Mandeep Kaur Virdee – KaurMaxwell | Diversity in Law

Mandeep Virdee
  1. Please share your motivations for pursuing a career in law. What was your perception of the legal industry before you entered the profession? Has this changed?

    I never intended to pursue a career a law, it just happened that way. I am the first one in my family to go down the law route. My parents have always been very hard working and have instilled that hard working work ethic in myself and my siblings. There were no lawyers in my extended family and certainly what I recall was my parents effectively being in the hands of someone else and what they were providing was their opinion and I liked the idea of someone trusting me to give them my views on a situation and that’s what effectively drove me to this profession. The perception of the legal industry was that it was tough to enter and that there was a certain stereotype which I did not fit. Being a young woman of colour, it was hard work entering this profession. There are still aspects that I don’t feel have changed but there are so many inspiring women paving the way for women of colour. I think we are heading in the right direction. Has it completely changed, no, but I think its generational and eventually year on year, these stereotypes will not be so prevalent.
  1. At the start of your career, did you have any awareness of the impact ethnicity could have on your career progression?

    I didn’t have awareness of the impact of ethnicity in my career progression, but it became very clear to me that this would be a barrier to entry very early on. For those who know me, it would come with no surprise that that was even more of a reason that I wanted to continue in this career. Key themes are glass ceilings, the lack of confidence to put your opinion forward, and the attempt to change names or have British nicknames instead of the names given to an individual.
  1. What are some examples of how someone’s ethnicity could help or hinder them as they navigate the legal profession?

    In a traditional law firm, it was always dominated by white males. If you were a white male, you could easily move up the ladder. There was also always the stigma that young, attractive females navigated their way easily in the legal profession just by the way they look. Although this still happens from time to time, the culture has changed massively over the years. The reflective position as at today’s date however is that the world is ultra-diverse in comparison to the years before us and therefore people like to work with people that they assimilate with and that is something that is being recognised more by employers, in my view. Certainly here, at KM, we have a diverse team and learn about all cultures and enjoy promoting individuals from all walks of life because they are the KM brand.
  1. What do you see as the main challenges facing ethnic minorities working in the legal sector?

    It’s been reported that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are showing a difference in their performance which has been longstanding and a widespread feature in examinations in the legal sector. Currently 21% of all lawyers in law firms are from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.
  1. Spanning your legal career, what changes have you seen in employer awareness and attitudes towards diversity and inclusion?

    The changes that I have seen are that the SRA have effectively implemented quoters and are requesting law firms to provide data about diversity and inclusion which, if nothing else, has asked questions ideally with the mindset that that law firm would themselves recognise their own statistics.
  1. In what ways can law firms or legal teams be more inclusive? Can you identify any examples of good practice within the profession?

    At KM, we accept individuals for what and who they are and understand that every individual is different both from a professional perspective and personality perspective. As a firm, we encourage diversity which is at the heart of our ethos. We create a safe space for individuals to showcase who they are, where they come from, what they belong to, what they consider they simulate themselves with and to create a safe environment for them to be able to do that. I think that is a very good example of good practice.
  1. Who or where have you drawn career inspiration from?

    I have drawn great inspiration from individuals before me who have pushed against the accepted way of practice, the trail blazers before me and the disruptors in the industry.
  1. If you could give your younger self some advice, what would that advice be?

    My advice would be that one person with a vision can truly make a difference and change the game with the right decisions, knowing when to take steps and, most importantly, always trusting your instincts. That is the advice I would give to myself.  Anything is achievable.