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The next blog in our series comes from Karen Whyte who was recently recognised at the CILEx National Award Ceremony for Achieving the highest overall grade in the Level 6 Law and Practice exams. Now let’s hand it over to Karen to give you her view…

Hi! I’m Karen Whyte from Larkfield in Kent. I currently work as a Lawyer in Property and Regeneration for Mid Kent Legal Services, which is the shared legal service between Swale, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils. Along with being a Lawyer I am also the proud mum of Sinead (12) . When I’m not working or at home I enjoy going to the gym, yoga, going for coffee and days out with friends and family.

The reason that I was first drawn to law as a profession was that I wanted to do something that would make me a role model for my daughter. I had always been interested in legal work particularly with finding out how laws were agreed and made.

I decided to get into it a little later on and coming into law as a mature student with a family, I needed the option to be able to study flexibly, earn a living whist studying and also have the ability to study at a speed that would be suited to me. Flexibility was the main want for me when searching. I knew that realistically a university degree course followed by professional studies would not have met the criteria that I was looking for. After searching and looking through the various options I found that CILEx was perfect for what I was looking for… Flexibility!

The CILEx route allowed me to earn the money I needed to support my daughter as a single mother, whilst progressing my career through further study. This felt to me like the best of both worlds.

Leading up to my first exam I remember feeling very nervous, this may even be an understatement. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not the most confident person and as such I was always nervous before exams – but I certainly found that feeling this way helped motivate me to study hard. Being given the award for highest overall grade in the level 6 Law and Practice exam was an incredible achievement in light of all the nerves that I felt going into each exam.

When it comes to revision for exams I have my own mad method that works for me. I’m not sure that I would encourage anyone else to try it but it may work for some people who think like me. Initially I always make sure that I am very organised with a study timetable, I make sure that I create a study plan for at least 2 months before the exam. On this timetable I would include time to explain something that I have learned to someone (even if they don’t understand it), discuss topics with other students from the course, studying past papers, reviewing tutor feedback and also planning in time to rest from studying to let all that you have learned sink in. Managing my time, including rest breaks, is what has worked well for me with revision.

Since studying with CILEx I have been able to progress in a career that I love whilst developing my knowledge, skills and confidence. I could not recommend CILEx highly enough.

My advice to anyone who is about to take their exams, whether it’s for the first time or the tenth time would be this – DON’T PANIC! It is much easier to give this advice than to take it but just make sure that you are not worrying too much about what others around you are doing and just focus on you.

 

 

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University students sitting in a libraryHi! I’m Abi Exelby. Let me begin by telling you a little bit about myself, I am a Chartered Legal Executive Apprentice at North Yorkshire County Council, currently working in the Education, Employment & Litigation Team. I recently finished my Paralegal Apprenticeship in Summer 2018 and am now working towards completing the Level 3 Diploma before moving on to Level 6, hoping to qualify in the next few years. Outside of work I like to be away adventuring with my partner, Callum, and our dog, Alfie, in our little van which we are converting into a camper – very slowly might I add.

I can remember the time that I first decided that working in law was something exciting that I’d like to pursue. It was when during my secondary school work experience where I attended a local firm of solicitors and from that point onward knew that I would find a career in law interesting. Working in law also seemed to suit my interests and skill set, I think it was the problem solving aspect of legal work that really interested me. The other areas of study that I had been interested in were psychology, criminology and mental health nursing, but ultimately I felt that law was the best fit for me.

After finishing my A Levels I hadn’t been sure that I definitely wanted to go to university, so took a job as a Legal Secretary with a local firm. One of the partners was a Legal Executive so, when I began to look at how I could further my progression, I was already very aware of the CILEx route. CILEx seemed to give me an opportunity to pursue a career in law without first going off to university.

Just before I started my CILEx journey I had a bit of a career wobble as I was struggling to find an opportunity with progression and disastrously very nearly ended up studying accountancy, no offence intended to any accountants. I couldn’t be more glad that the opportunity at NYCC came up when it did, as I would have absolutely hated a job involving so much maths!

When I got over this little career bump, I applied to begin my CILEx Journey. The application process was all part of my apprenticeship enrolment so it was very straightforward and I only needed to fill in a couple of forms and provide evidence of qualifications – everything else was handled by my employer and CILEx Law School.

Since getting involved in law I have loved working within each of the different legal teams; Property, Business & Environmental Services, Child Care, Adults, Contracts & Procurement, Education, Employment & Litigation.  I really feel that having experience in such a range of departments has given me a good grounding to begin to discover which area of law I am best suited to. Switching between the teams has also been really helpful in supporting my studies as it helps to be able to apply the knowledge to real-life situations. This has also provided me with opportunities to obtain advice and assistance from colleagues with lots of expertise in the areas of law I have been studying.

Studying alongside working in a new job definitely brings challenges and I have learned that you need to be focused to ensure that you don’t let your work or studies slip. It’s a balancing act. In this process I have found that there are lots of resources and support available. Personally I felt very lucky that I was able to obtain assistance from my employer, my colleagues, my training provider and from CILEx directly. Ultimately, I think that it is really helpful to study alongside a new role as you will learn about the law that goes hand in hand with day-to-day tasks that you carry out in your job. As an apprentice, you get a certain amount of protected learning (off the job) time each week which helps you fit your studies in.

If I was to say that there is one thing that has surprised me about working in law it would be the sheer variety of work. Law quite literally underpins everything we do and whilst most people will have some concept of that, I think it takes working in a legal environment to fully open your eyes to the constant need to be aware of, understand and ultimately interpret the law. Particularly before starting at NYCC, I wondered how much legal work a local council does and it is safe to say I severely underestimated how much they actually do! There is a legal process behind so many things – things most people wouldn’t even consider! It can be anything from closing a road due to a pipe bursting, right through to more obvious things like protection of vulnerable adults and children.

When I first began my apprenticeship, it was quite daunting to think of the long journey ahead and I did find that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. In time I found that it really helped me to break things down into manageable chunks and realise that CILEx is very flexible in that regard, as you can take your studies at your own pace. My training provider gave me a clear training plan for the duration of my apprenticeship, which made it seem much more achievable.

My only regret in this whole process is that I did not begin this sooner. So my advice to anyone looking to get into law through CILEx would be to get started, look to secure an apprenticeship or, if possible, speak to an employer to discuss whether it would be possible to undertake an apprenticeship with them. I recently found out that apprenticeships are now funded by the government levy, employers may be in a better position to help, even in spite of the current economical climate.

If you have a similar journey to Abi we would love to hear from you! Please comment below with any questions queries or comments and we would live to help. Equally if you would just like to share a bit of your experience please let us know and we may ask you too to be a contributor for the CILEx Blog.