Finding your dream career: 'If you really want it, keep going for it.'
Daniel Holt is 30. He has an undergraduate and master’s degree in Law and Human Rights Law, and is Chair of the Association of Disabled Lawyers. He is determined to become a barrister and says he won’t let "barriers, negative attitudes and poor practices" stop him.
Following my dream
Daniel always wanted to become a barrister, in spite of some people telling him it wouldn’t be possible. He says: “I am very strong and determined.
“I have cerebral palsy. It varies with each individual but in my case I use a wheelchair, I have a slight speech impairment and my movement is restricted. I moved to London from Manchester when I was 20 and went to Queen Mary University of London to do a Law degree.”
Barristers in the UK usually represent clients in courtrooms and can also help with things like written legal advice.
I wanted to fit in – but it’s important to stand out
Daniel continues: “When I started at Queen Mary, I didn’t want to get involved in anything disability-orientated because I wanted to separate myself from my career. But then some students were creating a new disability-focused society, and they offered me a role as campaigns officer.”
We often disregard what makes us different because we want to fit in with everyone else.
At first, Daniel said no but he did eventually join and subsequently became Chair of the organisation. Daniel was instrumental in the creation of an equality and diversity policy, and improving accessibility on campus. This helped him learn how to advocate on behalf of disabled people.
He says: “We often disregard what makes us different because we want to fit in with everyone else. That’s important, but it’s also important to embrace who you are and the community of which you are part.”
Campaigning for greater equality and access
Daniel wanted to continue the work he’d started on campus in the courtrooms: “Law is a career that values old buildings. We often end up working in old buildings and courtrooms, but it’s extremely difficult to get into them. In my situation, being a wheelchair user, I’ve never been in a courtroom where I will be able to get to where a barrister normally goes.”
I apply disability law every day in my own world.
To try and bring about positive change, Daniel founded the Association of Disabled Lawyers. The organisation aims to raise the profile of lawyers with physical and mental health conditions, and campaigns for more inclusive and supportive legal professions: “We are being more vocal about who we are, why we do what we do and why it’s important that we are in the legal profession.”
Inspiring other young people
Daniel is also studying for his Bar qualification on the Bar Professional Training Course (now known as Bar courses). All lawyers must pass these exams if they want to become a barrister. Alongside this, Daniel has provided free legal representation and advice to clients via several voluntary organisations.
He adds: “A lot of people assume if you are disabled or you become disabled that you’re not able to fulfil the demands of the legal profession. There’s a lot of emphasis on people working long hours, which can be an obstacle. But there are different options. Nobody wants to be a lawyer because it’s an easy career. We all know what we’re going in for.”
Daniel has now accepted an offer of pupillage, which is the practical training you have to do to become a barrister. He says: “It is so surreal to get pupillage after working so hard for so long, but it is well worth it.”
There are disabled lawyers out there who do a good job… It’s important for young, disabled people to know that.
Daniel’s message to other young, disabled people: he would do it all again in a heartbeat! “I got told it wouldn’t be possible, but now people don’t say that about me. People who teach me, who work with me and my clients all recognise I am capable. If you really want it, keep going for it.”
Find out more about Daniel and his journey to becoming a barrister by reading his job profile