Careers

Why I became a social mobility ambassador

Adele Edwin-Lamerton, social mobility ambassador for the Law Society, writes about her path into the law.

Hurldes

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.