It is still a common misconception that you must have attended University and completed your LPC to be able to guarantee a job in law. There is no doubt that this may be the easiest route into the legal sector but it’s not the ONLY way and this week’s guest is telling us how she managed to become a Legal Executive via a different route…
Gemma Adams works as a Legal Executive specialising in criminal law. It was not until 2011, when she obtained a role as a Legal Secretary, that she was ”bitten by the criminal law bug”. She studied part-time at University, whilst working and raising her daughter, graduating in 2017. She then went on to enrol at CILEX Law School, completing further studies and graduating as a Chartered Legal Executive in 2022.
This year, Gemma obtained her rights of audience and she is now ”on her feet” in Court, as well as now being able to attend to clients at the police station.
Alongside Gemma’s busy career, she is also the Founder and Director of Women in Law Kent. Her mission is to build a community for women to empower, support and connect women in the local area.
𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧?
You can catch our Rob Hanna and Gemma talk about:
- Why the CILEx route worked best for her and why
- The reason behind founding Women in Law Kent and what this means for her
- Being the first member of her family to attend University and specialise in the legal industry
- Gemma’s career to date and the inspiration behind her career highlights
- Raising a family and studying in the current age and through the pandemic
- Why Gemma has loved her journey into law and why building a legacy is important to her
Here are 3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Hear about how the CILEX route works.
- What is legal aid and why is it dying out.
- Gemma’s advice for qualifying via an alternative route.
- CILEX Law School
- Women in Law Kent
- Gain exclusive benefits and bonus content by signing up on Legally Speaking Podcast’s Patreon page!
Gemma’s background and career journey:
- Gemma started working in administration and customer service after leaving school.
- She got a job in a law firm called Harman and Harman in Canterbury.
- She moved to Fairweathers with Nick Fairweather, President of Kent Law Society.
- Gemma worked as a legal secretary in various law firms – and a break for maternity in 2009.
- She returned to work at Kent Defence (now Tuckers Solicitors) and became interested in criminal law.
- She enrolled in university and studied part-time for 6 years, graduating in 2017.
- Gemma decided to take the CILEX route and qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive.
- She undertook police station accreditation.
- She qualified and gained advocacy rights at the beginning of 2022.
- Gemma has 1 more hurdle to jump, which is the duty solicitor qualification.
Gemma’s favourite module:
- The law of evidence was Gemma’s favourite module.
- She had a great tutor, Darren Weir, who works at the University of Kent.
- The tutor brought the module to life by using real-life examples and bringing in his wig and gown for class legal arguments.
- The module solidified Gemma’s interest in criminal law and was a turning point in her legal journey.
Gemma’s role as a Legal Secretary:
- Gemma worked as a legal secretary at Streathers Solicitors.
- She worked in a niche area of law dealing with litigation and disputes, in relation to works of art.
- She found the work interesting because of its unique nature and the opportunity to interact with people.
- Gemma believes the skills she learnt as a legal secretary are transferable to other areas of law, such as criminal law.
- Organisational skills, communication, and dealing with queries are all important skills learned as a legal secretary, making it a good stepping stone for other areas of law.
A typical day for Gemma:
- A typical day as a criminal lawyer is unpredictable and fast-paced.
- A typical day may involve representing clients at the police station, attending court hearings, and dealing with bail applications, sentence hearings and other court procedures.
- Court hearings are typically in Magistrates’ Court – dealing with straightforward offences.
- At the police station, Gemma may deal with a wide range of offences, including shoplifting and murder.
- Gemma recently dealt with her first murder case and she says it was a good experience to have had early on in her career.
The CILEX route:
- Gemma previously studied under the legacy route of CILEX which required a law degree and completion of 3 modules – 1 of which had to be client care or legal research, and 2 subject-based practice modules.
- Gemma chose Family and Criminal Law as subject-based practice modules.
- CILEX has recently undergone a makeover and now offers a new route called the CILEX CPQ.
- CILEX CPQ is more streamlined, simpler and cheaper than the LPC.
- The new route incorporates advocacy rights and is designed to guide students in becoming specialist lawyers in the field of their choice.
