Previously a qualified architect, Cheryl Ferguson studied at the University of Glasgow and is currently a first year trainee at Jain, Neil and Ruddy Solicitors. She is training in a broad range of matters including private client, conveyancing, guardianship orders and family law, in particular divorce and contact.
If someone had said to me 11 years ago that I would be a trainee solicitor in 2019, I would have laughed but deep down I wouldn’t have been surprised. I had not long qualified as an architect and was in the throes of managing my first commercial project. Several contractual issues had arisen but I enjoyed resolving this aspect of the job so much that the seed had been planted for me to consider specialising. Perhaps a masters in construction law, perhaps to become an expert witness…but in the end I changed to law completely.
What has surprised me is that I now have no intention of becoming a construction lawyer. I started the exploration into law five years after qualifying as an architect through studying modules with the Open University, one in Scots law and one in contemporary politics. As I explored, I became more intrigued by the other areas of law, in particular criminal, human rights, constitutional and became extremely excited as I began to realise that I had discovered the holy grail to a person’s career – loving the work you do. I did not have the passion for architecture that I saw in my peers but the law, well, this was something I could give heart and soul to.
Fast forward a year and I had successfully secured a place on an accelerated LLB course at Robert Gordon University, studying long distance. With a toddler and a six-month old baby, I had no option but to study flexibly and Robert Gordon University was the only establishment offering that. I volunteered with the Witness Service in Edinburgh Sheriff Court in the latter half of my degree and discovered my love for court. I kept my hand in with architecture but when it came to 2017 and securing a place on the diploma at Glasgow University, I had to make a call and let go of my architect’s registration. Resigning from the Architects Registration Board was a pivotal moment for me, but I have never looked back.
A month after my resignation I joined Edinburgh Sheriff Court as a clerk for the Summary Cause Heritable Court, initially part-time whilst I completed the diploma and then full-time once term ended. Clerking was a happy experience for me and I will always think very fondly of my time there.
Securing a traineeship was one of the hardest parts of my career change. I was not a typical applicant and I am not sure employers knew what to make of me. In the past I had never been rejected for any post I applied for, so the experience of successive rejections was new and difficult. In securing my traineeship, I found a sense of relief and excitement. As I write this today, I am 41 years old and less than two months away from applying for my restricted practising certificate.
I cannot wait.