The long route to law

Fifteen years after starting as a legal secretary, Kelly Young is now a trainee solicitor. She tells us about her unconventional route to law, and the best £50 she ever spent.

I finished school almost twenty years ago with nine good GCSEs but with no real idea of the career I wanted. My school didn’t have a sixth form so I instead enrolled in a borough college to study A levels. It wasn’t long before the cold winter and tedious bus journeys (four each day) took their toll and after three months I decided it wasn’t for me. Instead, I started full-time work as an office administrator and quickly got into the swing of working life. Being in an office environment, I soon realised I would need to develop my skills so enrolled on an evening touch typing course at a cost of £50.

With my new skill mastered, I moved to work at the head office of one of the country’s largest bookmakers. This was my first taste of law as I began working closely with an external licensing law specialist assisting him with gathering evidence for the company’s licensing hearings. I found the job both varied and interesting and decided that I wanted to understand more about the law. 

Still wanting to continue at work, I started an entry level course at the Open University (OU) entitled ‘Understanding Social Change’. I could study the course in my spare time and would manage the fees by paying them monthly from my salary. I enjoyed the course so went on to enrol on the first of five law courses that, when complete, would give me the LLB. I studied one course each year and continued to pay the fees monthly. The OU provided a tutor to contact in times of difficulty but otherwise I was left to my own devices. It was by no means easy and, as the OU courses ran from February to October, I had some lonely summers. I was always glad when each course finished but seemed to feel restless by the New Year and ready for the next one to start. The need for time management had become a part of my life and without study there was a huge gap.

After six years I graduated with a 2:1 (Hons) in law. Being the first person in my family to obtain a degree was a proud moment for my parents and it felt great. By this time I was working full time as a legal PA in the City of London earning a good salary – the touch typing course was probably the best £50 I’ve ever spent as being able to type accurately significantly increased my employability. My thoughts turned to the next stage being the LPC and I began saving each month towards the course fees. I continued to work and save for two years before enrolling on the part-time weekend LPC course at the College of Law in London. While working full-time, I did most of my LPC reading on the tube to work and regularly spent my lunch breaks engrossed in i-tutorials. It was a tiring time – working a full week, spending both Saturday and Sunday at the college, and then back to work for another five days.

Not long after completing the LPC, I secured a training contract with a firm that saw value in my hard work and experience. By that time I’d worked in law for over 13 years in various roles and alongside solicitors at all levels. I’d funded all my studies from my work and fortunately started my training without any study debts. I’ve found the skills learnt in my years of working in law have been a great asset in my role as a trainee – it wasn’t the conventional route to law but it has worked for me.

Kelly Young is a trainee solicitor at HowardKennedyFsi