Skills as an advocate:
- Gemma explains it can feel like nothing can fully prepare you for advocacy.
- She did not participate in any societies or mooting during her part-time university studies.
- She believes full-time students have more opportunities to prepare for advocacy through moot court and public speaking competitions.
- However, Gemma gained confidence through her work on social media and with Women in Law Kent.
- Gemma enjoys the challenge of advocacy and embraces it.
- She is always looking for the next hurdle or challenge to tackle.
Gemma’s views on how justice is delivered:
- Gemma believes the most important thing is for people to know their rights and the powers of the police.
- Many people do not understand the criminal justice system and are ill-equipped to deal with it.
- Access to legal advice is crucial in ensuring justice, regardless of an individual’s financial status or background.
- Legal aid rates and the threshold for applicants are also low, making it difficult for many people to access legal advice.
- Gemma feels that spreading awareness about the right to free and independent legal advice in the police station is a good starting point.
- She encourages people to take advantage of the free legal advice offered at the police station, as it can be a stressful time.
Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court:
- All criminal cases start in Magistrates’ Court, which is the lower court and deals with more simple offences.
- The Magistrates’ Court has the power to sentence people to 12 months in jail.
- The Crown Court is the higher court, dealing with more serious offences – carrying prison sentences.
- The Crown Court has unlimited power to sentence.
- Memorable cases are difficult to discuss due to confidentiality.
- Working in criminal law can be difficult because of the nature of the cases dealt with.
- Working in criminal law requires thick skin and resilience to be able to handle cases.
“Criminal aid lawyers are dying out”:
- Criminal law can be a challenging but rewarding career path.
- However, there is currently a shortage of young lawyers entering the field.
- The ageing population of criminal lawyers could lead to a shortage of representation for defendants in the future.
- It is crucial to promote criminal law as a viable career option for students and to have a diverse range of professionals in the field, to better serve clients of all backgrounds.
- The low pay and long hours can be a deterrent.
- It is a field that requires passion and dedication to make a difference in people’s lives.
Women in Law Kent:
- Women in Law Kent is a group for women in law who live and work in Kent.
- The aim is to empower, support and connect women in the legal field.
- It is not limited to women – it is open to anyone who shares the belief that women need support.
- Women in Law Kent was founded in 2020 and rapidly growing online.
- The committee organises events.
- The group is sponsored by local law firms.
- Women in Law Kent provides a positive environment for networking, sharing stories and boosting confidence in career development.
Upcoming Women in Law Kent events:
- 1 upcoming event will be participating in the Pride Parade in Canterbury.
- There will be a meeting at Dane John Gardens as part of the after-party.
- The group’s values include inclusivity and the support of others.
Gemma’s advice for those interested in the CILEX, Chartered Legal Executive Advocate or criminal law route:
- Speak to as many lawyers or people who work in the justice system as possible to find out what it’s like to work in law.
- Attend as many networking events as you can to make valuable network connections.
- Build relationships and get involved in societies if you are at university.
- Use social media to your advantage to make connections and find opportunities.
- Get your name out there and make valuable connections.
- Find out as much as you can about the areas of law you’re interested in, and gain work experience.
5 powerful quotes from this episode:
- “Ensuring justice is delivered by making sure that everybody has access to legal advice in the police station”.
- “…speak to as many lawyers or people who work in the system, in the justice system or you know, whatever area of law it is you want to work in, try and speak to as many people as you can find out what it’s actually like to work in law”.
- “But making those valuable connections will, you know, put you a step ahead of the others…”.
- “In the police station everybody has the right to free and independent legal advice. So no matter how much money you’ve got in the bank, or you know, your status, you’re entitled to free independent legal advice…”.
- “So it’s important to have a diverse professional in terms of age, race, disability, so that you have those people to relate to”.
If you wish to connect with Gemma, you may reach out to her on LinkedIn.
Enjoy the podcast?
Learning more about the exciting world of legal has never been this easy. If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast, hit subscribe and share it with your friends!
Post a review and share it! If you enjoyed tuning into this podcast, then do not hesitate to write a review. You can also share this with your family and friends so they too can learn from one of the top business podcasts.
