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Verity Barley, litigation executive at Minster Law, shares her career journey in law.

I started my career in Law back in 2007. I was in a job I did not particularly enjoy, after finishing university, and was still not quite sure what I wanted to do with my life and my degree, when I stumbled across an advert for a Litigation Executive for a local personal injury law firm.

Law had always interested me and it had been one of my options at university as I decided that I wanted to study criminology and join the police to become a detective. However, having joined the police as a Special Constable whilst at university, it quickly transpired that policing was not for me.  After a couple of slight blunders, including locking myself out of an unmanned police station and having to call 101 for someone from another station to let me back in, leaning on the wall in one of the large custody suites and setting the panic alarms off and being swiftly surrounded by a dozen officers who were not in the least bit impressed, I thought it best I hang up the handcuffs and change my choice of career, not least that outdoor working was not for me.

So, when I saw this advert to work for a law firm, whilst not having any legal experience or a law degree, I applied and to my delight I was successful and my career in law began.

I worked on a variety of personal injury cases, mainly employers’ liability and public liability cases but also some RTA cases.  Initially I dealt with cases up to £10,000 and then cases between £10,000 to £25,000 and gained experience working on multi track cases which were in excess of £25,000. It did not seem to matter that I was not qualified, as I was doing very well in my career, but it was always an ambition of mine to be qualified.

I moved to Minster Law in 2014, initially in the Employers and Public Liability department, before moving into Multi Track later that same year as a Grade C fee earner working on cases valued between £25,000 and £50,000, but on occasion higher. Working for Minster Law re-ignited my ambition to qualify.

I looked at my options, I could complete the GDL, (Graduate Diploma in Law) which was a 2-year part time course, or a 1-year full time course, and then go onto complete the LPC, (Legal Practice Course). This route came at a huge cost and was something I could not financially commit to, and I would still need to get a training contract to become a qualified solicitor, and training contracts were and still are hard to come by.

My other option was the Cilex route (The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive. As I did not have a law degree, I needed to complete the Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice which is set at A- level standard, and then complete the level 6 Diploma in Law and Practice qualification which is set at honours degree level. This would take a minimum of 4 years. However, the beauty of Cilex is that you can study at your own pace, and whilst 4 years is the minimum, there is no maximum to complete the qualification and you do not need a training contract at the end of it. Instead you need to complete a period of qualifying employment and submit a work-based learning portfolio. Once this is complete, you are then a qualified Chartered Legal Executive and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. (FCilex)

Minster Law offers funding to colleagues to complete the Cilex qualification, and after a short application process, I began my studies in 2016. It took 2 years to complete the two skills units and 8 exams for the level 3 qualification, and in 2018 I became an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Legal Executives, (ACilex). I’m immensely proud of the fact that I achieved distinctions in all 8 exams.

I moved onto the Level 6 qualification in 2018, and completed the Client care skills module, whilst I studied towards the first two exams in the 2019 summer exam session. Unfortunately, just before I sat my exams, my beloved mum passed away which changed the course of my life and has meant that I have not been able to recommence my studies at this time.

However, as I have said the beauty of Cilex is that you can take a break should you need to. I am still committed to qualifying, not only for myself, but for my mum and Minster Law who have been fully supportive of me, my career and my studies.

I highly recommend the Cilex Route, and whilst the qualification is changing from what I have mentioned above, it still offers the flexibility for anyone wishing to qualify, regardless of whether or not you have a law degree or any experience, and of course is a cost effective way of qualifying.