From Oppressed to Success – My Path to Becoming Practice Manager at NLS and Gaining My CILEx Qualification

From Oppressed to Success – My Path to Becoming Practice Manager at NLS and Gaining My CILEx Qualification

I am enormously proud to be the Practice Manager at National Legal Service. To me, it is both a blessing and a privilege to work with a team of amazing individuals who strive for excellence every day, fighting for the most vulnerable in pursuit of the delivery of justice.

In the last three years we have achieved exponential growth, this growth has meant an increase in responsibility for me. I am immensely proud of the team and what we have achieved as a firm, despite the challenges of the global pandemic. It is such a pleasure to read the client feedback and reviews we receive – there has never been a day that I did not feel motivated to come to work.

I joined National Legal Service just over three years ago. My journey had not been easy prior to joining the firm; when I was told that I had been successful at my interview I was ecstatic – I remember screaming with joy because of what being offered the role meant to me.

NLS specialise in supporting those suffering domestic abuse, we are the UK’s largest provider of Legal Aid support to domestic abuse survivors; as a survivor myself it is an area of law I am passionate about.

My own experience is testimony that not all victims of domestic abuse are able to find the courage to speak out, let alone flee their abuser – the mere thought of leaving can be terrifying and overwhelming. Often It can seem to those suffering that family and friends are busy with their own lives and problems and don’t need disturbing with theirs; this leaves those who need support feeling isolated whilst losing confidence and disengaging from the world and those they love.

Thankfully, I was eventually able to find the strength to flee, slowly but surely I managed to get my life back together. Throughout the time I was being abused I continued my work as a legal practitioner, nobody knew what was going on at home and behind the smile I painted on.

There were a few times I attempted to speak up to friends and ex-colleagues, I was met with brush off and indifference “ girl you’ll be fine”.

Those dismissive responses spurred me on to find my purpose in life. I promised myself that if I survived what I was going through, I would do my utmost to make sure that other victims would be welcomed, heard, supported, comforted and reassured that someone was there for them.

This became my vision. Joining National Legal Service enabled me to be part of a firm that did this day in, day out. I am part of a team of forward thinking people who are all on the same page, it was my goal for the longest time, National Legal Service is the perfect place for me to make my difference.

My abuser had prevented me from studying and moving forward in my career, I was devastated.

I always wanted to qualify as a lawyer; my father was a lawyer, and my grandfather was a Judge. Law had run in the family for three generations; my calling was extraordinarily clear to me, and I was on the path to achieve this until my wings were brutally clipped by my abusive ex-partner.

After I escaped the relationship I managed to get my life back into practising law, I discovered CILEx (The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) which would allow me to study whilst working. Full of hopes and dreams, I enthusiastically resumed my studies and five years down the line I have now achieved my first qualification (ACILEx Level 3) and have almost completed Level 6 – I’m in sight of qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive.

It has been an extremely rewarding journey so far but it has not been easy; maintaining focus and finding time on top of the pressures of a demanding full-time role in a busy, growing firm made me consider giving up. I am stubbornly proud. I do not find it easy to ask for help, I prefer to plough through on my own, thankfully, on this occasion I realised I was exhausted and pushed past my pride to ask for help. NLS agreed to support me in the last leg of my qualification, I could not be happier or feel more valued and appreciated as a person and an employee.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity to flourish and develop whilst I keep on proudly managing the practice aspect of the firm and supporting our vulnerable clients.

There is a saying “it’s really about who you know” – well I agree to some extent, but I also disagree. I believe that what is meant for you will come to you in the long run if you work hard enough to deserve it without necessarily “knowing” anyone. The quality of our work should speak for us along with our professional reputation. I like to think it may indeed be about who you know, but more importantly who you know that wants to help you because of what you do and how you do it. I am accomplishing my mission with a firm who also helped me.

I am sure that many will be able to relate to my story, those who have experienced something difficult in our lives and come out stronger on the other side. I am a firm believer that there is growth on the other side of challenge and there are always kind people on your path to help you to succeed; it is part of the plan and your journey to success. My message with this blog is one of gratefulness to NLS for helping me to achieve my ACILEx status and also a message of hope and encouragement to anybody reading this who needs it – keep going even when it’s so tough, never give up on your goals and dreams – there is always light at the end of the tunnel even if it looks far away right now.

And if you are reading this and in a dangerous situation yourself, please reach out, we are here as a firm to help you gain protection.

If I can make it, so can you.

Maria Puglisi
Practice Manager ACILEx

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