Natasha Ford shares her experience of becoming an Associate Member of CILEx

I left school and didn’t know what I wanted to do. A few months later I saw an advert in my local newspaper for a legal secretary, no experience necessary and all training provided. I thought that I would give it a try because I had always been good with computers and I had nothing to lose!

When I went for the interview there were three other girls who looked very well presented and obviously had some experience – I didn’t think I had a chance. The interview went very well and to my surprise they rang me that evening and offered me the job!! I was thrilled.

After a few years of working in the firm, I had progressed to being a legal assistant to a busy conveyancing fee earner who often spoke to me about training to become a Chartered Legal Executive, as she had done ten years earlier. She said that it was hard work but that I was more than capable and she would be happy to help me with studies if I so wished.

So, at 25 years old I made the decision that I wanted to progress to fee earner level and because I was already in full time work, university wasn’t an option so I felt the best way forward was to study via CILEx.

Before I began studying with CILEx I had studied to GCSE qualifications and then further qualifications for Microsoft Word, Excel and audiotyping.

From the moment I began studying my Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law & Practice with CILEx Law School, I always had the utmost support from my long term partner and family. I must admit that working full time whilst studying was exceptionally difficult.

There has been many early mornings, lunch hours, long evenings and weekends spent studying, planning and revising for different subjects and exams. Initially I fronted all CILEx fees myself, as the firm I was working for at the time said that they were financially unable to assist me but that they wished me well with my studies. For the first year this was fine, however my partner and I then bought a house, so I moved to a new job with a local firm who wanted me to work initially as a legal assistant with a view to fee earning at the end of my exams. They also said that they would pay for all remaining CILEx and related fees. I was over the moon.

I presently work for Jamie Connolly, who is a partner at Thomas Flavell & Sons Solicitors. I have now been employed by them for just over a year and I work in an extremely busy conveyancing department. I have to say that I do love my job and my colleagues make coming to work enjoyable!

As previously mentioned my employers are fantastic. They have paid for my course and have been extremely supportive, not only financially, but allowing me exam leave and helping with studies. If I was struggling at all, a number of colleagues have been very approachable and have spent time sitting with me going through certain aspects of the course to help me understand.

Overall my experience with CILEx Law School so far has been excellent. The staff are friendly and always willing to help and the revision days were a massive help to me. I would certainly recommend the CILEx route to anyone who is considering studying law, at whatever level! It is much more convenient if you are already in full time work, have a family or other commitments because you can study at your own pace and leisure. I chose to complete all ten units required for Level 3 in two years but If you only want to sit one exam a year then you can. I intend to start my Level 6 studies soon, and in the meantime I have been offered a fee earning position following the achievement of my CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice.

The CILEx qualification for me is everything and I am so happy I made the decision to choose the CILEx route and begin my road to success.