Sponsored by Clio: Clio is a legal case management software that work in partnership with the Law Society of England and Wales and is an approved supplier of the Law Society of Scotland.
Finally, support us with BuyMeACoffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/kcpartners.
To learning more about the exciting world of law, Robert Hanna and the Legally Speaking Podcast Team.
00:08 Rob Hanna:
Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. You are now listening to Season 6 of the show. I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by Gemma Adams. Gemma is a Chartered Legal Executive Advocate and Accredited Police Station Representative at Tuckers Solicitors. She has over 10 years worth of experience in criminal law and as a criminal paralegal. Gemma is also the Founder and Director and Secretary of Women in Law Kent. Previously, Gemma worked as a Legal Secretary at Whiteman, Streathers Solicitors and Fairweathers LLP. So a very, very warm welcome Gemma.
00:41 Gemma Adams:
Thank you very much. What a lovely introduction.
00:46 Rob Hanna:
It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Before we dive into all your amazing projects and experiences to date, we do have a customary icebreaker question here on the Legally Speaking podcast which is, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real. What would you rate the hit TV series Suits in terms of its reality?
01:04 Gemma Adams:
I’m afraid I have never seen Suits. So I have no idea. I tend to stick to a more gritty drama so I’m more of a Peaky Blinders kind of girl rather than a Suits so I’m afraid so, and plus it’s an American one, isn’t it?
01:17 Rob Hanna:
Well, there is an American ad. Yes, you’re absolutely right. It is and so with that we’re gonna give it a 0 but I also want to put it on the record I’m a Peaky Blinders fan as well. So let’s go to the beginning. Gemma, would you mind telling our listeners a bit about your background and career journey?
01:32 Gemma Adams:
Yeah, so I won’t go back too far. But my sort of legal journey really started and as I left school, I mean, I had a couple of years after school, working in administration and customer service and sort of building my secretarial skills, because I had no idea what I wanted to do after I left school. And then I managed to get a job in a law firm over in Canterbury, which used to be called Harman and Harman, and then moved over to Fairweathers with the lovely Nick Fairweather, who is now the president of the Kent Law Society. So I started off there. I found that firm, very, very inspirational and my interest started from there really. I moved around several law firms as a legal secretary for a little while until I had a break for maternity in 2009. And when I returned to work, got a job with the firm I’m with now. We were then called Kent Defence, we’re now Tuckers, part of Tuckers Solicitors. So yeah, started there as a secretary and was bitten by the criminal law bug. So I’d worked in various areas of law, very interesting, but criminal is for me. So I decided almost immediately after working there that this is something that I wanted to pursue. So I enrolled in university, very grateful to my firm who were really supportive. So yeah, enrolled in the university, studied part time, essentially not the usual university experience. I attended classes under the cover of darkness. So our classes were in the evening, like 7 till to 9, I think they were, so twice a week under the cover of darkness studying and that took 6 years and then graduated in 2017. And then sort of was a bit of a crossroads there because you have a few options after law school LPC, there was no SQE back then, and LPC I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do. And obviously, it’s very expensive, but I ended up taking the CILEX route and qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive, which is essentially the same as a solicitor. A lot of people don’t actually know the difference. There isn’t a difference. It’s just the the way that you study it’s more a specialist route rather than a generic LPC cover all the modules type course. So while studying with CILEX, again, part time or flexible, and I’ve got I had a, I’ve got a daughter at home, so I needed it to be a bit flexible, plus, I’m working full time. And I undertook the police station accreditation too. So it’s all sort of all come very, very nicely, sort of to the beginning of this year where I’ve qualified, I’ve done all my courses and the beginning of this year, I had some advocacy rights as well. So now we’re all done. But yeah, it’s been a bit of a long slog, but really worth it. I’m really pleased I did it the way I did it. Very stressful, as I’m sure you can imagine at times, but yeah, just really pleased to I’ve got 1 more tiny hurdle to jump, which is the duty solicitor qualification, but I’m just very pleased to be towards the end of it now rather than right at the beginning.
