“You don’t belong here”
My journey into law has not been conventional. Actually, far from it. When I was younger, I was adamant I wanted to be a doctor, a heart surgeon to be specific. I got three offers to study medicine but missed my offer at Manchester Medical School by two marks. I was devastated. As an 18-year-old it literally felt like my world had ended, as A-levels at the time felt like the be all end all. I knew my journey wouldn’t be straightforward and decided I would go down the postgraduate medicine route. In the meantime, I decided to head to the big smoke and completed my undergraduate in Biology at Queen Mary University. Around the same time as graduating, I lost a family friend due to a congenital heart defect. Having a younger sister who was the same age, I couldn’t fathom the loss. There were so many unanswered questions running through my mind and I wanted to understand more. I decided to do a Masters in Cardiovascular Science at University College London.
I was determined I wanted to do paediatric cardiologist and was on a mission to secure my research thesis at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Institute of Child Health. I was competing against qualified doctors with years of clinical experience behind them. Looking back, I don’t know what possessed me but I had this fire in my belly and was doggedly determined that nothing was going to phase me. I met with the Consultant and Professor and managed to persuade them to let me do my thesis with them.
I completed my Masters and obtained distinctions in all but two modules. I applied for medical school again and had been interviewed at University of Aberdeen. My Master’s really blew my mind for two reasons. First, the subject content and secondly, I really learnt a lot about myself. I learnt that my strengths were critically analysing and reviewing literature, formulating evidence-based arguments and presenting them. I thrived when I was presenting and being quizzed by world renowned cardiologists. I was in my element and I loved it. I was at a crossroads at this point. I knew I wanted to work with children but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. My mum suggested looking at Law and I did.
I remember going to an international law firm to do work experience and being very excited about it. The corporate offices and attire was a world away from what I was used to. I remember the Senior Associate I had been allocated looking down at my CV and saying, “You don’t belong here, you belong in a hospital”. I was taken aback. The only words that came out were, “I’m right where I belong”. I don’t know where it came from but it came out. Little did I know, this comment would fuel the doubt that held me back from applying for scholarships at the Inns of Court. Perhaps, he was right, maybe I didn’t belong in the legal field. To this day, this is my biggest regret. I did a mini-pupillage on an international family case and I was hook, line and sinker committed. This was the pivotal moment, I could envision myself being a barrister. Since that day, I’ve not looked back. The transition was challenging. I remember asking my GDL tutor if I could draw a diagram in my contract exam and her looking at me with a bewildered look on her face. Looking back, I now chuckle to myself. I went on to undertake the BPTC and got called to the Bar in 2017.
I stayed in London as a paralegal at Stewarts in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence departments. Stewarts is the UK’s largest litigation only firm and my time there provided me with invaluable experience in conducting litigation. Having a medical sciences background, enabled me to offer a unique perspective on the cases. I would often be asked to research nuanced medical topics and summarise these for the fee-earners. I even identified a potential clinical negligence case that was later pursued. What was becoming apparent rapidly was that my medical sciences background was actually my biggest asset.
Being from the Midlands, I knew I didn’t want to stay in London long term and ultimately wanted to return to the provinces. At this point, I had done two pupillage cycles and had a couple of interviews but hadn’t secured pupillage. It was the summer of 2018 and the opportunity with LPC Law arose. For me it was a no brainer for two reasons. First, it was real life court advocacy and secondly it was for the Northern Circuit. Within a few weeks, I had passed through multiple assessments and was successful. After 9 years, my time in London came to an end and my bags were packed.
My very first hearing funnily enough was in Liverpool at Vernon Street. I just remember the feeling that I was one step closer to my dream goal, being a barrister. Over the course of the next two years, I did a total of 845 hearings ranging from interlocutory applications to contractual, RTA and credit hire small claims. I had a pupillage interview in Manchester back in March 2020 but COVID-19 had other plans. This felt like period of mass uncertainty and it seemed that the application cycle was a write off due to the pandemic. Fast forward to September 2020, I saw Unit Chambers advertising for pupillage. I didn’t even think twice, I just applied. Reading their ethos, what they stood for and where they saw themselves going resonated with me. Although the pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty, one thing was for certain, the legal world wasn’t going to be the same post COVID -19. I had my interview with Unit Chambers and remember to this day getting the call from Lisa offering a pupillage. I was in tears!
Although my journey hasn’t been the most straightforward, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The journey itself has been a lesson and every rejection along the way has been character building. Turning 30 this year, I feel as though my life has just begun and the best is yet to come! I am very lucky in that I have some incredible mentors who have taken me under their wing and am learning from some of the best. My advice to other aspiring barristers would be to believe in yourself and to keep going. You’re in for one crazy journey but buckle up and enjoy the ride!