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journey into law and starting a new job in the pandemic

View profile for Claire-Racheal Matthews
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In this blog by Claire Matthews, Chartered Legal Executive in the Dispute Resolution team at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors, she talks about her journey into law as a career and joining a new law firm during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She has demonstrated how our Values (#ClientCentred, #ContinuousImprovement, #Citizenship, #CommunityFocus) and our commitment to our #ServicePledge are embraced by us in our day to day roles and activity.

Thank you to Claire for sharing her story.

Journey into law

I had a keen interest in law from an early age, having had exposure to legal matters and listening to difficult issues being resolved I found the process and the content fascinating.

My journey into law was not traditional.  Instead of A-levels I completed an Access to higher education course in Law and Criminology at Nottingham College. This course enabled me to apply to University; I was accepted at Nottingham Trent University and I graduated with a 2 1 LLB (Hons) in July 2014.  With the sudden realisation that my student finance was imminently about to run out, I very quickly got searching for a job!

I was very fortunate to be able to go straight into a law firm.  I was able to start on a fixed term contract as a Commercial Property Secretary which provided me with my first paid legal experience job.  I learnt a great deal from my time as a Commercial Property Secretary and I was offered a job as an Employment Secretary before my fixed term contract expired.

Having had a flavour for the legal industry in practice, I remained certain that I wanted to qualify as a Solicitor and as such, I decided to complete my Legal Practice Course part-time alongside my full-time secretarial role.

I learnt a great deal as a Secretary and my experience as such was invaluable, it gave me the opportunity to listen to very experienced solicitors draft client advice, letters to the other side and detailed attendance notes.  I was very fortunate in that role that I had an exceptionally supportive team who recognised my aspirations to be a legal advisor and as such, I began to assist the team wider matters, not only discussing any cases in detail to further my understanding but it also gave me the opportunity to gain experience in other areas of the job including marketing.

I decided it was time to start a fee earning role and after a short while in the Court of Protection department took a Paralegal position in the Employment team.

I completed my LPC and LLM in October 2016 and it was time to try and qualify!  I moved to a new role in a new firm in the Civil Litigation Department in 2017; assisting a senior partner and building my own caseload before moving to Crombie Wilkinson in October 2020 and qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive  #ContinuousImprovement.

Cilex journey

Training contracts are not for everyone; it can be difficult to get a training contract and challenging to do and why others might want to choose alternative routes to qualification especially for those who perhaps know which area of law they wish to go into.

I decided that a training contract was not suitable for me as by the time I was ready to qualify I had already gained experience in litigation, I also had my own case load and clients.  It was agreed that the best way forward for me would be to complete the Chartered Legal Executive route because there is no necessity to move seats and I could concentrate the training time on gaining more experience in the field for which I wished to stay in.

The route to qualification through Cilex is different depending on your experience and qualifications previously.  As I have completed my Law Degree and LPC in addition to having a few years’ experience in Private Practice, I had to apply to be a graduate Chartered Legal Executive and once I had applied to do that, I was able to start compiling my work portfolio.  To complete the training portfolio, you must demonstrate that you meet 8 competencies which is broken down into 27 learning outcomes.  You must complete the portfolio along with redacted evidence to prove that you have met that outcome.

Once the workbook is complete in addition to having satisfactory references from your employer etc. you submit it to Cilex who assess your portfolio to ensure that you have met all the outcomes to be qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive #ContinuousImprovement .

My journey going forward

As I have already have my LPC, my next steps are that I would wish to cross qualify as a Solicitor.  To do this, as I understand it, I need to complete my core professional skills course modules in addition to ensuring I have a Certificate of good standing from Cilex and make an application to the SRA to be admitted as a Solicitor. 

Crombie Wilkinson have been exceptionally supportive in my wish to qualify as a Solicitor and have agreed to support me to qualify which I hope to do so within the next coming months #Citizenship.

My time at Crombie Wilkinson

I joined Crombie Wilkinson in October 2020 which was during the Covid-19 pandemic. The team at Crombie Wilkinson could not have been any more accommodating and understanding when I joined the firm.  I was given a full induction with an iPod and all necessary materials for me to do my job.  The team is friendly and inviting and I received a MS Teams call on just my second day from the Managing Director to welcome me to the firm as well as other Directors  #Citizenship.

The firm has worked exceptionally hard to ensure that all staff are happy and feel supported at home, ensuring that all equipment is delivered promptly when requested and if any support is required, it is given immediately.  We have weekly check-ins in addition to monthly department meetings to make sure that everybody is okay. I have found everyone to be friendly and approachable and I look forward to a lengthy career at Crombie Wilkinson! #ServicePledge