04:20 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, and I just loved that and congratulations and everything you’ve done, you know, it’s such a progressive story. You know, there’s tenacity in there, there’s motivation, you say it’s stressful, you know, you’ve kept going, you know, 6 years, studying at night time, you know, there’s a lot of commitment there. And so, you know, good for you and truly well-deserved and let’s go back to university then because you did study at the University of Kent, you did law, which module did you most enjoy studying whilst you are under darkness?
04:47 Gemma Adams:
I think the law of evidence was my favourite module. We had a great tutor, Darren Weir, who works at the University of Kent and who sort of brought the whole module to life really, brings in his wig and gown for people to try on for legal arguments in class. I remember that quite vividly. And that I mean, that’s obviously going to be 1 of my turning points, 1 of my, you know, I’m at uni, I know I like criminal law, and then the module just yeah, it came to life. It was brilliant.
05:15 Rob Hanna:
Yeah no, I love that. And you mentioned obviously, and I mentioned in the intro as well, that you previously worked as a Legal Secretary, I believe at the likes of Whiteman, Streathers and you mentioned Fairweathers as well. You know, how did being a Legal Secretary differ between each of the firms if at all?
05:31 Gemma Adams:
I mean, generally, it was the same kind of role, so doing the same things day in and day out. My work at Streathers was very interesting. I worked for a lawyer who dealt with litigation and disputes in relation to works of art. So that was quite a niche area of law. So that was really interesting, actually, because I’m quite nosy, I think, I quite like finding out what’s going on with people. I really like working with people and talking to people and finding out what’s going on. So I mean, this is probably why I’ve ended up in criminal law right. But that was, I really found that very interesting. But to be honest, if you can be a Legal Secretary somewhere, you can be a Legal Secretary anywhere. The skills that you pick up are so transferable, organisation, you know, talking to people, dealing with queries, it’s all part and parcel of, of the work of a lawyer. So it’s a, it’s an excellent stepping stone.
06:23 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, cuz that’s what’s gonna say, you know, because we haven’t had many people on who have sort of had that experience, and then obviously, come on to, to qualify, so I love it. So you know, what would be like a typical day or, you know, what are the responsibilities you have? Because like you say, it’s given me such a great grounding to go on to where you have today.
06:38 Gemma Adams:
Yeah, so typical day for me is wake up not knowing where you are, what’s going to happen that day, obviously, things in criminal law, it’s quite fast paced. Things happen very quickly. So it’s hard to plan. But I mean, there’s clearly there’s a degree of planning that that goes on, but it’s hard to sort of plan it in terms of your logistics where you are going to be that day. So my typical day would be, if a client has been arrested, would go to the police station to represent them. I’m now on my feet in court. Very, very new in court. So yeah, still quite a scary environment, but really enjoying it. So yeah, court hearings, too. So just in the Magistrates’ court, so first hearings, adjournments, bail applications, sentence hearings, that sort of thing. They’re all for relatively straightforward offences in the Magistrates’ court. But at the police station, I’ll deal with any type of offence. So it could be anything from you know, shoplifting, a very minor shoplifting offence, all the way up to murder, of course, and I actually dealt with my first murder at the beginning of this year, so I feel like that’s a, that’s a good 1 to be ticked off. Because if you can do a murder in the police station, you can do anything.
07:46 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. And I tip my hat off to you, because you are doing such tremendous work. And but I want to talk a little bit more about the route into getting there, because you mentioned and obviously, you studied at the CILEX, and you know, law school, can you tell us more about CILEX and that route specifically?
08:04 Gemma Adams:
Yes, its recently gone over a bit of a makeover. So I studied underneath what they call the legacy route. This is the original route. So I had a law degree. So I jumped in sort of halfway through the legacy route and did the diploma, which essentially means that you have to do 3 modules, 1 either being client care or legal research, and 2 sort of subject based practice modules. So I chose family and criminal law. But if you’re starting from scratch with CILEX, if you’ve got no legal experience or qualifications whatsoever, you don’t actually have to have a degree at all, you can work your way up through training with CILEX. But they’ve, like I said, they’ve just had a makeover. So they’ve now got a new route called the CILEX CPQ, which incorporates advocacy rights into it too, and it’s a more streamlined way of studying. They’ve made it a lot simpler. And it’s a lot cheaper than the LPC as well. So if you know which area of law you want to work in, CILEX will essentially guide you through and you know, make you the specialist lawyer that you want to become.
