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My experience on the Ethnic Minority Programme

06 November 2023

Julee Lee, a Trainee Solicitor at DWF, reflects on her experience on the Ethnic Minority Programme and securing a training contract.

I first discovered that DWF offered an Ethnic Minority Access Programme at the London Open Day last year. Intrigued by the firm's operations as a legal business, and drawn to the Programme's mentoring opportunity, I decided to apply right away.

What I learned 

Throughout the Programme, DWF hosted a monthly skills session leading up to the vacation scheme. Each session focused on a separate professional skill. We received talks from the firm's Learning and Development trainers on how to optimise personal effectiveness, communicate and build one's own personal brand. I found these sessions to be super helpful in preparing for the vacation scheme, as I was able to apply the skills in practice, which I think contributed positively to my performance during the scheme. The Programme is therefore well structured to maximise your potential.

I also gained in-depth knowledge about the positive impact that the firm's independent charity, DWF Foundation, has on local communities. Having volunteered frequently in the past, knowing that I could continue those efforts together with colleagues across the firm was an exciting prospect for me.


At the start of the Programme, I was assigned a mentor – Finance Litigation associate, Limara Gay. I was given her contact details, and then it was up to me to introduce myself to her and build a rapport. From breaking the ice to finding common ground and keeping up correspondence, I thought this was a fantastic way to practice building professional relationships. Through emails, online and in-person meetings, I also used the advantage of a mentor to extract as much information as I could about the legal profession. 

My own mentor, Limara, always had a positive word to say and was extremely helpful in answering all sorts of questions I asked. I think the mentoring aspect of the Programme is a testament to DWF's commitment towards being better together and helping aspiring lawyers develop positively. 

What did a day on the vacation scheme look like?

I would arrive at the office by 8 am and first review my calendar. Once I received instructions from my supervisor and trainee buddy, I would then plan for the day and week ahead. This was a great way for me to practice prioritising tasks effectively – an essential skill required of a trainee solicitor. 

Throughout the day, I would manage my workload between completing tasks and getting actively involved in the team, for example by attending meetings with partners. I was very fortunate in that I also visited the Royal Courts of Justice during my week with the Professional Indemnity team. On some days, I attended talks on the firm's key practice areas, such as insurance, which enabled me to further understand the work that DWF is involved in. Each day was exciting because it was never the same.

At the end of the day, I would make sure to check back in with my trainee buddy or supervisor to discuss my progress with the tasks, and to ask any questions I had. I felt consistently supported by the team around me. 

DWF also hosted socials throughout the scheme, which was a great way to speak to people from across the firm and learn about each of their areas of expertise. One of the socials involved pizza-making with the trainees, which was a lot of fun! Some trainees who at the time were on secondment also joined, and it was interesting to hear the variety of options available for secondments at DWF.

The DWF Values

When applying for training contracts, sometimes you can forget that it's not only the firm that has to make a decision, but you also. Can you be yourself when interacting with people at the firm? Do you feel supported in a way that you are comfortable to ask questions, and ask for help? It was very clear to me throughout my experience that my answer to these questions was, yes absolutely. 

That is because the DWF values – which emphasise collaboration, excellence and trust – underpin the inclusive attitude and behaviours of the individuals that make up the business. I saw these values in every interaction I had, and this ultimately convinced me that DWF was the firm for me. The Programme was therefore a useful way to experience first-hand the life and culture here at DWF. 

Making the most of the experience

It isn't easy to get that first foot through the door of the legal sphere. As someone who previously had no connections at all in the industry, I cannot overstate the importance of building those interactions and relationships, and the Programme is a fantastic opportunity to do just that. It enabled me to access invaluable knowledge and insights into the firm from trainees, all the way up to the most senior lawyers.

It's also important to remember that fellow candidates may one day be your colleagues and clients. Throughout the duration of the Programme, you become very close the people joining you on it. My advice would be to lean on and learn from each other – together, you will get the most out of the experience and see incredible personal growth. That is how I walked away not only with a training contract, but also invaluable professional relationships that I will foster throughout my legal career.

Find out more about the programme here

Further Reading