an aspiration of yours?

[0:12:56.9] Sana Shafi: Do I see what? Yeah, Rob between you and I think I’d make a pretty great partner.

[0:13:02.1] Rob Hanna: And that’s on the record of the Legally Speaking Podcast, so I agree. I think you make an excellent partner.

[0:13:08.0] Sana Shafi: It’s networking skills coming in handy Rob.

[0:13:12.3] Rob Hanna: Yeah, exactly. Well, by the time you make part of this podcast to be like the highest profile one in the world. Right?

[0:13:17.5] Sana Shafi: Exactly. Of course, that’s got to happen. I mean, you’re the one that’s hosting it how can I not.

[0:13:23.1] Rob Hanna: Exactly. There we go. There we go. Okay. Well, you look, I love the ambition and that leads very nicely on to Strive because as I mentioned on the top of this, you know, I’m amazed by how you manage to fit it all in, but I know Strive really, really means a lot to you. So, for people that are new to Strive, can you tell us exactly what it is and why you decided to found the organization?

[0:13:44.9] Sana Shafi: So, Strive is I say it’s a platform, but it’s more than that. Strive, it’s a place where students can really come together and really be part of the same journey, the key reason why it was set up initially was to address what I felt was an imbalance in the city where diversity was such a hot term in the sense that everybody’s talking about it. And every single firm says, you know, we want to do a lot for diversity. And it’s just one of those things that it was very hot people like to talk about it, but progression has been fairly slow, in that space I mean, there has been progression, but it’s just has not been what you’d expect to see given how long we’ve all been working to achieve it. And it’s just been a bit of a long and arduous journey.

So, we wanted to set up something that really was accessible for all, that was a key thing. We wanted to make sure that Strive resources with things that everyone, anybody that wanted to know a little bit about law and wanted to know how to get into it. They could find that information there and they could access that quite easily. So, and the reason being for that is we think if we want to increase diversity, we have to start removing barriers. The second thing that we wanted to achieve with Strive was in order to address the imbalance in the city wanted to create a platform where students that would generally disadvantaged in the sense that they wouldn’t be able to access the same kind of opportunities through no fault of their own. They would be given a place where they could access the same information and the same opportunities, the same resources that people that they would then meet at assessment centre would have already had access to.

So, it was really all about addressing, but levelling the playing field through education, through opportunities and making sure that everybody receive the same quality of training, because we felt that the only way to address an imbalance is to make sure that everybody kind of enters the assessment centre at the same level, rather than people, why rather than two groups of students where you’ve got somebody who, as an example, probably gone to a very good grammar school and subsequently gone on to Oxbridge, done very well for themselves. Of course, if they’ve worked hard, but, by virtue of the fact that they’ve gone to a grammar school, then subsequently Oxbridge, they’ve also had access to loads of opportunities. So, they’ve had firms coming on to campus, they’ve had those presentations being given to them, they’ve had loads of support from the career service and so forth.

So, this, so you’ve got this individual who clearly knows well what’s going on or where they want to go as well as they’ve got the Oxbridge brand behind them. So, there’s loads of advantages in being person A and then you might have person B who probably attended a local comprehensive, the same way that I did probably had no clue about law until they actually started at university. And they kind of had to start thinking about what they wanted to, where they want it to be and where they want it to go and realizing that actually there is so much information out there that you don’t really know where to start and where to look from.

So, in that case, why did you create something where a person B could access the same kind of information, the same kind of training we would help them draft their applications, give them the same kind of skillset and allow them to develop those skillsets that person A would have naturally acquired over time. So, that when person A and B both tap at assessment centre, they’re able to compete on an equal fitting and individual B can compete on their own merits. It’s very much of a meritocratic system, we don’t really believe in it, any kind of barriers or back doors entry or anything along those lines is very much the fact that we believe that all of our students are talented enough, they’ve just never had that opportunity to display that potential. And for us, as the matter of getting that potential out there into the open and making sure that when they do turn up on assessment centre, they can perform at their very best and knowing that they are good enough and they’ve had the same kind of opportunities, it’s really a way for us to minimise the disadvantage. So, that’s really what the motivations behind Strive was.

