Melanie Smith shares her story during Adult Learners’ Week

My first job was as a receptionist with a removal company. I taught myself to type whilst I was there, as the job was mind-numbingly boring. I saw a legal office in Sandwich, Kent and it looked really professional and when a job came up I applied to become a receptionist/secretary and got the job. I have loved law ever since.

I decided that I wanted to study for a part-time law degree but I only had ‘O’ levels, so I studied for a Certificate in Law and Society at the University of Canterbury in the evenings over a two-year period instead. I hadn’t known about the CILEx route to qualifying as a lawyer, which enables you to study alongside full-time work, until when I moved to my current firm, Rootes & Alliott, and learned about it from a Chartered Legal Executive working there already.

I have worked in the Conveyancing department of Rootes & Alliott for over 18 years, firstly as a secretary and then my firm agreed to part-fund my CILEx training. Once I passed the CILEX Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice, I was promoted to become a Legal Assistant to the Head of the Conveyancing Department. My qualifications are being recognised by my employers and I now see clients and prepare my own correspondence. I am working towards my CILEx Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice and hope that once I’ve completed it my role will grow further.

Wages in Kent are low so it has not been easy financially to find the balance of the fees, particularly since my husband is disabled having suffering a life changing accident during my university course at Canterbury. We have adapted over the years and he has been a constant support and inspiration to me throughout my studies.

Studying with CILEX law school is very much about self-discipline. There is no one to chivvy you along to submit essays or make you do your homework but ultimately you have an exam to sit so you have to be ready!

Studying for the CILEx qualifications has given me more confidence – knowledge is a powerful tool. I would definitely recommend the CILEX route to anyone wishing to become a qualified lawyer.

See also:

Using CILEx for a career change
Using CILEx to develop a career in your 30s and 40s
A second chance to build a professional career
Getting in to the legal profession at the ground floor
Getting into an in-house legal department
Building on a career as a legal secretary
Using the CILEx Level 3 Certificate to get into law
Taking advantage of CLEx’s flexibility
Using CILEx units for specialist knowledge