Deaf Solicitor

This post was originally featured on North of the Stupid Line, and has been amended to suit Deaf Blawg.

I qualified as a solicitor today, the culmination of nine years of hard work.

At the tender age of 14, I made the decision that I wanted to become a lawyer. A careers adviser at the time said that I couldn’t become a lawyer because it would be too difficult as I was Deaf. That was probably the best thing he could have ever said to me, as it just made me more determined to succeed.

During A Levels, I applied to the customary six universities, but the A Level European History teacher put me off applying to do a Law degree, as her son was a Cambridge University graduate and he couldn’t get a training contract. If that was true, then what chance did I have? This led me to apply to read History instead of Law.

After the first term at University of Wales Swansea during the 1998/1999 academic year, I began to have second thoughts about the History degree (although I was enjoying it), and made enquiries as to whether I could switch courses. The answer was affirmative, but there was a catch; I’d have to start the first year of the Law degree in the academic year 1999/2000, pushing me behind. The parents weren’t too thrilled with the idea, and I didn’t like the idea of having to work from January to August in the meantime. I decided to stick with my History degree, having obtained advice from the university’s Careers Centre, who informed me that I could do a conversion course after my degree, known as the Common Professional Examination or Postgraduate Diploma in Law, for a year. This course is specifically for non-law graduates.

So, having completed my History degree, I applied for a place on the CPE at the University of the West of England, Bristol, which was accepted. The CPE was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – it was non-stop studying for a full academic year, bearing in mind that it’s the equivalent of a three-year Law degree crammed into one year. I managed to pass it, and enrolled on the Legal Practice Course or Diploma in Legal Practice at Cardiff University.

Then came the difficult part, securing a training contract. I applied for over 150 training contracts since 2001, and despite having about 11 interviews, wasn’t offered one. I started work at the Royal Association for Deaf People in June 2003, the week after I completed the LPC, as an Advice Worker, and eventually was able to arrange a secondment to South West London Law Centres to do an 18-month training contract, beginning on 28 November 2005. Wanting to specialise in Employment Law, I arranged an additional secondment to Hugh James Solicitors for the last five months of the training contract, which ended this week.

So, I’ve now reached my goal – I’m a qualified solicitor, due to be admitted to the roll on 1 June 2007.

So, what’s next? After having worked in the public sector for four years, the aim is to obtain a position as an Employment Solicitor in private practice, in the South Wales or South West area. I’d like to get a few years’ experience under my belt, and perhaps get promoted to Associate or Partner level, and then set up my own law firm with some mates.