So, when we first started out, we took on about 85 students onto our program. This was last year from all kinds of backgrounds. I think the only thing in common that I was striving students have is that they have nothing in common at all, but they were all very unique and very different. And you know, one year later we had our success rate, it was roughly 85%, 85% of our students secured a vacation scheme or training contract author from leading law firms. Like, you know, Clifford Chance, Norton Rose Fulbright and various others. So, it’s, for us, it was a bit of an experiment in the first year as we were really going up against the tide in the sense that, you know, we were kind of saying to law firms that we’ve got students that don’t necessarily have A*AA on paper, but who are nonetheless very, very bright and very talented and very capable.

And a lot of firms are kind of going, but how’d you do that? And we said, well, good question. It is a difficult question. And for us, the way that we try and ascertain that talent, contextual recruitment, which is very, very, a huge deal for us, but also contextual recruitment with the human touch, because we find that contextual recruitment in itself, where you’re just looking at cold data can skew the results to a certain degree and it’s quite open to manipulation, to a certain extent. So, for instance, if somebody could attend a grammar school, which is rated like one of the best schools in the country, but by virtue of the fact that they are going to a grammar, they would still classify as a state school and they would still be eligible for various kinds of support that other students would have difficulty accessing. And that was one of the key things that we wanted to address with Strive was making sure that our resources were really reaching students that genuinely needed it.

[0:19:27.7] Rob Hanna: Yeah, I love that, and I think that’s such a great concept. And for people listening in you, you described obviously Strive as a platform. How can people, I guess, get access to this or apply or become a member? Can you talk more about that sort of general?

[0:19:42.5] Sana Shafi: Yeah, sure. So, we have, you can split our, kind of membership into two parts. So, we have our candidates, who we call them our program candidates who become enrolled onto the program. So, the program would open up once a year, and it is very much a yearlong program. So, we would open up around summer, ready to kick off in September, October period. And this would continue for an entire academic year. So, that’s the program, there are about eighty-five, eighty-five places on it, every single year, because that is a number that we cap it on, and we can split that into a first year program and a second year program. And our first-year program is a lot smaller, we cap that at about 25 students only, so that’s the program.

And then we have our membership, the membership is basically open for everyone. So, anyone that’s interested in having access to Strive resources and, open and Strive events, then the membership is for them as part of that, you get access to like a little login portal where you can log in and access all of our resources, our events calendar. So, we’ve got a couple of case studies, that’s freely available within that portal and various different blog posts and other tips and tricks. So, we try, and we provide as much information as we possibly can to our members, so that we are helping them as well as to our candidates and the membership application is it’s very straightforward in the sense that you just go on the website, sign up, fill in a quick form, and that’s it.

[0:21:11.9] Rob Hanna: Great. And in terms of sort of the longer term or future ambitions for strive, I know you’ve talked about some initiatives. Is there anything you can share that sort of in the future that you’re planning that might be quite interesting for our listeners to sort of know about?

[0:21:27.7] Sana Shafi: Yeah. So, I thought the things that we do in Strive, we will just try and host a different flagship every single year, it’s just one of the things that we try and keep fresh and different. This year’s flagship, it was supposed to be, which has been put on hold because of Corona, it was supposed to be our diversity hackathon, which was a way for us to get various city law firms together in a room, and to think about the solutions that we can actually implement, in this journey towards diversity. And it was supposed to be a very much of a collaborative approach in a way for us to get all these different, great firms and the great initiatives that they are working on into one room and to create something that we could, that was a little bit more tangible and something that we could actively work towards together rather than individually, so that the hackathon was a flagship, but this year we are looking to get it back on, as soon as we know what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak and how that going to unfold.

One of the things that we are also looking into is, is a Strive conference, so it’s very much a bit strictly on conference, a little bit like a training contract boot camp and the idea is that it’s very much open to all, and similar to a boot camp. The idea is that we equip students with all the information that we possibly can provide them in the space of a day, and that will allow them to then go on and start implementing those tips and techniques from the day, and they can adopt them in their own applications. And the idea is that our student walks away from that conference feeling empowered to make these applications and knowing that they’ve got the right kind of information. And they’ve got a good starting point. So, that’s the one of the second events that we’ve got.

And then just generally, one of the things that we do look at as hosting various different all-time events. So, that’s something that’s always pretty much ongoing, we haven’t really done any this year, just because of various reasons. One of the things that we’re doing at the moment is converting Strive into a charity and that’s one of the reasons why some of the events that we would normally do, we haven’t really had a chance to get those off the ground, because until incorporation is complete, we just thought it’d be better to hold off, but you know, law firm events are something that’s always ongoing and we would always encourage students to apply and some of them all open events, which means that they are open for all. And some are candidates only that those distinctions were made quite clear.