09:10 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, no, thank you for sharing that. I think it’s, it’s fascinating. And we need to give more exposure to, you know, these, these different routes, you know, because law, we’re trying to make it more accessible, more affordable to so many people across the globe, and particularly here in the UK and England and Wales. So I’m really pleased that you managed to sort of highlight that so well, and you just again, drilling down a bit more because before this role, obviously you were the Chartered Legal Executive, so I’m just keen to know about skills that you did learn specifically, and how did those skills translate into becoming an advocate as well?
09:39 Gemma Adams:
I don’t think anything can really prepare you for advocacy. I mean, because I did uni the part time way I didn’t really participate in any societies or any mooting or anything like that. I think advocacy, you know, you can train yourself for it at university. If you’re a full-time student and you’re there during the day then you know, but I mean, you have to be taking part in moots and competitions, just to prepare yourself for public speaking. I done none of that. So I felt like, when I was on my feet in court the first time, although I was quite nervous, and I’ve done things like this before, so, work on social media, obviously, my work with Women in Law has given me the confidence to speak in public too. And I do quite like jumping in, you know, jumping into the deep end, so I do like to be challenged, so I, I, although I had 0 experience and speaking, you know, officially no competitions, no training or anything like that, I think, I think you just, you just need to do as much as you can to prepare yourself for it. I mean, obviously, if you’re training with the bar school, they have, you know, all the, all the aspects that you need for advocacy there, they’ll train you up for it. There’s, there’s examinations on it. But the way that I’ve done things, no exams for me, but yeah, I quite enjoy a challenge. I’m always, once I’ve ticked something off, as I’m sure you can imagine, from my journey, it’s been, it’s been quite long. So once I’ve, you know, jumped 1 hurdle, I’m always looking to the next. So even though I’m towards the end of my journey now, I’m thinking, what can I do next? So yeah, I just take it, take it as challenge and I just really enjoy it.
11:13 Rob Hanna:
Yeah no, and good for you. And I love it, because you’re so progressive, and like, I love that mindset of what next, what next. So congratulations. And you also do other things. So you know, in your recent article, inspiring the next generation of criminal defence lawyers, you state, “the most rewarding part of my job is ensuring justice is delivered”. So from your view, Gemma, how is justice delivered? And is this reliant on lawyers providing clients with knowledge?
11:39 Gemma Adams:
Well, absolutely, yes. I mean, that’s quite a heavy question. I don’t even know where to begin with my answer. But yeah, I mean, I think for me, and as I’m sure Rob you’ve seen on my Instagram page, I’m quite keen to tell as many people as possible, what their rights are, what the police powers are, the definition of criminal offences, because a lot of people just have no idea. If you’re not working in this sort of environment, if you know nothing about the criminal justice system, you’re ill-equipped to deal with it. So if the police wanted to stop and search you in the street, majority of people wouldn’t know what the police can and can’t do, what sort of, you know, the tick list of things that the police have to do to make it a legal stop and search. So first and foremost is knowledge. Secondly, is making sure that everybody has access to legal advice. In the police station everybody has the right to free and independent legal advice. So no matter how much money you’ve got in the bank, or you know, your status, you’re entitled to free independent legal advice, and not so much at court. I could do a whole podcast on legal aid and legal aid rates and legal aid delay cuts. But yeah, I mean, I’m not gonna go into that today. But yeah, the legal aid rates are so low, and the legal aid threshold for applicants is also very low. So yeah, justice is only done when everybody has access to legal advice. And that, unfortunately, is not the case at the moment. But a good starting point, like I said, is getting the word out there, spreading the words, everybody knows at least that if they are questioned by the police, whether it be under arrest, or they’re asked to attend the police station as a volunteer, so just to pop in, as the police say for a quick chat, then you are entitled to legal advice, and it’s completely free. So why wouldn’t you have it? It’s free legal advice. It’s somebody who’s on your side, giving you the advice, helping you through what can be a very stressful time.
