Leah Hester – defending clients in criminal matters

I was unable to go on to further education when I left school due to family circumstances. I ran a business in the art industry for 15 years before deciding on a change of career into law and starting as a paralegal in the Criminal Motor Defence team of DAC Beachcroft.

I decided to progress my career by studying with CILEx Law School alongside my job. Studying for the CILEx qualifications is giving me the knowledge and skills which are essential for me to be able to deal with more complex and higher value work and will lead to promotion opportunities.

I advise and represent drivers facing criminal prosecution following involvement in a road traffic collision. Sometimes the first time I meet a client is when I am called to represent them at a police station interview when an incident has just taken place.

My caseload includes Road Traffic Act offences from Careless Driving up to Causing Death by Dangerous Driving.

Much of my work is instructed by motor insurers on behalf of their policyholders where legal expenses cover is in place. My work involves case management of prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court, briefing Counsel and attending hearings and trials.

I advise clients on the strength of the prosecution evidence, sentencing options and court proceedings and instruct experts in the areas of forensics, electronic data and collision reconstruction.

The most rewarding part of the role is preparing a case for Trial and securing an acquittal, particularly where a client’s liberty is at risk. I’ve been fortunate to work on 12 contested matters in the last two years, all of which have resulted in either an acquittal or the Prosecution withdrawing the case. Conversely, guiding a client to plead guilty and providing clear and firm advice is equally satisfying in the knowledge that this is in the client’s best interests.

Clients demand a higher-level fee earner presence on serious and complex work, so qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive will raise my profile, enabling me to work on higher value cases in my own name.

My studies have helped me to attain a broader and in-depth understanding of the law and the application of it. I would also say that my vocabulary and ability to articulate my ideas have improved, so that I can express myself at a higher level both verbally and in written work.

With a full-time demanding job and being a single parent, distance learning suits me because I can tailor my own study diary to fit my circumstances and busy schedule. I find the revision resources essential and most helpful including the revision days which have been a godsend. I’m studying for my final Level 6 exams and look forward to qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive in due course.