[0:23:57.5] Rob Hanna: Right. Okay. Well, I think that gives a really good comprehensive overview of Strive. So, thanks so much for that but as I mentioned again at the top, it doesn’t stop there because, you know, as part of other things that you do is also your popular sort of law bloggers. So, do you want to sort of tell us more about that and what sparked your passion for wanting to sort of do blogging?

[0:24:17.9] Sana Shafi: So, my passion for blogging, it really just started, just because when I was starting out, I remember looking around and thinking it’d be really nice if somebody had a blog that kind of told me what I needed to do next. So, and given that they weren’t that many, at that time, I started to document my journey on LinkedIn as well as on my own, blog posts. And I found, and it was, you know, it took off, it basically just took off and loads of people are interested to see what the journey was like. And it’s just something that I started off on a whim, initially just on LinkedIn just posting about my kind of journey and the things that I’ve learned and any tips and techniques I would adopt and then Strive was set up. And I could do a lot more of the tips and techniques because with, through Strive, we were helping him about hundreds, you know, roundabout 85 to 800 students get training contracts.

So, there were loads and loads of things that we identified through that process and I thought it’d be really nice to just share that with everybody else. And for me, it was just about being, not necessarily a voice, but it was just about documenting my experiences so that if anybody ever wanted to go and find out what it was like, or if they wanted some kind of guidance, they could always come back to one of my posts and they should be able to find everything, that’s really what motivated it. It wasn’t really a strategic plan, I’m afraid, Rob. it just kind of happened.

[0:25:42.6] Rob Hanna: No, but I really love that. And it’s a really nice new way of the future lawyers and people coming through about this whole giving back generation, you know, you may be familiar with obviously Harry Clark, who does a lot of blogging, you know, Gordon Chung and, you know, all of these various people that are friends of the Legally Speaking Podcasts as well. And I just have so much admiration for all the work and ethics your prepared to do. And part of giving back to actually help others. I really liked the collaborative sort of nature of the future lawyers and people in practice that are giving back so, no, I love it. In addition, you’re also the author for the market mogul. So, tell us more about that.

[0:26:16.3] Sana Shafi: So, the market mogul was, it’s also another platform that started a couple of years ago, and it was, they kind of coined it as authentic news. And I loved that whole idea because it was something that’s very new, it’s very different and it was just an opportunity for literally anybody that wanted, that was quite passionate about certain topics. So, they had been interested in politics or any matter at all that was impacting our world to go and talk about it. So, I came across the market mogul back when I was in my first year of Uni and I thought, Oh, this looks great. Do I have a couple of opinions? Yes, I do have quite a big math as well, so let’s go on there and start typing stuff.

So, initially when I started writing for the market mogul, my focus was always very much on within the legal and political sphere and just seeing the interplay between law and politics. So, quite a few articles were just based on that, so every time for instance, Brexit, it was a huge thing. And it still is, but back then, it was, it seemed, you know, in the middle after Corona, it seems we’ve forgotten about Brexit, but two, three years ago it was all, everybody was talking about. So, quite a few of my posts were on that and that was just something that I did every time I came across something interesting. I thought, actually, I think I could write something about this, and I would just write it out. The editors would review and come back and say Sana I think you need to edit this, before they would publish it.

[0:27:47.6] Rob Hanna: Great, great.  Well, yeah, I love how you just casually drop in how you find time when you’re juggling everything else that you do to do that but it’s amazing so, you know, congratulations. I think as we look to close, I want to ask a couple of challenging questions. If I may, on law firms really, you know, putting them to the mask, what do you think they can do to support aspirational current lawyers from BAME backgrounds because I love what Strive is doing in terms of really trying to level the playing field, but what more do you think could be done or should be done?

[0:28:19.9] Sana Shafi: So, I think one of the first things that law firms just, I think, law firms need to collectively understand some of the challenges that BAME students face. I think understanding the challenges then puts them in a much better position to then be able to implement procedures and processes that are a lot more inclusive and a lot more welcoming to students that come from BAME and disadvantaged backgrounds. So, I think that that’s a first thing, I think just generally there isn’t that much awareness of what it actually means to be BAME other than the fact that you happen to be not white. But, beyond that, it’s all about really the challenges that you might face in an industry, what their concerns are and being familiar with those things. You know, they say that knowledge is power and knowing those things is really what would allow recruiters, in law firms to look at their current practices and see what they can do to make them more inclusive and make those things more welcoming.