13:26 Rob Hanna:
Yeah. And it’s a really great point. So I remember once somebody, sort of people like well, do I need it? And then I think 1 of the judges once said to somebody, you know, who was unsure about legal advice, would you go to a heart doctor and say, you’re going to perform the surgery by yourself on your heart? You’re not, right. And that’s the kind of reality when it comes to that. So you’re absolutely true, you know, take it, it’s there. They’re there to help support, protect, you know, and make sure you understand your rights as a system, particularly here in the UK. So thank you for highlighting that.
Time for a quick break from the show. You wouldn’t leave a potential client waiting in your office for 3 days. But what about when it comes to returning potential clients, phone calls, emails, or even web inquiries. If you’re not responding rapidly to those who inquire about your firm’s services, you could be losing money, losing clients and affecting your law firm’s reputation. Thankfully, there’s a resource from our sponsor Clio that can help you, called how to grow your firm with legal client intake. It’s a free guide that will show exactly how and why you should be automating your client intake process. Download your free copy@clio dot com forward slash UK forward slash free intake guide. That’s clear, c l i o dot com forward slash UK forward slash free intake guide. Now back to the show. It’s amazing how you know you’ve picked up all these things and just built your skill set over time. So in your with that, you know, you have over 10 years of criminal law experience, you know, as a criminal paralegal dealing with various offences from the police station, you know, particularly Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court. So 2 questions, you know, firstly, what’s the difference between Magistrates’ and Crown Court? And you know, have there been any memorable cases you’d like to share with us if you can?
15:11 Gemma Adams:
So every single case starts in the Magistrates’ Court. And the Magistrates’ Court is the lower of the 2 that deals with more simple offences. Sometimes they can be complex in nature, but they are essentially offences that carry a lower sentence. So if the Magistrates’ deem it appropriate to send it to the Crown Court, if it’s a serious matter, or sometimes you can choose to go to the Crown Court, depending on what type of offence it is, and what kind of sentence you might be looking at, then your case will end up in a Crown Court. So the Crown Court is clearly the more serious of the 2, which deal with more serious offences, usually carrying prison sentences. So Magistrates’ Court have a sentencing power, at the moment to sentenced people to 12 months, just been increased from 6 to 12. And the Crown Court have unlimited power. So obviously giving out life sentences as the most, the biggest 1 I can think of. So memorable cases, well, this is a tough 1, because we’re not really allowed to talk about cases. So, I mean, we’ve had some very interesting cases and what I will say is that working in criminal law, you develop a very inappropriate dark sense of humour, where some things to you know, the ordinary Joe may be deeply offensive, but you will have to have a giggle about it, otherwise, we’ll be very stressed and crying in the office, because we deal with very difficult cases, sometimes very upsetting, you know, they can involve children. They can be serious sexual offences, things that have happened that are extremely traumatic. So I think in order to work in criminal law, you have to have quite a thick skin, be very resilient, but to be able to laugh at things that are disgusting.
16:59 Rob Hanna:
Yeah no, and it’s, you know, at the end the day we’re all humans, aren’t we? So, you know, I think it’s important that, you know, there’s it is, it is a heavy job and responsibility, and you know, you have to be understanding of that. But at the same time, you know, being able to try and enjoy and have a bit, a bit of fun with what you do is also important, and I don’t want to talk too much about it today, but just wanted to bring it back a little bit, because you are incredibly passionate about criminal law, and in your recent article with Lawcareers.net, you detail where the criminal aid lawyers are dying out. So can you explain in more detail what your perspective on this is?
