Homeless at 16, qualified solicitor at 28
Keiley Ann Broadhead was homeless at 16 and lived in a hostel during her A-Levels. 12 years later, she is a qualified and award-winning in-house solicitor. She explains how the Law Society's Diversity Access Scheme helped her achieve her dream
After surviving homelessness at age 16, living in a hostel during my A-Level studies and financially supporting myself throughout my law degree, I didn’t think there were many obstacles that would stop me from fulfilling my career dreams of becoming a solicitor. That was until I was faced with the reality of the LPC fees.
With no family support and increasing housing and living costs, plus a never rising wage from my part-time jobs, it was a tough blow to realise that, after all my hard work to achieve a 2:1 law degree, my journey would have to stop there. The whole system seemed so unfair.
I had strived to pursue a career in law not only to work my way out of the desperate circumstances I had found myself in, but also so I could help other young people suffering similar difficulties. But my academic ability, passion and determination didn't add up to the cold, hard cash needed to cover the LPC.
Applying for the Diversity Access Scheme
That was when I heard about the Law Society's Diversity Access Scheme (DAS), which offers funding for the LPC for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It was my last hope to enable me to achieve my dream.
Applying to DAS was a nerve-wracking experience. Never had I completed an application with so much riding on it: my career, aspirations and future all rolled into one application! But receiving my invite to interview sent my nerves into the stratosphere!
The thought of being interviewed by a panel of highly esteemed professionals really was daunting, but preparing for it helped me focus my thinking and made me even more determined to pursue my dream. Then I received the fateful call from the Law Society telling me I had been successful! I remember it like it was yesterday. For a moment, I lost my composure and forgot I was speaking with the Law Society and asked "are you joking?". Thankfully I was told they most definitely weren’t. Remembering that call still makes me smile today.
How the scheme helped me
DAS recognised my achievements and believed in my capabilities, not only to be an excellent solicitor, but also a solicitor of diversity, with experiences which would enable me to bring something different to the profession.
By funding my LPC fees, DAS both gave me their backing and a platform to celebrate diversity. Rather than trying to mask or hide away from my past, I learnt to be proud of my humble beginnings, and I developed the confidence to promote diversity in the legal profession.
What I did next
When I was homeless, Street Legal, the young person’s homelessness charity, fought for my legal rights. It was the charity's legal advisor who inspired me to keep studying and not to give up on my career goals. I had always said to her that one day I would come back and work with her, and that's exactly what I did during my LPC studies. With my law degree, some practice skills and her supervision, I was able to help other young people just like me to break free from the terrors of homelessness.
I then went on to work for the local authority where I grew up, and which housed me in my hour of need. I choose to work with young offenders, many of whom were experiencing the same risk factors I had as a young person, but who, unlike me, had been tempted down the path of criminality and needed support to increase their positive factors and make better choices for their future.
Working with and helping these young people was an amazing experience. It helped me both professionally, by widening my outlook beyond the academics of the law, and personally, by offering me an opportunity to in some way pay back for all the help I was given when I was young.
However, in all of this, I hadn’t put my career dreams to the side, so I transferred to that same local authority’s legal team where, after building my competences as a legal officer, I secured a training contract. As for many trainees, my training contract was both testing and enlightening, and fundamentally shaped me as a solicitor. My efforts as a trainee were acknowledged by the Lawyers in Local Government awarding me their Junior Lawyer of the Year 2015. This accolade was and remains an honour, and springboarded me to the next and current chapter of my career.
Today, I am an in-house solicitor with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). ACCA is a global body and holds the same values in diversity as I do: it aims to broaden career opportunities in accountancy for all, through qualifications. I provide commercial, risk-based legal advice to help them achieve this goal. ACCA has given me the opportunity to increase my business acumen while still keeping my focus on diversity.
And for the cherry on top, my most recent recognition was at the Law Society’s Excellence Awards 2016, where I was highly commended in the Junior Lawyer category! This recognition inspires me to keep on pushing, keep on achieving, and in all of it, to keep flying the flag for diversity, not only in the legal profession, but also in life.
Here’s to this year’s DAS hopefuls, I wish you all the luck in your future career.
The Law Society's Diversity Access Scheme aims to increase social diversity in the legal profession by supporting promising entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who face exceptional obstacles to qualification. If you don’t have the financial means to pay for your LPC, DAS might be able to help.