Hear from Vaibhav Adlakha, Trainee at Reed Smith
My association with MyKindaFuture is because of our common goals of facilitating opportunities for others to fulfil their potential and ambitions. My mission has always been to pave the way for people with disabilities and open their horizon to the world of possibilities. My belief is that if I am able to succeed in my profession, it will make it easier for others with disabilities to do so too. In my view, this is what MKF is also striving to achieve by creating opportunities and providing guidance. I look forward to working with them and achieving this objective.
My name is Vaibhav Adlakha. I am currently a trainee in the competition department at Reed Smith. I am approaching qualification in August 2018 - the culmination of a long journey and the fulfilment of a dream. I have had cerebral palsy since birth, due to which I have restricted mobility in my arms and legs and use a wheelchair. I also have visual-motor perception difficulties, which impacts my sense of direction and perception of figures. Having a disability since birth is an advantage, in that, it becomes part of you and you learn to grow with it along with any aspirations. You learn to adapt those aspirations if necessary, as often you need to recalibrate. But the question is, what aspirations can one have in such a situation and, if one dares to have ambitions, will they ever be achieved?
My journey from disability to ability has not been an easy one. Born in India, I quickly learnt about the mental and physical challenges I would have to face just to be able to dare to dream, let alone go about achieving those dreams. Not only would I have to convince others of my ability at various stages, but also myself, since doubts often manifested themselves as to how far I could go. As you reach an objective, new aspirations take shape along with new barriers. I soon realised the importance of having no fear, greater self-confidence, as well as effective communication in order to dispel preconceived notions as well as to create new ones. I also realised that challenges are what help you grow and mature, and it is how you deal with them that allows you to extend your boundaries.
My move to the Netherlands from India opened new possibilities and, at the same time, brought new challenges. Participating in the Model United Nations and Model International Court of Justice gave direction to my passion for law. After finishing my schooling at the American School of The Hague in 2004, I completed my university studies at Warwick University (2007) and BPP Law School (2008) in the UK. In 2010, I also completed an Advanced Masters in Air and Space Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. The LL.B. and LPC qualifications I earned further nurtured my aspirations to become a Lawyer and succeed in the legal profession. However, this was also the time of my greatest challenge, as entering the legal profession and securing a training contract proved to be a very difficult proposition. Because of my strong application and academic record, I was invited by a large number of law firms for interviews, but without success.
I did not know how to deal with having a disability in the workplace and felt that it was something that needed to be hidden to give me a chance in this competitive environment. I did not know which companies to approach nor how and when to disclose my disability. I always thought that even asking for adjustments would put me at a disadvantage, so I tried to ask for minimal adjustments. I felt continual pressure to perform well in order to overcompensate for my disability. At each interview I tried to change myself and adapt to what the firms wanted or what I thought the firms would want. I did not realise the significance of it being a two-way process and that I needed to find a firm that would be able to adapt to my needs and fulfil my professional ambitions.
Looking for a new beginning, I came back to the Netherlands in 2008. From 2010-2014, I worked with the Netherlands Competition Authorities, Unilever, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, HiiL Innovating Justice and Global Human Rights Defence. These experiences helped me to deal with my limitations. In August 2014, I applied via EmployAbility for a training contract at Reed Smith.
At Reed Smith, I went into the interview without any expectations. During the whole process I found Reed Smith to be a firm that focused on helping the candidate showcase their ability. They were open and there was no doubt in my mind that the focus was on how the firm may be able to support and adapt to my needs. After selection, Reed Smith played a vital role in my development and provided support at every stage of my training contract, whether this required physical or mental adjustments. The firm worked with me to ensure that all my special requirements, like a personal assistant and necessary software, were taken care of. At every stage HR and the department helped and guided me so that I could give my best performance. Reed Smith has been that firm which has supported me in my journey from disability to ability.
My path in life has been full of trials and tribulations, but it has also given me the confidence to never fear failure and continue to prove to people even today that having a disability does not inhibit you. I’m not saying that I have always been successful in this task, as I too have faced difficulties and obstacles and still do today – and probably will always. But, what I have learnt from my experiences is that it is important to have a good support system around you to keep your spirits high. It is also important for yourself to remain upbeat and positive about what you can achieve. I strongly believe that life is a journey and it is best to enjoy the adventure despite the ups and downs, challenges or disappointments. One must always keep learning and developing because self-belief will help to face any challenge that may come along the way. As Theodore Roosevelt once said…
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”