Blog post

How To Get Into The Legal Profession

Have you ever thought about a career in the legal profession?  What does it take to make it in this sector?  What sort of work could you get involved in?

To answer these questions and more, we caught up with Sarah Cunliffe (left picture) and Saxan Lisle-Fenwick, two legal professionals from Access Legal Solicitors to get their expert advice and guidance.

Q.     Saxan, what exactly is your role at Access Legal Solicitors?

A.      I am a Chartered Legal Executive in the Personal Injury Department and I work in the Thames Valley/Reading Office.

Q.     To get yourself a job as a Legal Executive, did you have to study at university?

A.      I studied the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice at Bracknell and Wokingham College. I then went onto study the CILEx Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice at Guildford College, and also through CILEx Law School.

Q.     And did going to university and studying these courses have an impact on your career path?

A.      As I was already working in the private client sector, I chose to study subjects that reflected the area of law I was working in to include, Tort Law and Civil Litigation, as well as studying a number of compulsory subjects and other chosen areas.   

Q.     It sounds as though you studied a lot!  Did you undertake any work experience at all before you landed a permanent position?

A.      Whilst studying I was in a permanent Paralegal (a person trained in legal matters but not qualified as a lawyer) position and my time in this role went towards my qualifying employment that is required in order to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive. Once I qualified, I then gained a permanent role as a Chartered Legal Executive.

Q.     So, it’s quite a lengthy process to get to where you are today. Is there anything then, based on your experience of getting into the industry, that you wish you’d have known when you started?

A.      It is really helpful to be working in a role that counts towards the qualifying employment element of the course whilst studying. If your current role does not include any duties that would count towards qualifying employment, then I would recommend speaking with your employers to see if there are any duties/tasks that you can take on to assist with this.

Q.     Sarah, I understand you studied at the University of Northampton, what is it that you graduated in?

A.       I studied an LLB Law Degree and did my Legal Practice Course (LPC) part-time at De Montfort University. I knew from an early age I wanted to be a Solicitor, so a degree in law was the only option for me. I was fortunate to get a paralegal role upon graduating and a training contract 18 months thereafter.

Q.     Is there anything you wish you’d have known when you started like Saxan?

A.      Try and set yourself apart from the competition at an early stage. Do as much voluntary work or work experience as you can. Training contracts are hard to secure.

Q.     You work alongside Saxan, is your job similar to hers or do you work in a different area of Law?

A.      After 18 months at my first firm I joined Shoosmiths/Access Legal as an Assistant Solicitor. I was promoted to my current role as an Associate in 2006 and in the 16 years I have been at Shoosmiths, I’ve seen a lot of change in my area of law. Some good, others not so!

I started off doing low value personal injury work, working mainly for employees who had had accidents at work. I now specialise in higher value claims and claims arising out of neglect or abuse in care homes.

Q.     Is there anything you both find particularly challenging about your roles that future law practitioners should be mindful of when thinking of stepping into this world?

A.      (Saxan) I would say that the most challenging part of my role at the moment is trying to progress matters when faced with difficulties with the third-party insurers/representatives and in turn trying to manage the client’s expectations.

Q.     What about you Sarah?

A.      Having to deal with families who are often dealing with the loss of a loved one and at a time when they have so many unanswered questions.”

There are many different reasons to want to choose a career in the legal field.  From the diversity that each practice offers, to the financial rewards and the intellectual challenges.  Law can be a very rewarding career path for many, and one that boasts a long and prosperous lifespan.

There are hundreds of job across the UK available here: