My Legal Journey.. so far

My Legal Journey.. so far

Shyann McTavish, Trainee Solicitor, National Legal Service

While I have known that I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 16 years old, I took what some might say is a scenic route to get there.

In Canada, which is where I am originally from, a law degree is considered to be an advanced degree and not something that you can study straight out of high school. In order to qualify, you have to have completed previous secondary education.

I completed my first degree, a BA in Psychology, when I was still living in Canada. My intention was to apply for law school and I went as far as to complete the entrance exams before deciding that a gap year would be beneficial.

I applied for a Youth Mobility Visa to move to the UK for two years of working and travelling. It was while I was in the UK that I fell in love with London….and my now husband! When my two-year visa ended, instead of applying for law school in Canada as I had originally planned, I applied to a variety of universities in the UK.

I was accepted to Queen Mary University of London to study law as a senior status student, which meant that I was able to complete my LLB in two years as I had already obtained a university degree.

It was during my second year at Queen Mary that I applied for an internship that was being advertised through their Legal Advice Clinic. This was a Christmas internship in the crime and extradition department at National Legal Service. Little did I know that this would the first step on a five-year journey to become a qualified solicitor.

After I graduated from Queen Mary, I got back in touch with the Head of Crime to enquire about coming back to gain additional work experience. This summer internship led to me being offered a role as a paralegal, with a main focus on extradition.

As my first legal role, I had a lot to learn but my team was incredibly supportive and patient. They were always willing to lend a hand or offer advice and guidance. This allowed me to learn the ins and outs of both criminal and extradition law and build my confidence as a case worker and litigator.

The head of my department approached me after I had been with the firm for a year and encouraged me to put myself forward for a training contract.

I began my training contact in January 2021 as well as the Legal Practice Course, which meant that I was working and studying in tandem. This was a bit of a juggling act to begin with, especially during exam periods!

I spent the majority of my training contact working within the crime and extradition department. I had the opportunity to work on a number of complex and serious cases and acquired invaluable skills which I know I will continue to rely on throughout my legal career.

I am now in my final seat, working within the care team. I have found it very interesting learning about a new area of law and working on a variety of different cases. I look forward to gaining this new experience ahead of qualifying as a solicitor in January 2023. NLS have enabled me to become a Solicitor, even though my background is not “traditional” as such.  They have supported me with my study and qualifications in tandem – nothing is impossible remember “I’m possible” – so wherever you are on your legal journey, keep going.

Shyan MacTavish,  Trainee – Solicitor

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