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Advice to jobseekers

Believe in yourself. Understand that it’s not the fact that you can’t do it, it’s that they just didn’t want you at this particular time or you’re not the right one for them. Use the experience positively, to make sure you put your best foot forward next time and increase your chance of future success.

Advice to employers

Companies need to understand that hiring from a wider talent pool isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Whether it’s having people from different backgrounds that can provide a wider context to decisions and give a greater chance of a fair process, or just having people who are able to be themselves and can focus on the job at hand rather than worrying about unwritten cues. It makes good business sense.

“My name is Jonathan Andrews and I’m an associate Reed Smith, a city law firm. I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum at age nine. My family were very supportive and didn’t see it as me lacking anything but simply having a different way of doing things and thinking. That was part of what gave me the confidence to be able to reach far and focus on my achievements. I found it interesting that there was a lot of talk about support from law firms, but there wasn’t anybody talking about being autistic in law. It felt like there was a lack of representation there.

In terms of actually getting into the legal profession itself, it was quite a long process. I had parents who were very supportive of me but certainly weren’t wealthy or well-connected. It wasn’t like I had the ability to get great contacts or assume that I could walk into a role. I worked very hard at my comprehensive school, Darrick Wood, got good A-Levels and was the highest-achieving boy in my year; I managed to get into King’s College London because of that.

I began to become aware of different opportunities that were available to me and I applied. English was my favourite subject at school and I really enjoyed my English degree – even managing to have an essay published in a journal – but I was always aware that the academic market in English wasn’t the easiest to get into, or one offering the greatest chances to make a practical difference.

I looked into open days, taster days and internships etc, as the best events to get in front of law firms. I remember the first few times it wasn’t something I was used to, and given my background I was quite anxious about it. But I decided that I could get used to it. I developed resilience and immersed myself in it.

It took me 9-months to get my training contract. I just had to keep pushing at it, basically, and believing that I could do it. There are others who might take longer and more years to do it. I was lucky in that I managed to do it just at the end of the year I applied (they start their recruitment in September and finish it in August), and I think part of this success was because I kept pushing and didn’t give up and didn’t assume that I wouldn’t be able to do it because of my background. I just thought that the right time hadn’t come yet, so I kept pushing and pushing.

Now, it’s been really fantastic because I’ve had a great experience at Reed Smith. During my training contract I had 2 seats in media (including a secondment) and now I’m actually qualified in the media team, which was my first choice there. It’s a top-rated firm for media, and there’s no question of me not being hired because of my background because I’ve been up against – throughout the process – people from more privileged backgrounds, and managed to get the job and get my associate role. I’ve got it on merit, basically, because I was the best person for the role.”