‘Ona Kan O Woja’ - not only one route leads to the market: my path into law
I was born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa, and for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a lawyer.
I moved to the United Kingdom in my teenage years and attended university in London. I went on to take the Legal Practice Course and a Masters in Law at the University of Huddersfield. I successfully gained a training contract and qualified in 2009.
It all sounds pretty straightforward, right? Wrong! Things were not as smooth as they sound and I faced a tremendous amount of challenges to get to where I am today.
I rang every university to accept me
Finishing my A levels with lower grades than I was predicted set my heart in turmoil. I thought this was it for my rather straightforward plan of getting my grades and going straight to university to study law. But I was not going to give up, and successfully gained a place through clearing to undertake the law degree. I scoured through every newspaper and rang every university to find one that would accept me to pursue my career and I was lucky enough that I did.
I worked so hard on my degree and completed it successfully. I had to work part-time whilst studying too and juggling it all was not without its difficulties.
After my degree, I took a year out to work full-time in London as a website assistant and raise some much needed funds to study the Legal Practice Course. With those funds, the support of my family and Local Authority, I was able to do so, completing this in 2006.
Training contract, where art thou?
Now you would think that I had already faced enough challenges but life keeps bringing up those walls and it was for me to knock them down. After the legal practice course, there was still no training contract for me. Imagine this! I had been applying since the penultimate year of my degree, to put this into context, I had been applying essentially for three years with no response at all from some firms or my applications were not successful.
I tried to do as much work experience as I could but this was also few and far between so I attended my local courts and tribunals to sit in the public gallery. I watched barristers and solicitors at work and then I would politely ask to speak to them afterwards, telling them my passion and asking if I could shadow them. The people I met motivated me and made me understand that I should not give up even though they were not in the position to offer me any work experience.
One of the people I met encouraged me to continue to send my CV to a contact of his, to update this person on my Legal Practice Course grades and keep the line of communication open. Although the firm did not have a training contract at the time and it was not a city firm like I always dreamed I would work for, I was offered a paralegal position for 3 months which I gratefully accepted.
A paralegal position?
Those 3 months was not taken light-heartedly. I worked so hard, showed my commitment and my passion. I showed how much I wanted this, not needed it but WANTED it and this shone through. I was offered a training contract after those three months and I have not looked back since.
Although many challenges still lie ahead and I continue to work hard to prove myself and to show that this did not happen by accident, I have learnt many life lessons on this journey of mine. The major one is never to give up and also to accept that our plan for ourselves may not necessarily pan out the way we want so rather than complaining about why things are not working out, figure out a road that will lead you in other directions to get to your destination.
In my traditional language of Yoruba, there is a saying that I love: 'Ona Kan O Woja' and it is that ‘not only one route leads to the market’ which essentially stresses that there are many possible means via which one can achieve one’s goals. So be it gaining a training contract or pupillage, continue to be your authentic self and work towards your dreams and goals.
You have to understand that the law is not just for people who got A*s and attended Oxford/Cambridge or a Russell group university, it is also for you with a non-traditional background, with no one in your family who studied law, with no connections to the legal profession and if you believe it, you can achieve it.
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