From office assistant to Graduate Member of CILEx – Octavia Stoodley

After I did my GCSEs I left school and went to college to study Beauty Therapy. I enjoyed my year at college but decided this wasn’t what I wanted to do. I intended to enrol on a Forensic Science course in the following academic year.

My mum told me I needed to get a summer job so I looked in the local newspaper and found an office assistant job at Ashton KCJ, Solicitors. I enjoyed working life and decided against going back to college. During the first two years as an office assistant I worked mainly on reception and studied an NVQ 2 in Business and Development and Customer Services.

When I had first started working at Ashton KCJ I was curious why some lawyers were called Solicitors and some Chartered Legal Executives, and became very keen on the idea of being able to develop my career in law through studying for CILEx courses while working. In my third year of working for the firm I enrolled on my first CILEx courses with CILEx Law School at the age of 20. I did my first year of exams whilst working as an office assistant.

After my first year of CILEx study a trainee position became available in the Lifetime Planning Department and I moved to this department with the title Trainee Legal Executive. I have been very lucky in that Ashton KCJ have funded all my learning.

I have worked through the full CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice and the CILEx Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice in the space of four years. I think living at home really helped me get my head down and fly through the exams. My family, boyfriend, and friends were very supportive whilst I was studying. Also not forgetting my colleagues at work who are always there to help. They have so much patience and have been a huge help and support not only to the academic side to my studies but also in practice.

When I first joined the Lifetime planning team I started off by sitting in on client meetings and then drafting legal documents/ letters to clients on behalf of my supervisor. My supervisor is Teresa Callender who is a Fellow and has years of experience in this area of law. She too started her career young and began as a receptionist in a law firm.

Our team handles wills, powers of attorney, administration of estates/ probate work, and elderly client work.

When I had been in the team for nearly a year I progressed on to seeing my own clients for powers of attorney and simple wills.

At this time with probate files I would sit in the meeting with Teresa leading and she would start by having the file in her name, but give me any morning post on that file so I could use my initiative as to what the next steps were to take, rather than just being spoon fed work.

Gradually I then began assisting other lawyers and partners in the team. I think assisting a number of lawyers whilst training really strengthened my experience and confidence. I then started handling a number of files in my own name after I passed my CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma. My caseload has gradually increased and I now run my own client files, mainly doing elderly client work and dealing with the administration of small estates.

I still assist the two lawyers I work very closely with on the larger taxable estates which I do enjoy. This allows me to continue gaining experience in dealing with more complex matters.

I have enjoyed my learning with CILEx Law School and have always found everyone helpful. If ever I have had any queries someone has always been able to answer them promptly. Distance learning of any sort requires commitment and CILEx Law School’s online Student Area and resources are so helpful if used properly.