Katie Dean is a residential property trainee / trainee case manager at O'Neill Patient Solicitors LLP in Stoke-on-Trent. She began her CILEX CPQ journey in June 2021 after completing a legal secretary course and paralegal apprenticeship and is hoping to qualify as a residential property lawyer.
Why are you studying CPQ?
Having done a legal secretary course and then a paralegal apprenticeship, both through CILEX Law School, I was keen to take my legal career further. I was already familiar with CILEX so when CPQ was launched it felt like the logical next step for me. I’m currently doing the Foundation stage but it’s very much my intention to go all the way through and become a CILEX Lawyer.
I think another reason for choosing CPQ was that, with my previous qualifications, I was eligible for some exam exemptions which both shortens the time frame and also saves me some money, which is handy because at the moment I’m self-funding my study. I should say though that I recently applied for a CILEX Lawyer Scholarship from the CILEX Foundation and I’m also talking to my employer about them helping with the cost.
How are you balancing work and study?
It’s OK actually. I’ve been doing additional study for a few years so I’m used to it, but you certainly have to be willing to put the time in. I usually do some work at lunchtime and then later in the evening once I’ve got all my home jobs out of the way. It’s about one to two hours a day for me. I’d do more if I could but that’s one of the advantages of this route; you can take it at your own pace and fit it around your other commitments.
Once you’ve enrolled you can access all the learning resources via the Student Hub. I can do that on my laptop, on my phone – whatever’s most convenient – and it’s so much better than having to carry around a load of books. There are also live videos and webinars via Zoom so there are lots of different ways of learning.
How much contact do you have with other students on the programme?
We’re connected online. There are some students who, like me, have come on to CPQ from other CILEX courses and during the course induction all the new students met up online. It was actually a really diverse group – lots of new students, but also some like me who’ve been studying for a while and some people who have years and years of experience and who want to get a qualification to back that experience up.
I’m in WhatsApp and Facebook messenger groups with some of the other students and there’s quite a lot of communication, supporting each other and just checking in so you don’t feel lonely or isolated. I love it. I think as things get easier, we’ll start to meet up again too. I’ve also been contacted by students from my previous courses asking whether CPQ would be right for them.
Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?
No, in fact I didn’t plan on becoming a lawyer at all. I always thought I’d go into teaching. I did well at school but just as I was coming up to my GCSEs, I started looking at apprenticeships. I wanted to be earning as well as studying and when an opportunity came up, I jumped at it. I actually finished my GCSEs on a Friday and started work the following Monday. But now that I’ve started, I can see a clear pathway ahead and I know what I need to do to get there.
Are you finding that you're putting your learning into your work?
Yes, very much so. The module on contract law is something that I use pretty much every day. I also think the module on ethics and professional skills has been useful. It’s enabled me to recap a lot of the training I’ve previously done, and I think it would be especially useful for anyone who hasn’t been in this kind of environment before – what professionalism actually means, how you speak to clients, how to behave, that kind of thing.
What are the advantages of taking this route rather than going to university?
I think the main thing is combining working with studying and the benefits you get from doing that. I’m not even 21 and I’m a trainee paralegal with four years’ experience in the workplace as well as my qualifications. If I went to uni I’d come out and still have to find a role and then start building that experience.
Whenever I meet people who are thinking of going to uni to study law I tell them about CILEX and how you can study and work. I know that people go to uni for lots of reasons and I’m not knocking it, but personally I’m very glad I took this route and that I’m so far ahead in my career.