(Continued from Part 1) Simone talks to Kim Kontos about her experiences and journey to becoming a lawyer.
Just put one foot in front of the other
I did four courses in my first year, then in my second year I did five courses plus the Law Skills paper. I studied and worked full-time during my first year, everything was a blur. I had gruelling weekend classes, all-day Saturdays and some Sundays. I’d never experienced this sort of intensity in my previous degree programmes. I met many other people in the programme, some young, some mature. I became friends with some of the more mature students and realized that everyone had similar stories, they’d all wanted to study Law since they were children and circumstances had prevented them from doing so. We bonded over our shared experiences as mature students with full time jobs and family responsibilities, we formed a support-group of sorts. We still get together.
At the end of the first year, I took vacation from work for the three weeks before the exams started. I studied and I prayed, admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever done either activity as fervently as I did during those weeks. Thankfully, I passed everything but not with the exceptional grades I’d grown to expect. I was humbled. I reasoned that I was a working wife and mother with a very demanding job, I’d just been made the Director of a very challenging Department at work. I consoled myself because the grades, though not what I would have liked, were respectable. I then focused on my second and final year.
During my second year, I took secondment to another, less demanding, organization. I left my senior position and took a major pay-cut, I knew that if I wanted to successfully complete the UOL’s final year LLB exams I had to make sacrifices. And sacrifice I did. I don’t know how my husband put up with me during that final year. Thankfully my children were not old enough to figure out what was happening, I hope they don’t remember that they rarely saw me or spent time with me during that final year. Admittedly, I was not attentive to house-keeping, cooking, washing or spending time with my family. Mercifully, the end was in sight.
I am not ashamed to say that I went into a church to check my final year grades. I am not fanatically religious, but an alert from the University of London about the release of your final year LLB grades will make anyone who is so inclined to drop to their knees. And drop to my knees I did. I was cold-sweating and shaking. In tears, I called my best friend and opened the link. Thankfully the tears were not wasted. I passed! I had my LLB, with Honours!
Why stop here? Finish what you start
After earning my LLB, I was transferred to the Legal Department at my job. I’d been telling myself that I didn’t want to practice Law, the LLB was enough. I was fooling myself. After just a few weeks I decided that I had to go all the way and be admitted to practice.
A year later, I applied and was admitted to another UK university to pursue my Legal Practice Certificate (LPC), by this time my family and I were veterans at making sacrifices. I took an eighteen-month unpaid leave of absence from my job and did the programme. All the sacrifices were worth it, I earned my LPC with Distinction. The UOL had provided me with an excellent foundation and because of it, I was able to excel in the LPC programme.
In my country, people with a LPC must satisfactorily complete a six-month in-service training programme in order to be considered for admission to practice. After a couple months of unsuccessful attempts at securing a training opportunity, a UOL classmate’s recommendation allowed me to secure a great training opportunity. I completed it successfully and was finally admitted to practice Law one week after my thirty-seventh birthday.
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!