Brodies is committed to diversifying the legal profession and supporting young people in their legal careers. The firm is a founding member of PRIME Commitment, a pioneering initiative by the UK's leading law firms which aims to encourage greater diversity in the legal profession.

Matt Andrews, trainee solicitor in Commercial Property in Glasgow and Niamh Johnston, trainee solicitor in Banking and Finance in Aberdeen, tell us about their involvement in the firm's mentoring programmes.

1. What is your background?

    Matt: I attended a state school in Dundee and was fortunate in being able to study Highers and Advanced Highers in S5-6. I went on to study the LLB in Law and German at the University of Edinburgh. After graduating, I worked for three years in private practice before completing the Diploma at the University of Glasgow. I started as a trainee at Brodies in August last year along with Niamh.

    Niamh: I grew up in Aberdeen and like Matt, I attended a state school and studied a range of Highers in S5-6. I studied both the LLB and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Aberdeen before commencing my traineeship. 

    2. Why is social mobility important to you?

      Niamh: I was lucky with the many opportunities I had growing up and was aware of my privilege compared to others at the school I attended, where it was more common to leave school after S4 than to complete Highers and attend university. My school was part of Reach, a programme run by five partner universities (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Dundee and Glasgow) which provides information, advice and guidance to those in eligible Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) postcodes applying for the professional degrees of law and medicine. This programme helped me to develop my interest in studying law and emphasised the importance of equal opportunities.

      As the first member of my family to attend university, I did not know what to expect. I noticed the disparity between different backgrounds and educational opportunities when I started my studies. Whilst I came from a supportive home environment that encouraged my further study, this is not true for everyone. This translates into the makeup of the legal profession. While only 7% of the UK population attends or has attended a private school, that group accounts for 51% of solicitors in the UK. It is crucial that change is encouraged, and more programmes that make law accessible, such as PRIME and Reach, are made available so that the legal profession is representative of those from all walks of life.

      Matt: Like Niamh, I would say I had a relatively privileged upbringing and had good opportunities when I was at school and at university. However, as a Dundonian, I am acutely aware of my privilege against the backdrop of some parts of the city which are among the most deprived in Scotland, according to the SIMD. Many young people in Dundee (and across Scotland) face inequality in opportunity and may encounter barriers in accessing further or higher education, for example due to caring responsibilities, lower family income or even simply their postcode.

      I was the first person in my family to study law. In some ways, I followed in my mum's footsteps, as she broke the mould when she decided to leave her family's farming background and go to university. This was an act of social mobility that greatly improved her career prospects. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have these opportunities though - that's why charities like the Lawscot Foundation and initiatives like PRIME are crucial in supporting young people in making those bold career choices.

      3. Which mentoring schemes have you been involved with at Brodies?

        Matt: Since joining the firm, I have been involved in several mentoring initiatives. I have worked closely with a local school pupil through the PRIME scheme and supported her with her university applications. I am also a mentor with the Social Mobility Foundation. In addition, it has been rewarding to be on the other side of the mentoring relationship as a mentee. As a trainee I have been supported by senior lawyers at other firms as part of the Law Society of Scotland and Legal Geek's mentoring programmes.

        Niamh: Upon joining the firm in August, I took over as chair of the Brodies x Aberdeen University Commercial Law Society initiative. This involves pairing society members with Brodies trainees for a mentoring and support programme. Mentors provide hints and tips for vacation scheme and training contract applications. The feedback has been very positive, and several mentees successfully obtained summer placements, with some even noting that mentoring had been crucial to their success.

        4. What are the benefits of being part of a mentoring relationship?

          Niamh: Personally, mentoring has allowed me to reflect on my experiences during my studies. It can be daunting navigating study and the application processes, so it has been rewarding to provide support to my mentee during this time.

          Matt: For me, the benefits are twofold. Firstly, your mentor can offer you a safe space where there are no silly questions, and a listening ear where you might not find one at school or within your firm. Secondly, the rapport that you can build with your mentor if you are a mentee, or vice versa, can help you to expand your network and find opportunities that might not have been readily available to you. This can make a real difference in your job interviews and application forms in future.

          5. What is the key to a successful mentoring relationship?

            Matt: It's important to have some clear objectives in mind when starting out as either a mentor or a mentee. That way you can guide each other towards your goals and structure your conversations.

            Niamh: I agree - it is important to approach a mentoring scheme with a clear outcome in mind. This will keep conversations and advice focused and ensure both parties get what they want from the relationship.

            6. What advice would you give those who are looking for mentors?

              Matt: Being enthusiastic and engaged goes such a long way in building a successful mentoring relationship. Show genuine interest in your mentor and they will reciprocate. That being said, don't be disheartened if you don't find a good match first time – there will always be someone else you click with!

              Niamh: I would encourage young people to seek out any available opportunities whether through PRIME, the Law Society of Scotland or by reaching out to local firms to see what is available. Being proactive goes a long way, and the worst thing they can say is no!

              Applications for this year's PRIME work experience programme are open now! If you are interested, visit the Early Careers section of our website for further information. Applications close on Wednesday 1 June 2022!


              Matt Andrews

              Trainee Solicitor

              Niamh Johnston

              Trainee Solicitor