After working as an Admin Assistant, Alex Hall decided she wanted to follow her original aspiration of becoming a lawyer and began a role at Blacks Solicitors where she is now training as a Paralegal, despite having no legal experience.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
When I first made the decision to pursue a career in law I was part way through my BSc in Ps
ychology and Criminology. Changing my degree course wasn’t an option for me, partly because it would have been a difficult transition as I was too far into the course, but most of all, I like to finish whatever I start, so wanted to complete my Psychology and Criminology degree first.
After leaving University I looked into the various other ways I could qualify as a lawyer in more de
tail. There were two main options: the traditional route to qualify as a Solicitor – enrolling on a GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) conversion course followed by the LPC (Legal Practice Course) and then completing a Training Contract and the PSC (Professional Skills Course); or the ILEx (Institute of Legal Executives) (now called CILEx – Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) route to qualify as a Legal Executive, which, to all intents and purposes, is the same role as a Solicitor – enrolling on the CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice followed by the CILEx Level 6 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice and completing a qualifying work experience requirement, part of which can be completed simultaneously with the diplomas.
After a lot of research, and using my mum as a sounding board, I decided to go down the CILEx route.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
The main challenge I faced was in trying a secure a role through which I could gain the qualifying work experience necessary to ultimately qualify as a Legal Executive. Coming to the decision to pursue a career in law late into my degree, I had not undertaken any work experience placements in the legal field during my time at University, or beforehand. That, compounded by the recession hitting around the same time, meant that finding a role which enabled me to gain suitable experience to meet the CILEx criteria to qualify took a little longer than I had hoped.
Prior to enrolling on CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice I did take on a couple of admin and support roles at firms such as Eversheds and then Ford & Warren (now Weightmans) to gain some basic experience of working in a law firm, legal procedures and file management. I continued working at various firms in Leeds as a Legal Secretary whilst completing the CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and the CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and worked in a number of different departments to gain experience and understanding in a number of areas of law: Commercial Property; Insolvency; Commercial Dispute Resolution; Employment; Corporate and Commercial.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?
I’ve not taken on any leadership roles myself, however from my experience of working with those in leadership and management roles, I believe that the people that make the best leaders/managers are those who have worked their way up and learnt from their own experiences, rather than being parachuted into that position.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
A typical day for me often starts with an early morning gym session, I find it is the best way to wake you up and ensure you are ready to take on the day’s challenges. The first thing I usually do when I get into the office though, is to read through my emails and get together a list of matters which will need urgent attention in the morning and/or that need action that day. I then make a cup of green tea and get started. The last thing I always try to do before leaving the office is tidy my desk and put away the papers and files I have worked on that day – tidy desk, tidy mind. I hate coming in the next morning to a desk covered in files and papers.
Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring? If so, how?
I have been fortunate enough to work closely with several very supportive individuals in my early career, from whom I learnt a great deal. They gave me plenty of opportunities, allowing me to develop and practice my skills and gain experience. As the final element of my CILEx qualification is to complete a Work Based Learning Logbook, which must include examples of my work and demonstrate that I have met certain competency measures and criteria, without this support I would not have been able to progress towards my qualification.
Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a new networker?
I am fairly new to networking myself, however the tips I have been given which have worked well for me are: a) if you don’t feel confident enough to attend an event by yourself, take a colleague. Even just having a familiar face in the room with you does make the situation a little less scary; b) there are plenty of different types of networking events to attend so don’t get put off if the first one you attend isn’t for you. Find one that suits you; c) don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you first start networking to create business opportunities at every event you attend. Concentrate on meeting people at a similar level and place in their career as you, arrange to meet up for a coffee, build on those relationships and the work opportunities will (hopefully) follow naturally.
What does the future hold for you?
In the very near future I will be submitting my Work Based Learning Logbook to CILEx for assessment and to complete my qualification. From there I aim to build reputable career as a Corporate lawyer at Blacks Solicitors LLP.