The alternative route to becoming a lawyer
... and why it helps to have a supportive employer!
This week we profile Sarah Major, a key member of our residential property team who specialises in conveyancing.
When the recession hit the UK in 2007 and 2008, I was working for a national house builder as a contract and part exchange manager. I loved my job and especially enjoyed getting involved in the land purchases and plot sales which could number up to 850 units a year. So it was with some dismay that I realised I needed to cushion myself against the dreaded downturn of the property cycle.
My job had given me a taste for property law and I decided to retrain as a legal executive. I joined night school and for the last decade, not only have I had two children and kept a day job, I've also been studying for my Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) exams.
What are legal executives?
Legal executives are lawyers who specialise in a particular area of law and have trained to the same standard as a solicitor in that area albeit for an alternative qualification. Like solicitors, we must study various areas of the law including contract and tort (negligence), civil litigation, wills, land law and conveyancing. The training is often done outside of work hours and therefore it takes longer to qualify than as a solicitor.
Getting that job!
While studying, I was lucky enough to find work with a couple of smaller legal practices assisting qualified lawyers and helping with files. Within 3 years I took on a small case load of my own and starting to run my own files.
I moved to Pearsons two and a half years ago. I started off by assisting Michael Pitt, Karen Piontek and Victoria Marshall on some of their matters whilst running with a few files of my own. Gradually, I have been mentored and supported and taken on more work, moving from file progression, customer liaising and assisting with reports, exchange and completions to now running a full caseload of my own files.
Having a supportive employer
I've been lucky working in the team I do at Pearsons: their support has been invaluable. Starting off as a junior member of a team means that initially the work was not always the most exciting. Throughout I've been given lots of opportunities to grow, gain more experience and work on a wide range of property matters and now I am competent at dealing with more complex legal issues.
Throughout this learning phase, Pearsons have supported me and allowed me to work in a managed way. My case load has increased gradually – and always in the knowledge that ready support was available. They have responded to my queries, recommended suitable courses; provided opportunities for professional development, given feedback on ways I can improve and have always given me credit when deserved. The team also operates an inclusive environment: all members are encouraged to interact and put forward their views on how we can continually seek to improve and make the service we provide a better experience overall for the client.
In addition, Karen has supported my studies – not least by reviewing and signing off my CILEX coursework. This is a substantial task: I have 67 different pieces of work to submit to obtain my CILEX fellowship and chartered status. With 22 left to do, I have reason to appreciate Karen's tenacity and support.
I'm aiming to be a CILEX fellow by October
There is always a risk when you switch careers. I have been lucky: Pearsons have given me a stable background and supported my progress. I'm on the home straight now: I just have to complete my submission pack and submit it to CILEX before becoming a chartered legal executive and CILEX fellow – hopefully in October 2017.
If you're thinking of doing the CILEX course, be patient. It's increasingly hard to find work at a solicitor's practice; and when you do, expect to start on the bottom rung and graft. You won't always get the exciting work – but it will come later.
For more information about conveyancing issues, contact us on 0161 785 3500 or make an enquiry.
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Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.
This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.