It has only been since qualifying as a solicitor that I have come to realise quite what an achievement my route into law has been. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer. Back then, I had assumed that I would become a criminal barrister as at the time that was really the only type of lawyer I had seen portrayed on television. I had also assumed that I would need to go to university.
As such, I had applied to study law at university but in my final year of A-levels, I learned of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. Pursing this route instead of a traditional route would provide me with an opportunity to combine studying to become a lawyer with gaining on the job work experience. This was attractive to me as at the time training contracts were becoming more and more difficult to obtain and I was not someone who stood out academically. I therefore, decided that if I could find a job within a law firm before the end of the year that was the approach I would take.
Obtaining that first role was extremely challenging. Even now, some 14 years later, I can still distinctly remember walking around the areas near college and home hand delivering my CV to firms, sending countless speculative applications and applying for secretarial and admin roles only to be told that I lacked past work experience. Eventually, however, I was provided the opportunity to join Hart Brown Solicitors in Guildford as a trainee legal secretary and joined in 2008. Looking back, it was the perfect role for someone looking to go into law. The role involved working across several practice areas including family, probate, property and commercial law. However, there was one area which stood out to me, personal injury. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I had lost a close friend in a road traffic collision two years before or maybe that the clients were so relatable. Genuine people like you or I whose lives had been turned upside down through no fault of their own and needed help. I moved into personal injury and medical negligence as a legal assistant in 2010 and joined the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (“APIL”).
Alongside work, I studied part time in the evenings. I qualified as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives in 2015 and subsequently joined Irwin Mitchell’s Serious Injury Team.
I chose to further continue my studies through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives to top up my qualification to that of a law degree and then completed the LPC qualifying as a Solicitor in 2018. By the time I qualified, I had 8 years’ experience in running personal injury claims and developed expertise in the areas of brain injury, polytrauma and fatal claims.
At times, pursuing an alternative route into law took a great deal of hard work and tenacity. This was particularly true during the early part of my career when Legal Executives faced challenges in being recognised as equal to their solicitor colleagues. However, in more recent years, I have seen a huge shift in the way that the industry views alternative routes to qualification along with the move towards more flexible working practices. This can only be a good thing as it allows for a wider and more diverse profession mirroring the diversity of the clients we proudly represent. By sharing my story, I hope it will inspire others to believe that they too can aspire to have a fulfilling and successful career as a personal injury lawyer.
Amey Welch - APIL Member
Irwin Mitchell LLP, London