17:33 Gemma Adams:
Yes, I mean, there’s extensive research that has been undertaken by the Law Society. Essentially, last year, the average age of a duty solicitor, so somebody working in criminal law, who can who can deal with duty cases, police station, and the court is 49. That is a really high age. I think the Law Society describe it as the retirement time bomb. So there’s 2 prongs to this. So the first is that, there’s a very low level of students who have an interest in criminal law. There’s no one coming into the profession. So the profession is getting older and older. The retirement time bomb, I mean, we think about what’s going to be you know, where are we going to be in 20 years’ time, a lot of these people are going to be retired, and if we have nobody knew coming into the profession, we will essentially die out. If you look at Cornwall, for example, 74% of their lawyers who work in criminal law are over 50 already. So I’m quite keen to promote criminal law for students. Yes, it doesn’t pay well, if I wanted lots of money, I wouldn’t be a criminal lawyer, I would end up in commercial. But it’s something you have to be passionate about, that you enjoy doing. So that’s why I do it. I love doing it. I really, really enjoy it. I like helping people. You know, that essentially, that it could be the worst day of their lives if they’ve been arrested for something, you know, for having serious. If it’s something which I would deem trivial, it could be mortifying for them. They’re under a lot of stress. They need some assistance. And that’s what we’re there for. Unfortunately, the job does come in long hours. So I do my office hours, I go to court during the day, I go to the police station during the day, but I’m also on call. So my office, I mean, officers do it differently, but my office have a rota, where I’m on call probably 1 out of every 5 to 7 days, and sometimes all weekend. So there are sacrifices that need to be made because you can’t, sometimes you can’t plan things. And anyone who works in criminal, criminal law will know that plans with friends often get disrupted. Your family members have to be, you know, adaptable let’s say, you know, plans will get disrupted. You work long hours, it’s very, very stressful. But it’s so rewarding. When you’ve had a case where somebody has you know, that they’ve been falsely accused and you’ve managed to have their case dropped by you know, by speaking to the police or the prosecution, or when you, you know that you’ve got your client a really good result even if they’ve pleaded, they’ve done something wrong, and pleaded guilty, and you’ve managed to get them a good result, which is worthy of you know what they’ve done it, a recognisable punishment, essentially, it’s so rewarding. So yeah, I’m just really keen to get the word out there to students, it is a viable career path, it has to be something you enjoy, doing a job like this without the enjoyment will be very, very difficult. But this retirement time Bomb, it’s only gonna be a matter of time before people are at the police station, there’s nobody to come out and see them. There’s nobody to give them that legal advice. They may end up getting charged and going to court. There’ll be nobody to come to court with them. You know, your solicitor might be over 100 miles away, particularly living somewhere so rural, like down in Cornwall, numbers down there are quite low anyway. But yeah, it’d be nice as well, I think, for younger clients to have somebody to relate to. Essentially, if you’re, if your solicitors turning up, and he’s you know 65, 70 years old, you know, if you’re 18, you’re not going to relate to that person. So it’s important to have a diverse professional in terms of age, race, disability, so that you have those people to relate to. And unfortunately, where the numbers are so low that it’s hard to be diverse.
21:14 Rob Hanna:
Yeah. Well I think you’re doing something about it, because you obviously are trying to appeal to a younger audience and raise visibility. Obviously 1 of the best ways to do that is obviously to turn digital and turn to social media. And as you mentioned, you are the Founder and Director and Secretary of Women in Law Kent, what is your organisation about? And what do you hope the members to gain from joining your organisation?
21:35 Gemma Adams:
So Women in Law Kent is a group of women in law who live in Kent, and work in Kent. We essentially, our aim is to empower, support and connect women who work in Kent. We’re not just open to women, we’re open to everybody who shares the same belief that, you know, essentially, women need a helping hand, we need to support each other, and obviously, we do that through networking and training. So I founded the group back in 2020, it was literally I think, like 2, 1 or 1 weeks before we went into the first national lockdown. So it was unfortunate timing. But we had a big launch event where lots of lawyers came along. So we had students, solicitors, barristers, of all ages come together and meet each other and it was more of a networking opportunity, we’re just to launch it and sort of see see where it goes. We’re now 2 and a bit years into it. And we have we’ve, we’re now a limited company. We’re not a nonprofit organisation, we don’t make any money from it. It’s essentially a hobby of ours that we like doing to benefit ourselves and others. And our online and offline community is rapidly growing, we’ve got a really lovely committee of women who, organising events, and we’re sponsored by local law firms. So yeah, it’s just, it’s just a really positive environment for people to get to know each other and share stories and give each other the confidence to, you know, essentially be the best we can be in our careers and compete with you men.