One of the issues that we’re currently looking at is BAME retention, which I understand is an issue for quite a lot of law firms and, you know, it’s quite for us to correct that. We need to understand the why that is an issue in the first place. Why is it that we managed to hire them, but we somehow cannot retain them? Something is going wrong and in order to figure out what it is, we have to look deeper into the processes. And when we talk about inclusivity, we actually have to consider whether we truly are inclusive, and do you know where we can do that is if we understand the nuances of what it means to be BAME, what it means to be socially disadvantaged and the challenges that that throws up and how-to best deal with the challenges going forward.

And the second thing I would say is access. I would say that of course, law firms will always want the best talent and that’s fine, but there’s got to be a way of enabling access for students that would not necessarily be able to attend the, for instance, like virtual events, the students that are outside of London, or just simply cannot afford to travel into the city, or they have other various other commitments, so virtual events are also a great thing. And just generally perhaps reaching out to other universities that they would not typically work with, is also another great way of increasing diversity rather than the stereotypical kind of city firm strongholds.

[0:30:44.6] Rob Hanna:        Yeah, no, absolutely and there’s some really good points there, so really well said. And so, as we wrap up, I guess, lots of people listening in are probably keen to hear other people’s ideas of what they’re doing. You know, what you do in, you know, the current unprecedented times, but the downtime, you know, we, can’t just be sort of nipping on a flight here, there, and everywhere. So, what are you doing day to day for downtime and sort of keeping your own mental health and wellbeing? Are there any tips you’d share?

[0:31:09.8] Sana Shafi: Yeah. I mean, so one of the things that I’m very much of a social creature, I love, I love being in touch with all of my friends and seeing what they’re up to. And I think that’s one of the, it’s something that works for my mental health quite a lot, one being able to talk to people. So, I will just try to find time where I can speak to my friends or I can speak to my colleagues or I can go downstairs and have dinner with my family, that’s quite important. So, keeping the loneliness at bay.

Secondly, I try and get in a bit of meditation in the morning, so keeping it’s really important to have a routine, I love having a good morning routine and, a good night routine as bizarre as that might sound and for me, my night routine basically involves before I get ready for bed. It just involves me putting on all of my different kind of skincare products and just really winding down for the day, having a cup of hot tea, grabbing a book, reading that, and then maybe doing a short five-minute meditation, and then knocking off to sleep.

So, routine is one of the things that I find is quite calming, and it’s just making sure that taking regular breaks when things get really busy, I think especially when you’re working from home and it gets really easy to skip on lunch and skip on breaks because you feel like you’ve got, you’re working a lot slower, you’re a lot less productive, and it can feel quite difficult. So, one of the things I now try and force myself to do is when things get really hectic, which is a little bit counter-intuitive as I kind of go, okay, well, I want to go outside. I’m going to go for a quick walk, take a walk around the garden, come back, or I’m going to go downstairs and make myself some tea and just get away from the desk. It’s actually one of the tips, one of my coaches told me, and I have noticed that it’s made a huge difference.

Just being away from the space where there is so much going on and taking two minutes outside, it can make a huge difference to your productivity level when you come back. And also, just sometimes you just find the answer as you’re walking back up the stairs, which is really odd and the time that it takes for you to come back, you might go, actually, I now know what I need to do. So, it’s really the small things, I find that I’m making a huge difference and obviously eating well and sleeping well and those things that just go without saying,

[0:33:26.6] Rob Hanna: Yeah, no really, really well said. And just lastly, if people want to sort of get in touch with you or learn more about Strive, you know, would you want to give your sort of website shout out or how people can find you on social media?

[0:33:36.8] Sana Shafi: Yeah, absolutely. So, the website for Strive is and if anybody wants to reach out to me, I’m always on LinkedIn. So do feel free to drop me a message and follow the profile and go and have a read on my blog.

[0:33:54.3] Rob Hanna: There you go, folks. Sana, thanks an absolute million for featuring today. It’s been a real pleasure and I’m sure you’ll feature again, on the Legally Speaking Podcast in the future, we wish you and all the team at Strive all the best then in the near and long-term future. I’m wishing you all the best with your training contracts with Travers Smith as well. So, I hope everyone found that as inspiring, as informative as I did and over and out.

[0:34:17.9] Sana Shafi: Thank you so much for having me, Rob.

[0:34:21.3] Rob Hanna: No worries.

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