Here, Sarah shares her career journey and explains why gaining Practice Rights was so important to her.
What is your specialist area of law?
“I currently work in both family and criminal law. I have a full case load made up of private law cases including divorce, finance and property matters and children disputes as well as public law matters involving social services and care proceedings. I am on call as a police station representative a couple of evenings a month for the criminal department. I am lucky to have found a job which allows me to work in both areas of law I have a particular interest in.”
Could you summarise your work and experience in the legal sector to date?
“I undertook a psychology degree at Pontypridd University, however I always had an interest in the law which I wanted to explore. After university I applied for an office junior position in a local law firm in an attempt to get a foot in the door. I secured the position and within a month I went to work with the head of the family department who required a paralegal to work alongside him specalising in care proceedings. I thoroughly enjoyed the role and learnt about the ILEx course through another member of staff at the law firm. I began my distance learning course a year into my employment. Whilst it was challenging both working full time and studying in the evenings, I believe it gave me the opportunity to see how a practice operates whilst learning the law. After 3 years at the firm, I had gained valuable experience and decided I wanted a caseload of my own. I therefore applied for a trainee Legal Executive position in another firm, undertaking both public and private family law proceedings. I became a Graduate Legal Executive in 2009 and a Chartered Legal Executive in 2012. The practice I was working for also did criminal work which was another interest of mine. I therefore became an accredited Police Station Representative helping those in the police station. I decided to move completely into the criminal department and I then began to explore the Criminal Practice Rights offered by CILEx Regulation. I now work in a different firm working in both family and crime.”
How did you first hear about the possibility of gaining Practice Rights?
“The more experience I gained working in the criminal department, the more I became interested in undertaking court work. I relied heavily on the information supplied on the CILEx website and it is here where I found information about how to go about gaining Practice Rights in your specialised area of law.”
What encouraged you to take up the Criminal Practice Rights course?
“It became apparent in working in the criminal department that it was essential that court work was also undertaken alongside the police station work to generate fees. I was also keen to progress within my role and the only way I could achieve this was to undertake the Practice Rights Course to gain this qualification to enable me to undertake court work. Most criminal law jobs also ask for you to be duty qualified, and the Practice Rights Course is a stepping stone onto the duty qualifications.”
How did you find the overall application process?
“I had previously sat the family law and practice papers as well as the criminal law paper to qualify as a graduate. I needed to have sat both the criminal law and practice exams to apply for the eligibility certificate; so I therefore had to sit the practical paper. I then drafted a portfolio of the cases I had undertaken at the police station and submitted this along with references. I asked two local barristers to provide me with references. I was then notified that I was eligible to apply for the course. I believe the only downside to the process was the time it took me to get onto the course. From submitting my portfolio to actually attending the course took approximately two years.”
Since gaining your Practice Rights, how has your work experience changed and what benefits have there been to you, your employer/your practice and your clients?
“Whilst I am still waiting to hear if I have passed the Practice Rights Course, I hope to start working in the Magistrates Court as soon as possible. It has allowed me to improve my role within the firm and will allow my clients to have continuity in representation at the police station through the court process.”
Would you recommend other CILEx members to apply for Practice Rights and if so, why?
“I would definitely recommend the Practice Rights Course. Advocacy is always a frightening concept and I would not have thought I would have gained as much confidence as I did from the course. As Chartered Legal Executives, we do not get an opportunity to gain much experience or have any training in advocacy. This course helps you to gain in-depth knowledge into the entire criminal court process, including points on how to conduct trials and to prepare for cross examination of witnesses. I left the course feeling confident and believing I was ready to undertake a trial.”
Chartered Legal Executive at Goldstones Solicitors
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