Experience: 3 years PQE
Role: In-house solicitor, licensing and regulatory
'I am proud to be a Yorkshire woman. I’ve never tried to hide my roots and feel that it is important to be a proud northerner working as a lawyer in the south. I am a complete tea addict, it has helped me through many highs and lows in my legal career.'
I came from a single-parent family which relied on the benefit system. It was difficult being the one who wanted to achieve more, and being determined to use education to get there. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to for advice or guidance. I was the first in my family to get good GCSEs, never mind A-levels and a degree. My secondary school was failing and at the very bottom in the England and Wales league table. The year I sat my GCSEs only 31 children achieved the national average of 5 or more A* - C grades, which was an 800% increase on the previous year’s pass rate.
I started working aged 13 with a paper round and regular babysitting job to pay for things like text books and school trips. At school there were some amazing teachers who recognised my desire to learn. It was their guidance and assistance which helped me stay on track. They were invaluable in helping me to access various funding sources such as an education maintenance allowance and local bursaries. This meant that, with the help of a part-time job, I was able to attend college and then university, which I juggled with three part-time jobs.
During my final year of university I was injured at work and this seriously comprised my final year exams. As a result, I gained a 2.2 classification rather than the 2.1 I had been on track for. I was unable to defer exams as I couldn’t afford to extend my education and even had to access emergency hardship funding to complete the course. Although I have encountered various people who have been quite critical of 2.2 degrees, I could not be more proud of the effort and commitment that my degree symbolises.
I realised at an early stage that the conventional qualification route to becoming a solicitor was not for me as I did not have the financial support. Post-graduation I worked hard to obtain a position as a paralegal in private practice. I was in the process of applying to study the LPC part-time when the financial crash meant I was made redundant at 22.
My neighbour, a legal advisor, told me about a scheme that had just started in the court service which funded people through the LPC to become trainee legal advisors. I strategically applied for vacancies and became a court administration officer. After a very tough application process I was successful in obtaining a place on the highly competitive scheme.
I joined an in-house legal team as a trainee, moving 300 miles for the role, and qualified as a solicitor at the age of 29. I am part of many diversity segments: socio-economic, ethnic, gender and sexuality. As a later entrant to the profession I will always feel that bit behind and worry that I may never achieve my full professional potential. The main issue I faced was the lack of support and role models, a programme like this would have been a lifeline for me.
I would advise anyone who is thinking of a career in law to never give up, to always think outside the box, to find a support network and to always be true to themselves. No matter how far you stray from the ‘normal’ path, the end result is the same and is always one to be proud of.
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