I like to believe that a career in law was something that chose me. As a child, I was outspoken and confident and always wanted to stand up for what (I thought) was right. I would end up in the middle of playground arguments that weren’t anything to do with me, because I had an inability to just sit back and watch injustices take place and as I grew up, nothing changed.
I studied very traditional A-Levels after being advised to ‘keep my options open’ before going on to study Law with Philosophy at the University of Liverpool beginning what I naively thought, as so many of us do, would be a smooth road to qualification as a Barrister. I was set on a career at the Bar as I knew that I was destined to be on my feet in a court room and I didn’t want to spend every day at a desk like a Solicitor.
But then came my degree. First year of University was way harder than I ever thought it would be. There were so many core modules to a qualifying Law degree which seemed to share no similar features and I was immediately overwhelmed with the excessive amount of materials I was faced with. It was the first time I had ever felt like I needed to just give up and let it go and after failing one of my modules, not once but TWICE, I was faced with the reality of having to re-sit what had been a draining and exhausting year of study.
Looking back, this was the first hurdle I faced on a very bumpy road to qualification. I had to decide whether to transfer to a different course and give up on an ambition I had my heart set on for so long, or whether to set myself back a year from all the friends I had made and essentially start again. In the words of a very unsupportive lecturer – “Maybe I needed to consider the fact that law just wasn’t for me”. I spent that summer a little bit lost and embarrassed and with absolutely no idea where I was going to be come September and so I decided to spend a few weeks doing work experience anywhere I could to help me decide.
Most memorably, I spent a couple of weeks shadowing Criminal Lawyer, John Weate (RMNJ Solicitors) who is a Solicitor with Higher Rights of Audience. For those of you reading who have no idea what this means, it means that whilst John was qualified to do the job of a solicitor, he also had equal rights to a Barrister to appear before the Higher Courts. In his day-to-day job, he was able to represent his clients at the police station, before appearing to represent them at the Magistrates Court and then for those cases which exceeded the Magistrates jurisdiction, he would then go on to represent them at the Crown Court. And as you can imagine, retaining clients through the entirety of such a stressful process meant that the level of trust he built with the clients he represented was admirable. And it was this short span of time and experience which convinced me that I needed to go back to University and finish what I started. Because that’s exactly where I wanted to be. So I readjusted my outlook and it was the picture of where I was going that motivated me to graduate.
After graduation, I knew that the best experience I could possibly get was in practice and so I chose to study the LPC part time whilst working as a legal assistant before moving on to a paralegal role at the firm I am at today. I obtained a Training Contract after completing an in-house application process and as you can imagine, jumped at the chance of a seat in the Crime team when it arose.
Luckily, I was given the opportunity to complete the Criminal Higher Rights of Audience with the Professional Skills Course and have recently started in my newly qualified role as a Criminal Defence Solicitor in that firm. I now spend every day on my feet in the Magistrates Court defending clients who have found themselves within the Criminal Justice System and training to obtain my Police Station Accreditation. Whilst I definitely have a long way to go before I am confident enough to utilise my Higher Rights in the Crown Court, career goals certainly don’t stop at qualification!
Interviewers often ask “what is your biggest regret?” and for me, the answer would have once been “failing first year at University” and it was something I was embarrassed to speak about. But looking back, what felt like the worst time in the whole world actually shaped me into who I am today. Without that bump in the road, I wouldn’t have learned about becoming a Solicitor Advocate, I probably wouldn’t have been motivated to keep pushing towards a career in law and I certainly wouldn’t have the resilience I have today. A career in law takes patience, drive and determination and whilst us lawyers hate to lose, getting back into the game says a lot more about you than the failure itself.