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.


Eve Gilchrist

Trainee Solicitor