I’m Lara Brand, a Chartered Legal Executive, at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP (a top 20 UK law firm, top 80 worldwide). I’m based in WBD’s Bristol office in the commercial property team. I advise a broad range of high profile clients, predominately on commercial landlord and tenant matters for property developers, retailers, transport infrastructure clients and government bodies. I have also worked on multi-landowner wind and solar projects.
Womble Bond Dickinson have been an incredibly supportive employer and are even supporting me in further study, which means a lot of my mornings, lunchtimes, evenings and weekends are still spent studying! However I do still get a little time to enjoy one of my passions, cycling. In 2017 I cycled in the Tour de Bristol, raising money for St Peter’s Hospice (Womble Bond Dickinson’s chosen charity for 2017-18), and in 2018 I completed two sprint distance triathlons and cycled in the BPAA Sportive.
Despite having good A- Level results in school and having university as an option available to me, I made a bold decision that university wasn’t for me. “Why?”, you may ask.
Well there were a number of factors involved with this decision, but most prominently, I couldn’t justify the cost of university without the guarantee of a job at the end. Had I chosen to qualify through university, it knew that it would have cost me in the region of £30,000 for tuition fees alone and then living costs on top. Furthermore, almost all of my school peers were attending university. I was concerned about the number of graduates that would be looking for jobs at the same time and whether there would be enough jobs for those graduates.
One of the experiences that I feel encapsulated the boldness of my decision not to go to university was the enormous pressure my sixth form tutors were putting me under to attend. One tutor even told me that I was wasting both his and my time doing my A-Levels if university wasn’t on my agenda. Fortunately, I have very supportive parents who took an unbiased approach and helped me decide how to proceed.
I knew I wanted to qualify as a lawyer and after some research, I chose to study through CILEx.
Following my decision not to go to university, I chose the CILEx route because it was affordable, I could study anywhere in the country (because I studied distance learning with CILEx Law School) and I could gain invaluable experience by working whilst I studied. This gave me an advantage over my school peers who had made the decision to go to university and had a mountain of debt behind them with little or no work experience.
Had I qualified as a solicitor through the university route, I would have likely qualified as a solicitor in 2018 but been burdened with enormous student debt.
Instead, in 2018 I qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive – debt free!
In 2021 my hope is to qualify further. Whilst this is three years later than it may have been had I gone to university, I’ve got no student debt and I’ve got a vast number of years’ experience behind me. I’m trusted to run my own files and to advise high profile clients on a wide range of commercial property matters.
When I got into my first role I found that it was a steep but very successful learning curve and built a great foundation for where I am now. Although it was challenging, I enjoyed it so much and it confirmed I’d made the right career choice.
In my career as a whole there’s a number of moments that spring to mind as career highs and moments that I’m proud of but the one I’d like to talk about most is the mentoring I do. I provide mentoring to both a CILEx student at WBD and a GCSE student from a local Bristol school.
For the GCSE student, I provide careers advice ranging from how to write a CV, assisting with job applications, teaching interview skills and helping with career planning. The moment that really stood out to me was when the student was sincerely grateful for the help I’d provided and told me that they now had the knowledge and confidence needed to pursue their chosen career.
I help the CILEx student with their learning and career progression at WBD. It’s really rewarding seeing how well they have developed since they started their journey.
When I was studying the CILEx route I found that the exams were challenging but relevant to the workplace. Overall, it was satisfying and worthwhile and has clearly helped me reach the position I’m in today. I’d definitely recommend CILEx to anyone considering a career in law. It can be a long slog but stick with it – it’s worth it!