23:09 Rob Hanna:
Absolutely. And I love it. And I love that you’re doing so much with that and you’re collaborating and you know, we talk about the importance of community in everything. You know, that’s something we’re passionate about at the Legally Speaking Podcast is trying to build this community and try to humanise the legal profession and give people as much thought leadership and inspiration that you know, changes happening. So with that with them, you know, Women in Law Kent, you know, what future events do you have planned? Or what are you thinking about, if you haven’t got any plan just yet.
23:35 Gemma Adams:
Sorry Rob, I lost you there.
23:36 Rob Hanna:
Can you hear me now?
23:39 Gemma Adams:
I can. Yeah.
23:41 Rob Hanna:
Okay, cool. Do you want to just maybe go to audio, stick to audio. And then I’ll just re-ask the question for you. Yeah. So talking of Women in Law Kent, you know, what future events do you have, if any, would you like people to know about?
23:52 Gemma Adams:
So we have, we have a few events coming up this year. I’ll keep some of them secret for now, because there are announcements to be made. But our next event is going to be, we are going to be part of the Pride Parade in Canterbury, which is the city in the middle of Kent. So we’ve got some spaces available to be in the actual parade. So we’re going to be all glitters up, handing out leaflets and goodie bags to our members. And we’re going to be encouraging people to meet us at the after party. So we’re going to have a big parade through the town and then we’re going to be meeting up in a place called Dane John Gardens afterwards. It’s a gardens that are essentially at the other end of town where there’s going to be a massive celebration. So we’re really, really happy to be part of this. It really mirrors our values within Women in Law Kent, which is inclusivity, support of others. So we are absolutely buzzing to be a part of that.
24:41 Rob Hanna:
Yeah. And I’m excited for it. So this has been a fascinating conversation Gemma and I’ve loved learning more about your story and journey and where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to and what you’re currently doing and where you plan to go. So finally, what advice would you give to those in the legal profession or wanting to go down the CILEX route, qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive Advocate or generally interested in criminal law?
25:03 Gemma Adams:
Well, I think first and foremost, you have to speak to as many lawyers or people who work in the system, in the justice system or you know, whatever area of law it is you want to work in, try and speak to as many people as you can to find out what it’s actually like to work in law. Try to attend as many networking events as you can, make some, you know, valuable network connections online, don’t just connect with a load of people on LinkedIn and expect things to come to you. You have to build relationships, and get involved in, if you’re at uni, for example, getting involved in societies and keeping contact with people. I just think the more people you speak to, the more knowledgeable you will become. And I’ve, I’ve used that to my advantage. Like I said, I went to the university under the cover of darkness, so I’ve used social media to my advantage making connections online, which has led to some really amazing opportunities. So yeah, I just think get, get your name out there and make some valuable connections. Find out as much as you can about the areas of law you’re interested in, of course, work experience and the usual advice. But making those valuable connections will, you know, put you a step ahead of the others, let’s say.
26:06 Rob Hanna:
Yeah, absolutely. And if finally, if our listeners want to learn more about the CILEX route, or Women in Law Kent, what would be the best way for them to contact you feel free to shout out any social media or web links, and we’ll also share them with this episode for you too.
26:17 Gemma Adams:
Lovely. Thank you. Yeah, so you can find me on pretty much all platforms. I’m Gemma at Legal Exec. And we also find Women in Law Kent on all of the social media platforms. Although you’ll have to excuse my ignorance on TikTok. I’m trying my very best. But yeah, you can find us anywhere. And if anyone’s got any questions, please feel free to reach out. We’re happy to help anybody.
26:40 Rob Hanna:
Awesome. Well, thank you so so much, Gemma. It’s been a real pleasure having you on the show. But from all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast, wishing you lots of continued success with your career and future pursuits, but for now, over and out. Thank you for listening to this week’s episode. If you liked the content here, why not check out our world leading content and Collaboration Hub, the Legally Speaking Club over on Discord, go to our website, www dot Legally Speaking Podcast dot com for the link to join our community there. Over and out.