'Affable' Alex is laying down law for legal career
LEGAL assistant Alex Nicholls is demonstrating that the traditional university route isn't the only way to forge a successful career in law.
Alex began work at Freeth Cartwright, in Hanley, after completing her A-Levels at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College. Now she is studying for professional qualifications after proving herself a key part of the team.
She said: "I had been studying for an A-level in law and I turned up early to a lecture one day and the lecturer showed round an advertisement for a position at a commercial law firm.
"I didn't even know what commercial law was at the time because we always just studied criminal law, which they thought was more interesting to us.
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"But I just decided to go for the job and I got it, working for the debt recovery and litigation teams.
"It seemed like the best option. Rather than building up a mountain of debt through being a student, I was able to buy my own home at the age of 19 and I have gained huge experience of a wide variety of aspects of commercial law.
"This has been a great help to me in going for the career I want – a career in the legal profession."
Alex, now aged 24, is studying to become a legal executive – a legal professional working in one key area. In Alex's case, it will be litigation. She hopes to complete this in 2014.
The Law Society has expressed support for apprenticeships, saying they offer the same standard for qualification as more traditional routes.
While at Freeth Cartwright, Alex, of Longton, has brought a new client into the firm and has also thrown herself into other activities, such as being on the committee of the Vitalise Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards, helping to honour and celebrate the achievements of inspirational women from business and beyond.
She admits balancing work, life and studying can be tricky.
Alex said: "It can be very hard and it's a lot of work but I know it is the right thing for my future and I enjoy it.
"When I am on the train to court, I will take my study books. I also sometimes stay behind after work to study in peace."
Freeth Cartwright has supported Alex through all of her studies.
She said: "My employers have been a huge help. They have supported me both financially and with their advice and assistance. It is great to be able to do this knowing that my employers are fully behind me. They've helped with buying study books and funding the course itself."
Once she is a legal executive, Alex could then do a further two years of training and become a solicitor.
Now she has been nominated in The Sentinel Business Awards in the Apprentice of the Year category, sponsored by Stoke-on-Trent College.
Peter Gavin, managing partner at Freeth Cartwright, based in Regent Road, said: "Alex has shown a great aptitude for the legal profession, researching cases diligently and proving an extremely thorough and conscientious assistant within both our litigation and debt recovery departments.
"She got herself up to speed very quickly on the complex issues associated with these departments by doing the necessary research and has continued to further her knowledge and her abilities at every step of the way.
"She is currently working equally hard at her ILEX course, which would see her become a legal executive. The demands of this course are considerable and Alex shows the same dedication to this – studying on the train to court and remaining behind to study after most of us have left.
"She is a hugely personable and affable person and is a great asset to our business in terms of both client-facing and behind the scenes roles.
"As a firm of solicitors that specialises in corporate law, it is imperative our employees demonstrate sound commercial sense as well as legal knowledge to enable them to understand our clients' requirements and priorities.
"In this area, Alex has demonstrated significant qualities too. Taking a highly pragmatic, problem-solving and commonsense approach, Alex has demonstrated both her initiative and her imagination in finding the correct solution for our clients."