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Routes into Law: CILEX

Growing up, I never had any idea as to what I wanted to be when I was older. My elder cousin once told me that when I was four years old, I told him I wanted to be a Policeman, as I really liked their dogs. It’s safe to say that as I got older, this profession quickly became very unappealing and put thoughts of the future off to the back of my head. I had years to make a decision – so why decide now?

When faced with A-Level options, I picked the subjects I excelled in and had a real interest in: English, History, Media, and Maths. However, I quickly discovered that my love for reading far outweighed my attempts to master trigonometry, exponentials, and logarithms. I quickly swapped Maths for a short business course and got to work. Law was never offered as a subject at my school, so the thought of studying a Law degree had never even entered my head. As my studies progressed, it was extremely clear to me that I wanted to study English at University. After a lot of umming and ahing I finally settled on the English, Media, and Cultural studies at Liverpool John Moores University. In my experience, although my teachers wanted nothing but the best for me, and routed for me every step of the way, no one ever stopped and asked me what I planned to do with an English degree if I were to obtain one. Looking back on this now, that one simple question could have saved me a lot of time- and money!

I stuck to my guns and went off to university in 2014. Throughout my degree, there were definitely more highs than lows, but I struggled to make any real decisions as to what I was to do with my degree in the future. My lecturers encouraged my friends and I to fill out personality tests on Prospects and I spent weeks fielding through the endless list of results in the hopes that I would find the perfect career for me, but nothing ever seemed like the right fit…

Before I knew it, my three years were up, and I graduated in 2017 with a 2:1 classification. Like many 21-year-olds, reality quickly strikes, and I had no choice but to pack up my flat and retreat to my family home. And so began the endless nights of job applications and drafting umpteen versions of my CV all tailored to various sectors and professions in the hopes that I would figure it all out somewhere along the way. I must admit that after a couple of months, my optimism was wavering though I took comfort in the fact that my closest friends where all in a similar boat.

In the summer 2017, a friend of mine informed me that she had obtained a job working for the Civil Service and that she was quickly progressing up the ranks. She encouraged me to check their current vacancies as there was a massive drive on recruitment. I decided I had nothing to lose and made some enquiries. There were hundreds of jobs listed but there was one that really stood out to me. The position was for a Court Usher at Liverpool Crown Court. The opportunity to sit in court hearings and witness real trials was good to pass up on. My application and interview were successful, and I started in February 2018. I loved this job. I enjoyed the theatrics of the proceedings and coming to my own conclusions at the end of a case. I appreciated the position of privilege I was in by having access to all the evidence. I found that I was often coming to my own conclusions in my head following submissions whilst being acutely aware that I had the responsibility over the jury and had to remain completely impartial to ensure I did not sway the verdict one way or another.

As time went one, I got to know the Judges and barristers and met the real people behind the wigs and robes. I was fascinated by their stories and quickly discovered that there wasn’t just one route into law and that you didn’t just have to be from a certain kind of background to be successful. It slowly started to dawn on me that I had a real interest in the law, but was I too late? I had already used three out of four years of funding that Student Finance could offer to me. How was I ever going to make what seemed like a ginormous leap?

In June 2018, I decided that if I was ever going to be given a job in a law firm, without a degree in Law, I would need to gain admin experience, at the very least. In July 2018, I applied for an internal role within the Court for an Administrative Officer in the Listing Office. Here, I was able to work directly with counsel and Judges alike as we attempted to keep trials on track and ensure that court timetables were adhered to, which, for anyone who has ever worked in Criminal Law will know, is near impossible. I soaked up as much information as I could and during my free time, I started to plan my next career move.

In a stroke of luck, another friend (and future colleague) informed me that she worked for Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors and wondered if I had ever thought about a career in law. When I confirmed that I had, she explained that they were currently looking for a Court Clerk in the Family department. This was my chance. I knew that I had to go for it. I prepped as much as I could as I was very aware that there very big holes in both my knowledge and work experience. However, I knew that what I lacked in experience, I knew I could make up for in other areas. I was confident in my interview skills, and I knew that my degree offered a unique skill set that led nicely into the responsibilities of a Clerk. Professional writing, critical appraisal and analysis of evidence and communication were skills that I felt I possessed. I was determined to put in the hard work to improve on my knowledge of family law. After two interviews, almost eight months apart, I finally joined the team in October 2019.

Initially, I started off clerking court hearings and assisting the case handlers with their caseloads. My manager took the time to schedule weekly one-to-one training sessions to ensure that I confidently and comfortably meet with clients and give basic, clear advice. My daily responsibilities were quickly increasing, and I soon settled into my new role. I was keen to attend as many hearings as I could as I felt that watching advocacy was the fastest way to get to grips with both public and private law. Sadly, the world had other ideas and the growing pandemic quickly stopped me in my tracks. I found myself on furlough for a couple of months before I was brought back to help with the growing number of cases coming our way. In April 2020 I had progressed significantly, and I was given conduct of my very own files! I was thrilled! I felt like my hard work was starting to pay off. I dealt exclusively with private law clients from inception to completion. There was no better feeling that knowing that I had truly helped vulnerable clients to obtain protective orders and know that I had made a difference in someone’s life.

Fast forward to 2022 and I now have a case load of 25 clients whilst also assisting our Solicitors with their caseloads too. It’s an incredibly fast paced working environment and no two days are ever the same. Although the nature of the cases can be incredibly distressing, we have such a close-knit team who are all there to support each other and I know that if I am ever stuck, I can turn to all of them to bounce ideas and lean on their experience. Nevertheless, I knew that I wanted to be able to stand on my own two feet and continue to progress.

I felt like my options were limited and there was only one thing I could do – bite the bullet and go back to university. The thought created feelings of dread. It felt impossible to me that I would be able to work and study full time but I could not afford to stop working or reduce my hours. All seemed lost until a colleague of mine mentioned CILEX. I had never heard of this before and quickly started making enquiries with other paralegals who had chosen a different route into Law.

CILEX offers their students the flexibility to maintain employment whilst you learn as it caters around your work schedule. The CPQ is great for anyone who wished to have a change in career at any stage of life because the entry requirements are not dependent on your educational background.

The CPQ is split into three stages: Foundation, Advanced and Professional. Depending on your individual circumstances, the CPQ can be completed within three years! A fraction of the time that it would have taken through university. As of January 2022, I have enrolled onto the new CPQ course with CILEX and the Law Academy- Liverpool. By the end of my training, I hope to have successfully qualified as a Specialist Lawyer in Family law.

I often ask myself – how the end did I end up here? But I have a funny feeling this is exactly where I am supposed to be…

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