Adele Edwin-Lamerton, social mobility ambassador for the Law Society, writes about her path into the law.
I took a scenic route into law, even though aged 13 I had decided I wanted to be a lawyer, and thought criminal law was what I wanted to practise. I don't know where this came from. I wasn't a fan of the legal dramas that were on TV at the time, and though I had seen LA Law I was under no illusion that it was just like your average English law firm on the local high street.
I got reasonably decent GCSE grades and launched on to my A levels with a fair amount of optimism.
With hindsight, choosing French was a mistake, as the college cancelled the full-time sessions due to lack of interest and moved all of the students on to the part-time adult course, which was run in the evenings. That, paired with the chaotic and disruptive life I was living at home, put paid to any polyglot intentions I may have had and cost me half an A level (in those days you were awarded 10 UCAS points rather than 100 and the A level course was not based on modular study).
I missed out on a place at King's College and accepted a place at the University of Westminster instead. Only once I began my law degree did I learn that I was at a former polytechnic and thus not at a 'good' university. I also came across the notion of 'Russell Group' universities for the first time, and not in a positive way.
Still, I enjoyed studying law and gained a 2:1. A gap year wasn't an option so I proceeded straight on to post-graduate study.
I also began working as a paralegal in a firm, though it was small, incredibly busy and not entirely focused on providing training and support. A particular low point was being sent to Belmarsh Prison alone to take a statement from an inmate.
I definitely went off criminal law after that! After six months I had reached my limit and I quit the firm and my course. I thought that was the end of my legal aspirations and was convinced that I was not good enough to be a lawyer.
Jobs at LexisNexis Butterworths and Sweet & Maxwell followed. When I applied to join Sweet & Maxwell it was explained that, strictly speaking, the role required a legal qualification, but because of my unique experience they gave me the job anyway, and I was lucky enough to be partially sponsored throughout my part-time study of the LPC between 2007 and 2009.
Returning to the study of law once again gave me the 'bug', even though I had spent several years away from it.
This time around things were so much calmer; I had a steady home life, a desk, and a laptop. I gained a distinction. Still I wasn't quite ready to face my fears and seek qualification and it wasn't until 2011 that I secured my training contract.
The Ambassador's project is hugely important and I am very proud to be a part of it. When I heard about it, I looked at it as a chance to embrace what I had been through and create something positive from it.
Throughout my journey into law I was always hugely conscious of what I didn't have: 10 or more A* grades at GCSE, 300 UCAS points, a degree from a red brick university, various mooting competition titles and team captaincies under my belt from my days at university. I carried this around with me like a weight and never once stopped to think that anyone would see my background as a plausible explanation for why I didn't have those things.
Becoming an Ambassador has changed my perspective and I hope that anyone facing similar challenges can find inspiration in my experiences.
Find out more about the Law Society's Solicitors for Social Mobility scheme
Find out more about Adele and watch her video
Read about the Law Society Gazette's social mobility roundtable