I always wanted to be a lawyer – probably due to my argumentative streak – but when I decided to leave school at the end of fifth year, I did not want to go straight to university and commit straightaway to a career in law. Nobody in my family had gone to university and I had big concerns about my ability to fit in; others doubted my ability to make it as a lawyer. I decided I would look for work as a legal secretary first to make sure it was the right path I wanted to take.
I studied for a legal secretarial qualification and got a job before I finished my coursework. After working for nearly two years and a long spell of anxiety and depression (although I didn't know that was what it was at the time), I was still not sure law was the right choice for me and knew I definitely did not want to go to university, so thought I would never make it as a lawyer. I moved to a different firm and it was there I experienced an environment more suited to me and learned of the alternative route to qualification. My supervisors were so encouraging, showing me a different side to working in a law firm and I realised I was capable and would enjoy being a lawyer after all.
I undertook a paralegal qualification, worked as a paralegal, and then completed the Law Society of Scotland professional exams while working as a pre-diploma trainee solicitor. I got married, had a baby and moved house during my time as a pre-diploma trainee, that ended with sitting exams in the pandemic period, so it was certainly an eventful time. Again, not everyone thought I would end up finishing my training, particularly as I had become a mother. I went on to study the diploma in professional legal practice remotely (through choice!) with Robert Gordon University so I could continue to work as a paralegal.
I am now undertaking my (post-diploma) traineeship with Brodies and am due to qualify as a lawyer next year, 11 years after I got my first job in a law firm. It may have been slightly longer than if I had gone straight to university after school, but I am so grateful for the experience I have gained during that time (and my lack of university debt!). I wouldn't change it for the world. It is possible to aim for your career goals in a different way than the norm, be it an indirect or a longer route, in spite of the challenges you face with mental health or other people's expectations of you, and still end up exactly where you want, and deserve, to be.