From Fast Food to Firm
Robert Chawner – From Fast Food to Firm
Life after A-Levels
I had just completed my A-Levels and was waiting for my results, trying to figure out what I wanted to do as my next step. I had no real idea of what it was I wanted to do until I sat and read through a book about law and decided, “Yes, this was for me!” I applied for university places because I thought doing a law degree would be a good option. And then as I researched more, I thought, “Do I really want to be saddled with lots of student debt?”
One day, I was browsing through a page giving advice into how to get into a legal career and most of it was about the university path, then going on to a Legal Practice course. I remember clicking on a link that was about other routes into law and it had a flow chart describing the CILEx route into law. Unless I’d gone into that page, I’d have never found out about it. When I started doing more research about it, I began to think that the CILEx route was too good to be true. It’s cheaper, a student can work through their studies, it is overall better. I talked to my family about it and they advised me to stick to the proven university route. I was very unsure about what to do, partly because I thought the CILEx route was not real!
A week before I received my A-Level results and made my final decision about whether I should go to university, I talked to staff at LTC about studying CILEx. They explained my options and how the CILEx route would work out in the long term. After that conversation, I decided to go with LTC’s CILEx course and turned down my university place.
After that, my biggest concern was getting a job in a law firm. All the other students on my course were already working in a firm and I was working at McDonald’s at the time. I applied for a job as a Trainee Legal Executive with Whitehead Monkton and landed the job! They were looking for someone who was studying the CILEx Level 3 course. I did not know too much about law at this stage, just conveyancing which I was studying at the time. They placed me in the Tax and Estate Planning department, (Private Client). At first, I thought this area of law might not be that interesting, but the more I trained and the more work I did within that area of law, the more fascinated I became. It’s all about personal lives, drafting wills, lasting powers of attorney and helping bereaved family members to deal with somebody’s estate after they die. There’s a lot of problem solving, and we see new clients every week. I’ll be sticking to this area of law.
I have been in full-time work for one and a half years and I study on my lunch breaks. I open a textbook or go to the online classroom and read through the material. If I’m studying for an exam, I’ll spend one or two hours after work doing extra study. I also do a lot of past papers; I find that’s a useful way of revising for exams because it really draws out what you don’t know and the gaps you need to fill in preparation for the actual exam.
My Quest for Results
Working in a law firm and studying law at the same time has been vital for me. I’ve applied things I’ve learned, even in law subjects that aren’t specifically to do with private client, to my job. And there’s been lots of times when a law concept has made sense because I’ve dealt with it on a practical level. My biggest bit of advice to anyone who is looking to study law is get a job in a law firm. Any job. Even if it’s a receptionist or administrative job. Being in that environment will really help you contextualise your learning.
So far, studying CILEx with LTC has been great. I’ve personally come a long way from school leaver working in McDonald’s, dreaming about doing law but being very worried about huge student debt, to someone with one and a half years of practical experience under their belt and two years of study. In four years’ time, if I’ve calculated my exams for level 6 properly, I see myself as having qualified for a year and being at the end of my qualifying journey. For me that’s a personal goal that I believe I will be able to reach. I am aiming to be a 24-year-old qualified legal practitioner!
I’m glad I’ve been able to do what I’ve done. It wouldn’t have been possible with university and I think CILEx has done a good job in that their courses can be accessed by anyone, at any age, at any time in their life.