When we are young, people ask us what we want to be when we grow up. For me, both the question and answer were often put to me in quick succession, “What do you want to be when you grow up Simone?” Then without missing a beat, “You should be a Lawyer! You’d make a great Lawyer!” Around the age of, I’d say eight or nine I really began to internalize that word, “Lawyer”. I began to ask questions like, “What was it? What did Lawyers do? Could girls become Lawyers? What did they wear?” I’d ask my parents, grandfathers, cousins, teachers and then, when I got old enough, I began to read about the profession and ultimately decided that besides becoming an actress and writer I wanted to become a Lawyer. Soon enough, the ‘Lawyer’ pushed the other professions aside and took centre stage. I became single-minded about what I wanted to be when I grew up and the Law was the only option.
As the years passed, I went to primary and secondary school, I was a good student, often getting prizes and awards, my focus never wavered from the Law. When the time came, I applied to different Universities both in my country and in the United States to do Law.
I was offered admission, with scholarships, to all of the “Pre-Law” programmes in all the Universities I applied to in the United States. The problem was that I live in a Commonwealth Caribbean country, so doing Law in the United States would not have been the best option for me because the legal systems are different and the process for conversion and admission to practice would have taken much longer than it would have if I were to study in another Commonwealth country. So, after much deliberation, I sadly turned down the offers. But, when I applied to a University in my own country I was unsuccessful in gaining entry into the Law Faculty. I was devastated, for the first time in my life, I didn’t get exactly what I’d planned on. For me the earth literally stopped spinning. What was I going to do? This was not what was supposed to happen.
After a day or two I realized that life went on and that I’d selected a second choice when I applied to that University, I was offered a place and I accepted. To my surprise, I enjoyed my new Major immensely. I did other courses, expanded my horizons and pushed Law to the back of my mind. But the desire to be a Lawyer never really left me, it was always there, lingering on the periphery, waiting for me, it seems, until I was ready.
That moment of readiness came about eleven years after I finished my first degree. I’d gone on to do a Post Graduate Diploma, a Masters of Philosophy degree and I even started my PhD. I’d joined the Foreign Service, gotten married, had a daughter, then a son. Life was moving along. To the casual observer, I probably had everything one could ever want, a family, a career, a house and cars. Then one day when my son was just a baby (he hadn’t turned one yet) and I was about thirty-one, I just got this sense that something wasn’t right, that there was something I had to do. Then it hit me! I still had to become a Lawyer…
Like most people with type-A personalities, in my teens I’d made a to-do list for my life. I tend to horde paper, so I went looking for and was able to find my to-do list. There it was, in print. I’d done everything on my list, except becoming a Lawyer. I sat there, transfixed, turning it all over in my mind. I deliberated for months, then I told my husband. He told me to go for it. So, I did.
I began looking for a programme, the University I’d graduated from was not an option given its class schedule and limited course delivery options. After all, as a working wife and mother, I needed something flexible, I did not have the time nor the inclination to physically go to a classroom. To be quite honest, I wanted something different. I’d heard of the University of London’s (UOL) distance programme. I checked, and to my relief I realized that it was accredited. I decided to find a local school that was a Registered UOL centre. I did some checking, got some recommendations and signed up with the Institute of Law and Academic Studies (ILAS) to do my LLB through the Graduate entry Level A route.
On the surface, my entire journey to becoming a Lawyer took a relatively short time. Honestly, it was a lifetime in the making. I realize now that my initial disappointment, every detour, every other job and every other degree I pursued were just preparing me for the moment when I would stand up in the Convocation Hall at the Hall of Justice, take the oath and be added to the Roll of Attorneys.
Now, when I walk into a courtroom, I bow to the court and proceed to the bar and I’m taken aback by how this one simple act, which may be taken for granted by someone whose journey may not have been as lengthy or convoluted as mine, means a great deal to me. I know now that no experiences, delays, challenges or detours are ever wasted. Once you’re committed to your journey you always end up at the right destination!
Simone's story is continued in Part 2.