CILEx Career Insight
Sharon Allison is a Partner in our Medical Negligence team and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. We asked her some questions about her career journey and how she found the CILEx journey.
What made you decide to follow the CILEx route to qualification?
It was the only way I could study and earn a wage at the same time. I was 26 at the time that I joined the firm so I had financial commitments to meet.
Did you ever consider qualifying via the traditional solicitor route?
The short answer is no. I was the first person in my family to undertake a professional qualification when I started my CILEx, but before that, going to University and getting a degree wasn’t something that we had the money for or I had the understanding of.
How did you manage studying alongside working?
With difficulty. During the week, I was working full-time at then, Cunningham John as Trainee Legal Executive for a busy Partner handling catastrophic Personal Injury and Medical Negligence, so I would often work late into the evening. Two nights a week, I went to Kings Lynn college to night school, and at the time, I had small stepchildren who we would have around at the weekends when I needed to study. It is like anything, you do fit it in, but it takes organisation and commitment.
What did you find the hardest when studying for the CILEx qualification?
I knew the area I wanted to work because I was already working in it, so I struggled with some of the other subject areas, but I was very fortunate to have a lot of qualified colleagues around me who would give up their time to help me with issues I was struggling with.
Have you ever experienced any barriers to progression being CILEx qualified?
Not at all. I do remember a conversation I had with our previous CEO, Ed O’Rourke, several years ago where I thought I might have to leave the firm in order to progress to Partnership or I would have to dual qualify as a Solicitor, which I really didn’t want to have to do. He told me that there was absolutely no need to move firms or dual qualify as there would be no ceiling to progression based on CILEx or anything else for that matter. This allowed me to concentrate on ‘crafting my art’ and becoming the best I could be at what I did. Ed was absolutely right and this is the very ethos of Ashtons Legal today. It is more about contribution rather than a type of qualification.
What advice would you give to someone looking to qualify as a lawyer via the CILEx route?
CILEx allows you to get hands-on experience in doing the actual job. Understanding the law and procedure is only part of what makes a good lawyer. Our jobs are far more multifactorial than they ever were previously and being able to work in the environment learning soft skills and practical tips gives you a head start on becoming a fantastic lawyer.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of being in the most privileged position of helping our clients when they are in need and at their most vulnerable. Whilst I can’t fix what is broken or replace who they might have lost, I can be their voice and I can ensure that voice is heard.