'Sometimes I pinch myself' - crown counsel's call for disadvantaged students to pursue law goes viral

South Atlantic-based prosecutor inspires with account of how he defied teacher's advice 'to set sights low'

A lawyer based at one of the world’s most remote courts who told of how he defied a teacher’s advice to set his sights low due to his background has been inundated with thank you messages alongside invitations to give talks to disadvantaged students.

In a LinkedIn post, Ben Brown, crown counsel at the Attorney General’s Chambers on the remote islands of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, explains how he defied a teacher at his secondary school who told him he wasn't university material.

‘I was raised in a council house by a single-parent family, left school with mediocre GCSEs and obtained a 2:1 from an ex-polytechnic university,’ he wrote. 'I’m proud of all these things. Seven years later I'm on a Covid-free tropical island in the job of my dreams, responsible for prosecuting all criminal cases in a British Overseas Territory. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because of how unbelievable it is.'

Just three days after his post went live, it has has already received nearly 18,000 likes and more than 1,000 comments from students, teachers, lawyers and other professionals in support of his advice for young people to ‘never let anyone tell you that you're not good enough’.

He described the response as “brilliant” adding: “I’ve had hundreds of messages from law students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are concerned and worried that their upbringing or state education is a bar from a career in law. It's not - at all - and it's been so nice to offer words of support and encouragement to those budding lawyers.”

He said he was looking forward to taking up offers to speak at several schools and colleges to encourage pupils and students to become lawyers.

Among those responding to his post were lawyers who had shared similar experiences, including Claire Cooke, an associate at Carey Olsen in Guernsey, who advised: ‘Keep your eyes firmly focused on your goal. You will find that there’s more people for you than those that are against you and besides... there’s nothing this Yorkshire lass loves more than proving people wrong!’

John Croft, president and co-founder of Elevate Services, described the post as ‘fabulous’ while Clifford Chance’s head of commercial litigation, Jeremy Kosky, reflected the drive by many top UK law firms to improve socio-economic diversity with the claim that ‘all the things held against you 16 years ago would now be seen as the very best of reasons to encourage you to achieve your dreams’.

Nikki Alderson, a UK-based coach who helps organisations retain women talent, wrote: ‘This is quite literally THE best and most honest/ authentic/ positive/ motivational post I’ve seen on LinkedIn all year Ben Brown.’

LinkedIn expert Simon Marshall, founder of TBD Marketing, said he would expect Brown’s post to gain even more traction over the coming days, given its popularity.

"In one post, he’s done more to destroy some myths about privilege and entitlement than some others achieve in a whole career. His story is personal, authentic, generous and it has clearly resonated… Subtly, he’s also drawn attention to the fact that the law doesn’t have to be all vast atriums and white office furniture, but it can be somewhere hot and warm and Covid free.”

Brown, who is still proud to have a Mansfield (Nottinghamshire) accent, was a solicitor and higher court advocate at Bhatia Best Solicitors in Nottingham before taking up his role at the British Overseas Territory in January this year.

He is responsible for conducting criminal prosecutions before the magistrates’ court, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

Although law firms dominated the Social Mobility Foundation’s 2020 UK Employer Index, which recognises efforts to improve socio economic diversity, the vast majority of graduate recruits to the profession continue to be from Russell Group universities – a grouping of 24 'world-class, research-intensive universities'. 

The next online Global Legal Post Masterclass, Making LinkedIn Work for You and Your Firm, which is taught by Simon Marshall, takes place on 11 May. Click here for more details.

Further reading

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The Global Legal Post timeline: ESG and the law

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