Case study

Child protection lawyer — Sophie Tierney

Sophie studied law with CILEx Law School in Manchester. She is now a newly qualified Chartered Legal Executive and child protection lawyer at Invicta Law, Kent County Council's legal services provider

How did you get your job? 

I was working as a legal secretary but knew I didn't want to do it forever. Following a suggestion from colleagues, I signed up to study with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), with a view to getting a law degree and qualifying into private practice.

While working full-time I studied in the evenings and at weekends. It took me four years to complete the course, during which time I moved to a local firm of solicitors, working in the civil litigation department and then in family law. This experience led me to apply for a legal secretary role at my current employer, Invicta Law, where I worked my way up to become a child protection lawyer. 

What's a typical day like?

On a typical day I am liaising with social workers, issuing care proceedings, making court applications, drafting and amending clients' work, liaising with the other parties and court and ensuring court deadlines are met.

What do you enjoy about your job?

It is challenging and fast paced. Plus, it's rewarding to know that I am helping people and playing a part in ensuring that vulnerable children are being kept safe.

What are the challenges?

I am always very busy, and my work involves court-directed deadlines, which adds to the time pressure I am under. I have to be very organised.

In what way is your degree relevant?  

My degree gave me a good grounding in the law and studying taught me how to cope during stressful times, particularly given I was juggling the work alongside a full-time job. I learnt how to prioritise and manage my workload effectively. 

How has your role developed?

I started off as a legal secretary at Invicta Law, before being promoted to become a legal assistant, then a trainee legal executive.

 In May 2019 I completed my three years of work-based learning, qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive. I am now a child protection lawyer and plan to start doing advocacy on behalf of my clients in the near future.

How do I get into child protection law?

  • Consider going down the CILEx route to qualification - It has worked brilliantly for me. It was not as expensive as the LPC, allowed me to work while studying and meant that I didn't have to compete for a training contract in order to qualify.
  • Learn how to prioritise and manage your time effectively - I love my work and it is very rewarding, but it is extremely busy and fast paced. If you don't like being busy then this isn't the work for you. 
  • Build a good relationship with your colleagues - Child protection work, because of its nature, can be hard to deal with at times. You need support and understanding from those you work with. 

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