Shoosmiths (UK) – Article: How I’m qualifying as a Lawyer via CILEX, without a university degree

Lorna joined Shoosmiths after her A-levels. She knew that a career in law was for her, but she wanted an alternative route to qualifying as a solicitor than by going to university. Here she shares how she has moved through the business learning along the way.

Throughout my time in secondary school, I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in Law but I was unsure on whether I wanted to go to university or not. At A-Level I studied; English, History, Psychology and Business Studies, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. As Law was not an A Level option at my school, I joined a Law class outside of school hours which heightened my interest in a legal career even more.

I joined Shoosmiths after finishing my A Levels in September 2017 as a Licensing Assistant within the Business, Crime and Compliance team in Northampton. After a year of working at Shoosmiths I was supported to start a CLT Licensing Paralegal course where I studied for 2-3 hours per week for 9 months, and qualified as a Paralegal in Licensing and Gambling Law.

Licensing law is technical, logical, and practical. It was challenging but really worthwhile. This was when I decided I wanted to continue studying with the aim of eventually become a qualified Solicitor.

I had a conversation with the Partner in charge of my team and decided studying through CILEX would be the best route for me. In January 2020 I started a CILEX Level 3 Paralegal apprenticeship. I was given 20% of my working week to study  and attended virtual webinars every couple of weeks, taking exams every 6 months. I finished and passed the first part of my apprenticeship in December 2021. This enabled me to qualify as a general Paralegal rather than just a Licensing Paralegal. It was challenging to study whilst working a full-time job but I was given time to study within work hours and I am lucky enough to be in a very supportive and understanding team. Although I used some work time to do my studying, the vast majority of it was done in my own time at weekends and in evenings.

After completing the apprenticeship scheme, I enrolled on the CILEX CPQ course which is a new qualification route to qualify as a CILEX Lawyer. There are three stages to the CPQ course: Foundation, Advanced and Professional. The course can be completed at your own pace however I was keen to progress as quickly as possible. Studying through CILEX is done online and you are assigned an online tutor and attend webinars for each module. The Foundation stage took me about 12 months to complete as I was exempt from some of the modules as I had already done a Paralegal apprenticeship.

In January 2023 I completed the Foundation stage of CILEX CPQ, and I am currently studying the Advanced stage which I am hoping to complete this stage in January 2025. I will then complete the Professional stage, meaning I will complete the entirety of the course and qualify as a Cilex Lawyer in January 2026.

While studying and learning, I work as a Paralegal in the Business, Crime and Compliance Team and specialise in Regulatory work as well as Licensing. Once I complete the CPQ it will give me the same rights as a traditional Solicitor in my practice area. The CILEX route to qualify as a solicitor will take me a similar amount of time as it would to do the traditional route of a Law degree, LPC and training contract. The advantage of doing CILEX is that I have been able to earn a salary for the last six years, not build up a lifetime of student debt, and have developed my business skills and working experience at the same time. And, in the end, I will be in the same position as I would have if I went to university.

In addition to the regular day-to-day work and learning, I have been involved in some amazing and rewarding experiences. In my role I work across both the Northampton and Birmingham offices widening my networks and the people I know in the business. This enabled me to be involved in running a pro-bono clinic to assist small businesses and charities in the Birmingham community.

In February 2022 I had the honour of speaking to the House of Lords on behalf of Shoosmiths to discuss the importance of apprenticeships and alternative career routes into the legal industry, which I am passionate about because of my own experience. I have also spoken at a local school in Northampton, the University of Law in Birmingham and more recently to our Leeds office (virtually), to talk to students about legal careers and different routes into law.

Overall, what keeps me at Shoosmiths is that I enjoy my role and everyone I work with. Every day is different, and I have the privilege of working on large cases for well-known clients while learning and developing technically.

I hope my experience shows that going to university is not the only route to being successful and that there are lots of routes into the legal industry.

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