Shoosmiths associate and chartered legal executive Vicky Loughnane charts her legal career and advises students not to listen to prejudices.
Name: Vicky Loughnane
Department: Asset finance
Education: CILEx (or ILEX as it was) level 3 and level 6 specialist subjects in commercial law, law of tort, contract law and civil litigation practice. Before that – usual secondary school education – 6 GCSEs at grade C and above, no A-levels – I originally wanted to be a hairdresser.
Who or what inspired you to be a lawyer? I was working as a legal secretary and fancied a slice of the real action.
How did you get into the legal profession? I was a legal secretary and knew of the CILEx route. Being ever ambitious I thought that I would rather be doing the work I was typing, it sounded really interesting.
What attracted you to CILEx? I had seen others go off to college on day release to study CILEx so I looked into it and asked my then boss (a solicitor) to consider it. He had been trained by a legal executive and had a huge respect for him and CILEx generally so was keen on me embarking on my studies. I was lucky enough that my firm sponsored me to study. The rest they say is history.
How did your career develop following your qualification as a Chartered Legal Executive? I started in a paralegal role as I studied and my role developed as my knowledge did. When I qualified I was already dealing with defended claims and I moved on to more complex work as my skills and knowledge developed following my qualification.
How do you compare your work as a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer to that of a solicitor? I was already well ahead of an NQ solicitor in the work I was doing on qualification and I had the skills and experience to be streets ahead. I am almost four years Post Qualified Experience (PQE) but in terms of experience I am ahead of the game of most of my solicitor counterparts – hence my appointment as an associate. I charge out at a rate equivalent to my expertise and am well respected by my clients, peers and the industry I advise. The work I do is no different to that of a solicitor counterpart who would typically be eight years PQE doing the same work.
What’s the biggest misconception of a career as a Chartered Legal Executive? That we are the “poor relation” or a glorified paralegal or even worse, not a proper lawyer, the worst insult I’ve received is: “when are you going to go on to be a solicitor?” I have no desire to study areas of law that I have no interest in. I never set out to be a solicitor, I set out to be a qualified lawyer and I am and I’m a good one too, if I do say so myself. Why would I study other areas of law when I have no need to just to get the ‘solicitor badge’, particularly when I can be a partner in a top national legal firm, or a district judge? The traditional solicitor route in my opinion is outdated and suited to the high street solicitors firm which is becoming a dying breed. In my view, CILEx had the right idea 50 years ago and is a forward thinking innovative organisation and other areas of the sector are only just starting to pick up on this.
Would you recommend a career as a Chartered Legal Executive? Absolutely and wholeheartedly.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Working on an injunction for two funders which worked out very well (details still confidential) and in turn attracted a further six funders to come to my firm for assistance which also worked out very well, a lot of hard work but truly satisfying results and all based on client word of mouth.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Work hard, never give up, stay true to your goals, don’t listen to prejudices and take the CILEx route of course.