Read my story to find out
- The difficult decisions I had to make at school in order to give myself the best chance of completing my education.
- The financial struggles I faced at university.
- How I found a way to fund my Legal Practice Course (LPC) at a time when banks had withdrawn their professional career development loans.
Position: trainee solicitor
Firm: Pinsent Masons
My initial passion for the law arose from a work placement I undertook at a law firm while at secondary school. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the firm and the type of work I was involved in, and it inspired me to want to do a law degree.
I knew that to do law I had to be focused and get good grades. However, I was easily distracted at school and got into trouble - mainly for not applying myself, not concentrating during classes and not devoting enough time to studying.
'I knew that to do law I had to be focused and get good grades. However, I was easily distracted at school and got into trouble.'
My family supported me and encouraged me to work harder in the run up to my exams and, as a result, I performed extremely well on my GCSEs. I realised that if I wanted to carry on excelling, I had to make some long term changes to my life. I knew I needed to push myself harder, and to do that I had to distance myself from friends who had been a bad influence during school. On GCSE results day I made the decision to leave my confirmed and unconditional sixth form place at my secondary school and, instead, make a new start at another school to do my A-levels. My new school was over an hour's drive away from home but, although the travel was tiring, it was certainly one of the best decisions I ever made.
I performed well on my A-levels and subsequently went on to undertake my law degree at a Russell Group university. I was the first person from my immediate family to attend university and with this came some inherent and understandable difficulties, such as not having someone to turn to for advice.
I started struggling with severe financial difficulties within my first few months at university and this continued throughout my studies. The loans and grants I received were not enough to cover the cost of my accommodation, let alone the cost of travel, books, and other essentials. I relied heavily on my father, the sole income earner in my family, to help me out. He was earning around £18,000 a year at the time and was already supporting five other dependents. Nevertheless, with some difficulty, he managed to help me with my rent and living costs by taking out loans and credit cards. During summer breaks, I would come back home and work to save up whatever money I could to help cover the costs for the next university term.
After university, I wanted to progress my legal career ambitions by taking the LPC, but with the fees costing between £10,000 and £15,000, I had absolutely no personal means to fund this next stage of my legal education. I approached banks to see if I could get a loan, but at the height of the credit crunch, most had withdrawn their career development loan facilities.
'Through the Law Society's invaluable support, I was able to fund the LPC and start another step in my legal career journey.'
As a final resort, my father said he would consider remortgaging the family home to finance my LPC studies. Fortunately, I came across the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme and was successful in my application for a full LPC scholarship. Through the Law Society’s invaluable support, I was able to fund the LPC and start another step in my legal career journey.
I am wholly grateful for the consideration and potential the Law Society saw in me - without it, it is unlikely I could have become a solicitor. I continued to work hard at law school and was offered a training contract at a leading international law firm.
My tips for anyone considering a career in law
1. Do your research about the various routes into law and read up on the types of law. There's more to law than crime and corporate work, but you'd never know this based on the legal TV dramas!
2. Demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest. Attend university events and networking opportunities offered by firms. You'll meet solicitors and legal recruiters who can advise you on work experience placements, the training contract application process and answer other queries you may have. It's also a great opportunity for you to make invaluable connections.
3. Make the most of university and work as hard as possible, but remember a strong work ethic is a given. Law firms don't expect candidates to live in the library - they expect you to have a life outside of law. Try volunteering with a charity, join a sports team or a university society - do something valuable with your time that you enjoy.
Do you have a question for Bilal?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line 'Bilal'.Download a transcript of the interview (PDF 102kb)