This International Women’s Day theme is to ‘break the bias’, and I want to celebrate being a female leader in the Voluntary sector living with a disability.
I’m Ngaryan, the Senior Solicitor and Centre Director at the Law Centre. I began my legal career as a paralegal after finishing my university degree. I remember the Managing Partner asking me “why did I want a career in law and why did I only start getting legal work experience after finishing my degree?” I remember being very shocked and thinking that my career was over before it even began. But he went on to explain that other law students started their work experience even before they started their degree and that I was indeed very late to the game and would find it hard to secure those lucrative ‘training contracts’ to enable me to qualify as a solicitor.
Unfortunately, during my time working as a paralegal, I became very ill. I developed inflammatory psoriatic arthritis which meant that I was taking a lot of time off work for hospital appointments and physiotherapy. I thought this would be the end of my dream to qualify as a solicitor.
Luckily the firm recognised my disabilities and put in place suitable adaptations and allowed time off for my treatment. I was even luckier that they recognised my passion and commitment to the legal profession and offered me a training contract. I was now on the track to qualifying as a solicitor.
I have been working in social welfare law since 2006. I have met countless people who, like me, suffer with a disability so I can honestly empathise with their situation. Some days are better than others but there are days when it is very hard to even get out of bed. However, I am grateful that I can still manage to provide advice and help to those who really need it.
As a working parent, another difficultly is managing work-life balance. I feel a tremendous amount of guilt when I have to work long hours, meaning I spend less time with my 7-year-old helping him with his school work or taking him to swimming lessons. I feel guilty that it is my other half who is responsible for most of the school runs and that by year 2 I don’t really know the other parents in the playground. I do try to spend as much time as possible with him, but these competing pressures add to an already stressful and demanding role, though hybrid working has gone some way towards redressing the balance.
I am thankful to the firm who not only helped me when my health started to deteriorate but recognised my commitment to this area of law. I am thankful to all my colleagues, past and present for helping me when I needed their physical and emotional support. Without all this support, I’m not sure I would have been able to get to the position that I am in today. Because of all these issues, I have become more resilient and stronger as a leader. However, not forgetting that it is the personal touches that help build a big and strong team.
This is why I am passionate about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion issues. I sit on the EDI committees at both the Liverpool Law Society and the Law Centres Network. I sincerely want there to be a change in the way these issues are managed within the sector.
If you feel that you are at a disadvantage in society, I would encourage you to contact us when job vacancies are advertised. If you are simply looking for some work experience in the legal sector, why not consider volunteering with us?