After successfully juggling the dual demands of law school and raising a young child, Kent Law School alumni Paige Banks and Hayley Goucher are keen to encourage other parents considering a law degree to take the plunge.
Paige and Hayley are now on track to achieve success in their legal careers after graduating last summer. Each completed a Legal Secretarial Course at college before coming to Kent but each took a different route to complete their Law LLB studies – Paige studied full-time over three years and Hayley studied part-time over six years.
Paige doesn’t deny it was challenging and says she was lucky to have a strong support network that she could rely on for help as exams and coursework deadlines approached. She said: ‘I drew up a study timetable as soon as I knew my deadlines and made sure I stuck to it. A huge bonus for me was that all of my lectures were recorded so I would listen to them whilst making dinner or doing the ironing. Then the minute my daughter was in bed, I would sit down with my laptop and books and spend a few hours reading or essay writing.’
Hayley, who also worked part-time during her studies, said a key strategy for her was to be organised and plan her time effectively: ‘When I knew that deadlines were approaching, I would make sure that I started essay writing or exam revision weeks in advance of those deadlines, so that if, for example, my daughter was ill in the days running up to those deadlines, it did not have a devastating effect on my studies and I was still able to meet deadlines.’
It was important for Paige to know when to take time out too: ‘I would always make sure that I spent quality time with my daughter on weekends and during the holidays. I learnt how to manage a healthy work-life balance. This meant that I got the break that I needed, she received my full attention and when I did eventually settle back down to do work I felt refreshed and ready to learn.’
Paige began working at Martin Tolhurst Solicitors full-time shortly after graduating. As a New Enquiries Administrator she is the first point of contact for new clients: ‘I help allocate cases to fee earners, dealing with areas ranging from child access and matrimonial cases to Will writing and probate matters. No two phone calls that I take are ever the same which makes the role so interesting.’ She will begin studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC) on a part-time basis at the University of Law from September. Her time-management skills will be tested once again as she combines her weekend studies with her role at Martin Tolhurst: ‘Following this, I hope to secure a training contract and eventually qualify in family law.’
Hayley is studying an LLM Legal Practice (Solicitors) course at BPP University Law School, London: ‘This course combines the traditional Legal Practice Course with the Master of Laws. I have also started a training contract alongside my studies and am currently in my first seat, which is both challenging and enjoyable. It’s great to put into practice the skills learnt throughout studying and gain real hands-on experience.’ Once she qualifies, Hayley hopes to work her way up the career ladder and make senior partner or even run her own firm.
Paige would encourage other parents considering whether or not to study a law degree to take the first step: ‘The best advice that I could offer is to just go for it! Seeing my daughter’s face as she watched me graduate was the best feeling in the world. It will be a lot of hard work, you will have late nights and you will have to make some sacrifices but it will all be worth it when you have your degree in your hand and realise the opportunities that it opens up for you.’
Hayley says that despite the challenges, she loved every moment of her time at Kent: ‘I would absolutely encourage anyone with an interest in law to do a law degree at Kent Law School. It has developed me not only academically but also personally. I have a different outlook on life and the world in which we live. It has generally made me more understanding and open-minded, I no longer see things as being ‘black or white’. I have truly learnt the value of education and I will now pass this on to my daughter. Even though six years appears to be a long time, it went so quickly and, in fact, in the end I never wanted to leave; I would have been quite happy to have been a Kent Law School student for the rest of my life! The staff were so incredibly encouraging and supportive and I have made life-long friends.’