Mihail Florin Gavrila
Experience: 6 years PQE
Firm: Jung & Co Solicitors
Role: Consultant solicitor, criminal defence
'My mother still lives in Romania and has written to me every month for the last 21 years. Her letters kept me on the right path. Whenever I need inspiration or guidance, I take a moment and read one of her letters.'
I grew up in a small town in Romania where I completed the first year of my law degree before moving to the UK in 1995. I was young, ambitious and had big dreams, but I soon realised that not having any family and friends around and having to work from day one was going to be the biggest challenge of my life.
I arrived in the UK with £195 in my pocket, using £190 to buy a car so I could start work as a pizza delivery driver. I was pleased I had £5 left over. I had many jobs to stay afloat in those first few years, working at a nursing home as a care worker, as a mini cab driver, a waiter, a gardener and a cleaner.
I worked hard at these jobs for four years before realising my dreams of becoming a solicitor were slipping away. I decided to go back to university in Romania to finish my degree, doing it through open learning. I flew back twice a year for exams and graduated in 2004. Since then I have qualified as a solicitor in Romania, the Republic of Ireland and England and Wales.
I've been called an illegal immigrant many times, starting first in the workplace when I arrived in the UK. I had sleepless nights over it and although it was painful, I tried to laugh it off. I didn't show any signs of weakness, wanting to gain the respect of my colleagues and be accepted. I thought if I challenged them my chances of this happening would diminish. I just reminded myself that the important thing was to continue to support myself, pay my bills and move forward.
Neither of my parents were solicitors. They divorced when I was a baby and I didn't meet my father until I was eight years old. My sister and mother mean the world to me. I always wanted to make something of my life, to make my family proud and for my children to look up to me. I had such a desire to do well and show other people it can be done.
I love working with people. I practice with a community based firm, and many of our clients are from the Romanian and Indian communities in the local area. I work predominantly in criminal defence. I've worked with range of offences and offenders, from shop lifting to murder. It's exciting, challenging and rewarding.
Every Monday my firm runs a free legal advice session. It feels like a huge achievement to advise people who are so lost within the system, be able to see them smile and shake your hand when you help them with their issues.
Life’s not always been easy. Both my children have serious health issues, but my wife and I have turned all the negativity into positivity through loving and supporting one another. My children have given me the strength to be where I am today.
Joining the profession may seem like an impossible task, but don't lose focus on what you want to achieve. Find your inner power, decide what you want to do and move forward.
If I've done it, you can do it too.
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