Working for the legal department of a local authority – Claire Hughes

I left school at 16 and am now a qualified solicitor and legal team leader. When I left school at 16 I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I got a place on the Gloucestershire County Council apprenticeship scheme doing an NVQ in business administration. When I received my work placement I discovered that I was going to be working in the legal department. After about a year I had completed my NVQ and found myself becoming interested in the law.

I was working with a lot of Chartered Legal Executives and looked into what training was needed. Because I didn’t have any A levels I studied a Level 2 paralegal course as a precursor to the CILEx qualifications, so that’s how things started. At the time I worked as an administration assistant.

Once I completed the paralegal course I was hooked and decided I definitely wanted to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive. During my training I always worked full time and progressed with the County Council into a legal assistant role and then trainee Chartered Legal Executive.

A couple of weeks after I passed my final CILEx exams I moved to a much more responsible role at the Forest of Dean District Council. Once I started at the Forest they asked whether I wanted to progress and qualify as a solicitor and I decided this was a great opportunity. I went on to complete the remaining CILEx Level 6 subjects needed to obtain an exemption from the Graduate Diploma in Law. By the time I had completed these I was a Fellow of CILEx. I went on to complete my LPC and as I was a Fellow I was exempt from a training contract. I qualified as a solicitor ten years after enrolling on my first Level 2 paralegal course.

After qualifying I was given a solicitor post and then progressed on to become the legal team manager. Since then I have gone on to have a child and have been appointed as the Council’s Monitoring Officer and Returning Officer.

Whilst I dual qualified I believe that more and more these days people accept Chartered Legal Executives as being on a the same level as solicitors and I certainly never felt that my career wouldn’t progress if I hadn’t dual qualified.

Using the CILEx courses was great for me. I never wanted to go away to university or study full time and I didn’t know where I wanted my career to go, so the CILEx route gave me the opportunity to study in an affordable and flexible way whilst being able to work and build up experience.

In my opinion it’s the work experience that I was able to gain throughout my studies rather than the qualifications that have forged my career path and allowed me to move up the ladder so quickly.

At 33 I have already achieved my target of qualifying and becoming a manager and now I find myself having to set new career goals.