Kevin Currie, trainee solicitor, Andersonbain LLP, began his path into law at Stevenson College, Edinburgh, where he studied an HNC in Legal Services. He then briefly studied the BA Law at the University of Stirling transferring to the LLB. Kevin is now in the second year of his traineeship and is due to qualify in November 2020.
My journey is slightly 'off the beaten track' to the more traditional route of becoming a solicitor. I left school at the end of fourth year with mediocre Standard Grades, no Highers and determined to seek out a career as a mechanic. During the penultimate year of my mechanical apprenticeship I began to feel the need for more of a challenge and a career which offered more opportunities and at this point I realised the importance of education.
Within a week of qualifying as a mechanic, I left my position to attend a full-time Intermediate 2 Business Management course at college. I soon realised that business management was not for me however but the legal side of the course intrigued me and my tutor’s enthusiasm for the law had rubbed off . I was advised that to enrol on the HNC in Legal Services I would be required to not only pass my Intermediate 2 in Business Management but also pass the required exams in communications. I was so determined to make the change to law and as a result of hard work, I successfully passed both the Intermediate 2 in Business Management and the additional exams with no formal teaching.
The HNC Legal Services was a great introduction to the legal world and provided me a foundation to build my career upon. However, the hurdles which came as a result of having no Highers did not end there. During my HNC I applied to various universities to enrol as an LLB student, with BA Law as my secondary option. I was presented with two conditional offers for LLB Law with the condition that I achieved a grade ‘A’ for my HNC in Legal Services and a conditional offer for BA Law with the condition that I achieved a grade ‘B’. Unfortunately, a grade ‘A’ eluded me by only a few percent leaving me with the only option of becoming a BA Law student.
Although a BA Law degree would allow for a successful career, it would not allow me to become a solicitor and would therefore hinder my goal of becoming a solicitor. As soon as my studies started, I sought out a way to allow me to transfer over to the LLB. The school of law at the University of Stirling advised me that if I was to complete my first year of BA Law, achieving certain grades, they would accept my transfer to LLB Law. However, as BA Law did not cover the Law Society of Scotland’s required subjects, I would have to begin my LLB studies from first year, essentially adding one year onto my undergraduate studies. Such was my determination, or stubbornness, I did not let this faze me and achieved the required grades to allow me to transfer over to LLB Law.
From the beginning of my LLB studies right through to my Diploma in Professional Legal Practice, my credentials were not questioned and I was accepted as having achieved the required qualifications to be there. However, it was not until I began applying for trainee solicitor positions that some of the larger law firms viewed this differently. One particular firm, during their online application in which there was a section specifically requesting Highers, would not allow the applicant to complete the application unless they inserted their Highers. It seemed like a cruel joke to work so hard through college and university to effectively be discriminated against for having no Highers. It is my belief that law firms should recognise this separate route into the legal profession and not discriminate against a person for what they achieved at high school, but recognise their determination and hard work as qualities allowing them to get to the point of becoming a trainee solicitor.
On completing my Diploma in Professional Legal Practice, I managed to gain some practical experience as a trainee paralegal for 10 months, which helped me secure my traineeship and I haven't looked back.
The road to becoming a solicitor with no Highers is lengthier than the traditional one, but it demonstrates the possibility for someone who has taken a different path at the end of high school to successfully make it as a solicitor. The hurdles I experienced within my education must also be seen as opportunities - if it were not for these hurdles, it would not have been possible for me to have reached my current position as a trainee solicitor. It is this experience and outlook which will stay with me throughout my legal career and help me to progress within it.