Junior Legal Counsel
“Dear Miss Sabiiti, Congratulations. We will admit you as a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales on 1 August 2019.”
I am not sure I read the rest of the email for a few hours and after a few weeks on this achievement, it still feels surreal. I completed my Law and Business degree at the University of Liverpool in 2012 and since then, have journeyed towards qualification. So how did I get to qualifying on 1 August 2019?
Why Law and Business?
At my sixth form college we were required to complete work experience in the summer between year 12 and year 13. Through a school work experience programme, I secured work experience at Pinsent Masons. This work experience opened up my eyes to a career path I had not considered previously, commercial law.
"Getting the internship at Samsung feels like my breakthrough moment ... [it] really empowered me to believe that one day I could qualify as a solicitor. I also knew that at some point I would look to pursue a career in-house."
Having not secured a training contract by the time I graduated, I knew that the route to qualification would not be as straightforward as I had first naively thought. I had to undertake part of the GDL due the nature of my undergraduate degree, which I felt bought me time to explore ways of getting relevant experience. I successfully applied for work experience at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in Uganda, spending a month in their commercial advisory team. I had not seriously considered legal work outside a law firm until this point. Having said that, during my GDL year, I applied for a wide range of legal work experience, vacation schemes and training contracts, one such role was as a legal intern at Samsung’s European Headquarters.
Getting the internship at Samsung feels like my breakthrough moment. Working in-house for a year at Samsung was a great experience and a time I still reflect on in my current role. Despite being an intern, my manager at the time treated me like a trainee. Employees at Samsung were required to set targets for themselves in collaboration with their line manager and this was no different for an intern. Using the SRA’s training contract record as a base, we worked together to set time-measured goals for my development. My time at Samsung really empowered me to believe that one day, I could qualify as a solicitor. I also knew that at some point, I would look to pursue a career in-house.
"I was creating my own route to qualification and finally felt in control of this process."
Still with no training contract secured, I decided to continue up-skilling myself and enrolled on the part-time LPC. I worked within the Corporate team at Stevens & Bolton whilst studying. During a review at Stevens & Bolton, a partner suggested considering the CILEx route to qualification. Though at the time I insisted that I would like to do a training contract, this conversation was the catalyst for my next moves. Seeking pastures new, I moved back to Liverpool to work at Brabners. I took with me the idea of CILEx as my route to qualification and my manager and Head of Department were supportive of this. I was not another paralegal looking to get a training contract and that felt empowering. I was creating my own route to qualification and finally felt in control of this process.
Seeking change again, I took up the opportunity to work in-house at a challenger bank. Having completed part of my portfolio whilst at Brabners, I had an idea of the work I needed to do in order to qualify. Whilst I believe that the outcomes you have to achieve for CILEX qualification have been determined with private practice work in mind, over the last 18 months I have been able to demonstrate the required outcomes for CILEx to qualify me as a Chartered Legal Executive. I could have remained as a Chartered Legal Executive, as they are also a type of lawyer. However, many years ago, I set out to qualify as a solicitor and that was still my goal. Though this route has not been straightforward, getting the email from the SRA on the 1 August 2019 confirmed all my hard work had finally paid off. I personally doubted whether I could qualify without a training contract and I am happy to say I proved myself wrong!