Experience: 1 year PQE
Specialism: Employment law and disputes
Firm: JFH Law
I got to where I wanted with nothing but hard work. I had a difficult childhood and had no support from my parents. I didn't have a desk or computer and moved six times while studying for my degree. I'm not the typical 'tick box' training contract applicant, but I am now a solicitor.
I like reading, solving problems and arguing my case. I knew that I wanted to become a lawyer but I didn't have a clue where to start.
My parents didn't have a happy relationship and I don't have many good childhood memories. I was never neglected, but my home was not a pleasant place to be. My dad unfortunately was a lot like my mum's dad; violent and unfaithful. By the time I was seven my parents separated for good.
My mum found being a single parent very difficult and suffered from severe depression. She would tell me all about her money worries and other things I was too young to understand or help with.
It meant I grew up constantly anxious and very worried about the strain I put on her. We lived in local authority housing and other than my dad buying my clothes, existed solely on state benefits.
By the time I reached secondary school my mother's mental health was getting worse. She flew into rages and was given medication which she often failed to take. My attendance at school suffered as a result. Social services provided some help but because mum was still functioning and doing the shopping and cooking, they left us to it.
At 17 my mother’s illness was making her prone to rages and she kicked me out. I went to live at my dad's house and was able to focus on my studies and improve my attendance at school.
I had already been told I was unlikely to achieve my predicted A grades because of my poor attendance, as a result of juggling my mother's needs and my part time job at a supermarket. Neither of my parents had attended school past GCSE level.
My mum wasn't supportive of my studying. My dad would tell me I should go to university but wouldn’t actually do anything to help me get there. I ended up with an A in sociology, an A in English literature and a D in AS psychology, which meant I didn't get into my first choice of university.
I moved house six times while I was at university. I didn't have a desk, computer or quiet room in which to study, but I still managed to complete my degree and graduated with a 2:1. I decided to start the Bar Vocational Course part time, with a view to qualify as a barrister. I was working full time as a paralegal during this time and felt completely overwhelmed.
Looking back, I had simply been through too much and was taking on too much, but at the time I was convinced it meant that I wasn't good enough to be a lawyer.
I began to rethink my approach and after taking the time to research my options, I decided I would be more suited to becoming a solicitor. I gained partial sponsorship to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC) part-time so that I could continue to work without feeling snowed under.
This time round I had a desk, computer and a quiet home environment in which to study, and I managed to gain a distinction in my LPC.
I knew that the next step was to apply for training contracts, but I felt disheartened filling in application forms because I couldn't list good A-level grades, a top quality university and the extra-curricular activities the firms required. I thought I didn't fit the mould firms were looking for.
I wished I could write down everything that had happened to me during my studies to explain why I didn't have the time, energy or confidence to participate in moots or debating societies, but there were no spaces for those types of answers, and often I would not complete them as I felt so inadequate.
Eventually, with the help from a good friend and encouragement from my tutors, I made a serious attempt at a training contract application form and was successful. I have been practising law ever since.
Viewed in isolation my achievements aren't that remarkable but, viewed in the context of my background, I have a lot to be proud of.
Keep going, be stubborn and find the right firm for you that values your worth. I hope that by sharing my story I can show aspiring solicitors that with perseverance and hard work you can make it as a solicitor, even if you don't tick all the boxes.
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