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Routes into Law: Solicitor to Barrister

I must be honest; it was never a childhood aspiration to become a lawyer. The decision to pursue a legal career didn’t materialise until I was in Year 12. I do not hail from a family of lawyers and to be frank, I am not entirely sure what cemented the decision for me, save for the fact that I knew I wanted to be in a meaningful and respected profession. A career in Law presented many opportunities and prospects and I was attracted by the potential to be able to help people in difficult situations.

After completing several work placements (a small high street practice, the Crown Prosecution Service, North Wales and mini-pupillage at 7 Harrington Street Chambers, Liverpool), I chose to pursue the Solicitor route. I read Law at Staffordshire University and graduated in 2001. I completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at The College of Law, Chester 2001/2002.

During the LPC, I spent every Friday working at Emmanuel Solicitors, a high street practice in Colwyn Bay, under the guidance of the late Mrs Jayanthi (‘Jay’) Wijesingha. I continued to work with Jay as a paralegal following completion of the LPC whilst I embarked on the tough process of applying for the coveted training contract. I was finally offered a training contract with Gamlins Solicitors in 2005, one of the largest law firms in North Wales. I was predominantly based in their Conwy office and was supervised by Miss Cathryn Williams, a stoic and dedicated lawyer. The training contract was a steep learning curve, not least because trainee solicitors were expected to provide cover for the fee-earners during holidays; the expectations were high with not much reward or thanks but the experience and exposure to real life practise was invaluable. Towards the latter part of the training contract, I was informed that the firm had decided not to retain me upon qualification. Although disheartened, this was a blessing in disguise and opened my eyes to opportunities outside private practice.

I successfully applied for a fixed term post with Knowsley Council, with an agreement to transfer the last three months of my training contract. I spent the next twelve months under the expert supervision of the late Mrs Julia Nicholson, learning about Public Law Children work; I loved it! I was fortunate enough to be offered a permanent contract upon completion of the fixed term post, but as I had only been providing maternity cover, I was redeployed to the Civil Litigation Team. I was worried about changing teams as I was relishing the children work, but the move was to my advantage; I was exposed to other areas of practise and was able to conduct my own advocacy in the Employment Law Tribunal. Ultimately, it was my desire to be a family solicitor that resulted in my return to the Child Protection Team a few years later, this time under the leadership of Mrs Judith Maher and more recently Trevor Steele.

In 2015, I started to review my position and questioned whether I wanted to remain in local government. The landscape of the public sector had altered significantly as a result of the Recession in 2008/2009, which saw severe austerity measures imposed nationwide. Further, I felt I had achieved as much as I had wanted to with Knowsley and whilst the work/life balance couldn’t be faulted, I felt professionally stagnated. Two of my good friends were at the independent Bar in Liverpool and they both spoke positively about their careers, which gave me much food for thought and ultimately inspired my application to cross-qualify. I have always wanted to develop my skills as an advocate, but the opportunities at the Council were few and far between as the model of working does not lend itself to being able to run a caseload and undertake regular advocacy.

The Bar Standards Board granted me permission to transfer in September 2015. I successfully completed the Bar Transfer Test (BTT) in June 2016 – Advocacy and Ethics modules only. I put matters on hold to have my second child in 2017 and to focus on my family. This time also afforded me the opportunity to take on some complex cases at Knowsley and to build on my advocacy experience.

In the summer of 2020, I successfully applied to Unit Chambers, Liverpool for a reduced pupillage. This is a new set established by the highly regarded family law barrister Lisa Edmunds. I was attracted to Chamber’s innovative and modern approach to practise, particularly during these difficult times as a consequence of the global health pandemic Covid-19. As the only set in the North West specialising in Family Law, the opportunities to further hone and develop my skills as a family lawyer and advocate are endless.

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