Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Studies
Guest Post by Kerry McDonald
In 2019, I completed a part-time undergraduate law degree whilst working full-time for a local Law Firm, specialising in Employment law. As a legal executive, I received a real taste of the role of a solicitor and I decided that I wanted that for myself.
What Are The Career Steps
The route to qualifying as a solicitor in Northern Ireland comprises of a two-year apprenticeship split between 12 months of in-office training under the instruction of a Master, and 12 months of full-time study at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Queen’s University, Belfast.
The apprenticeship is very competitive, with over 800 applicants each year and only 120 trainee spots. Candidates must complete a complex entry examination that sees many fall short or waitlisted.
The candidate must also simultaneously secure an apprenticeship placement with a Master’s in a local Law Firm (limited positions) and complete registration with the Law Society of Northern Ireland before being admitted to the Institute. There are a number of administrative and registration fees along the way, and of course the Postgraduate tuition fee itself.
Securing A Lendwise Loan
Having passed the entry exam and secured a Master’s at my Firm, I was faced with finding the money to fund my qualification. As a mature student trying to manage a household, I did not have the disposable income to afford the fee without a loan.
Preparing to become an apprentice was a very stressful period and time was of the essence to secure the funding before the start of the course. Regular bank loans were too rigid for what I needed and so I turned to the internet for inspiration.
I stumbled across the Lendwise website on a Google search. and decided that it suited my needs. I read the reviews online and decided to get a quote, which came back approved.
Lendwise honestly could not have made this process any easier. The communication was swift, open, helpful, and friendly.
Whilst my postgraduate course was going to run a different process than the LPC in England, Lendwise flexed with me and made adaptions to the loan to ensure that I got what I needed, when I needed it. They also provided me with a delayed repayment scheme so I was not faced with repayments whilst on a reduced apprenticeship salary.
I honestly thought it was all too good to be true until I received confirmation from Queen’s University that my fees had been paid. I was also able to prepay my rent for a year, which alleviated a lot of stress and allowed me to concentrate on my studies.
Upon receipt of the loan funds, I started receiving detailed monthly statements and know exactly how much I owe and how much I have paid to date via an easy-to-access portal. This allows me to feel in control, which is important when taking on a large financial obligation.
After 4 years of part-time study alongside full-time work and with funding in place, I was finally able to commence my apprenticeship in September 2019 to qualify as a solicitor.
The Institute of Professional Legal Studies not only provides a trainee with the practical skills required to practice law, but it also provides a platform for young solicitors to network both on a professional and personal level, which helps to build relationships.
This is beneficial later on for a number of reasons such as good working relationships allow for easy transactions with other Law Firms which can be beneficial when undertaking negotiations and also for professional development opportunities.
It is a tough course and being the first year to have to convert to home study during the pandemic made the course difficult indeed.
We missed out on quite a lot of what the Institute has to offer, but an amazing amount of effort was put in by the University, the lecturers and the trainees to ensure that we were able to complete our studies successfully and achieve our full potential.
We were lucky that by September 2021, we were permitted to graduate in person at a small function and to see our colleagues again. I completed my apprenticeship in September 2021, and following my graduation, I have been admitted to the Roll of Solicitors of Northern Ireland.
I continue to work with the same Law Firm as a fully qualified solicitor and am now an employment law specialist, a job that I absolutely love. None of this would have been possible without the funding from Lendwise.
At the most significant of crossroads in my life, Lendwise provided me with the means to make certain decisions, take certain chances and achieve the career of my dreams.
I can honestly recommend *Lendwise to anyone.
*Credit is subject to status and loan approval is not guaranteed. Over 18’s only. Terms and conditions apply.