31 October 2023

This year black history month focuses on the contributions of black women and celebrates their achievements. We asked Sandra Mapara, an associate in our Competition team to share her career journey and tips for success.

How did you become a solicitor?

I studied Law with International Relations at the University of Surrey. This included a placement year in my third year and I spent half of that year working at Guildford Borough Council and the other half in the Commercial Litigation department of a high street London law firm. After graduating in 2014, I then completed a Masters degree in Competition Law at Kings College London. During that year I applied and secured summer vacation schemes, one of which was at Burges Salmon. I spent a week with the Commercial team and another week in the Corporate team. I really enjoyed the vacation scheme and breadth of matters and deals I was exposed to. I found people at the firm very friendly, professional, and approachable which made it an easy decision for me to accept a training contract offer at the firm. After completing my training contract, I qualified into the Competition team in 2018. I work on a range of competition law matters including advising clients on merger control, foreign investment, antitrust investigations, advisory and competition compliance.

Have you had a mentor throughout your career, is there anyone who inspired you?

I have had different mentors at various stages of my career. Starting out in law, I found it very difficult to find role models and mentors that were from an ethnic minority background or had the same background as myself. However, I soon realised there were many people I could learn and take inspiration from despite the differences we had. Some of those people were supervisors that I had during my training contract that were instrumental in helping me navigate my career journey (and they may not have known at the time!). Others were black female partners from other law firms that I came across at various conferences and networking events. Most recently, I was mentee on the W@Competition programme which pairs female competition lawyers with mentors who work in the same field. I had a great mentor who helped me navigate a transitional point in my career.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to embark on a career in law?

If you knock on doors and they don’t open - reflect, adjust and knock again. Law can be a very competitive industry to get into so you have to be resilient!

You helped set up the firms BCultured network, what are your highlights from this year?

Shortly after qualifying, I was involved in helping to set up BCultured, the firm’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employee network. The network was officially launched in 2019 and the purpose of the network is to promote diversity and inclusion for people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and support the creation of a working environment and culture where people from such backgrounds feel respected and valued. I sit on the network’s Management team and also co-chair the Engagement team which is responsible for the network’s internal and external engagement. We have organised a range of events since the network was launched and progressed some key recruitment and progression initiatives.

Some of the highlights from this year include:

  • Chinese New Year - we arranged a Chinese themed pop-up menu in our in house restaurant, Glassworks and a themed quiz with Amazon voucher prizes to celebrate Chinese New Year. We also arranged dinner at a local Chinese restaurant for our members.
  • Windrush Day - we marked Windrush Day with a firmwide talk from an external speaker.
  • Ramadan and Eid - we marked Ramadan with a firmwide ‘Fast for a Day’ event and raised money for 91 Ways to Build a Global City. We also celebrated Eid with a lunch for our members and arranged an Eid themed pop-up menu in Glassworks and cupcakes.
  • Black History Month - we have arranged an African and Caribbean themed pop-up menu in Glassworks, cupcakes (in our Bristol and Edinburgh offices) and a firmwide talk on Law and Colonialism by an external speaker.
  • Recruitment and progression - we have also progressed some recruitment and progression initiatives, including taking part in the University of Bristol’s Diversity Mentoring Scheme and helping to roll out the firm’s Reverse Mentoring Scheme (focusing on ethnic diversity) which is in its third year.

The network brings together diverse people from different departments and teams across the firm. I really enjoy getting to know people from other parts of the firm, being part of the network and helping to progress its objectives.

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