29-year-old Alex Hawley tells us about his determination to pursue a career in law
It was through studying a degree in criminology at Lincoln University that Alex Hawley first became interested in pursuing a legal career. Now, five years into a six-year Bachelor of Laws course at The Open University (OU), Alex is setting his sights high, harbouring ambitions to one day become a barrister, and ultimately a judge.
In the short-term, however, he’s aware of what his career progression is initially going to be involve. “I’ve got an interest in criminal law,” he says, “but am willing to go into any area of law that will get me a job, because of the difficulties of getting a job anyway.”
Able to thrive
Alex (pictured right) lives with cerebral palsy and receives round-the-clock assistance from three carers on rotation. He is also dyslexic and unable to write, both of which would seem to present major challenges, given the demands of studying for a law degree. Yet with support from the OU and through sheer determination, he has been able to thrive over the course of his studies.
“The support I get from the OU is that they provide funds to pay for the support I need,” Alex explains. “Because there’s a lot of independent study involved, all the reading is done for me by my carer.” When it comes to writing essays, Alex communicates each word to a carer who types it on his behalf – a slow process, but one helped by the fact that, as Alex notes, “I got a carer in who’s got a 1st class degree in history.”
It’s a similar situation when taking exams, which Alex sits at home in the presence of an OU invigilator. “If I have what it takes, anybody can do it,” he maintains. “I haven’t had an extension at university in five years. I start my courses six to eight weeks early, so that I don’t get behind.”
The road ahead
Alex has also set about getting some workplace experience in the form of two mini pupillages at different Nottinghamshire chambers. As he recalls, “It was very interesting, because although the people were nice, the access was difficult. Both buildings were old, so I brought my ramp and equipment with me and did the best I could.”
Not that such access issues are limited to chambers alone, with the court itself providing further challenges of its own. “I shadowed a High Court judge and had the opportunity to sit with them,” Alex remembers, “but I couldn’t get to the bench. If I ever advance that far, that could present a problem. You’re also not allowed to take dictaphones into court – I wouldn’t be able to take notes with my clients without one, so the regulations might need to change before I can get there.”
Outside of his studies, Alex also performs regular voluntary work for Victim Support, supporting witnesses to crimes and familiarising them with the legal process, and for the Nottingham-based homelessness charity, Framework.
Whatever complications Alex might encounter in future – due to legal traditions or otherwise – you get the sense that having mapped out his career path so carefully and already delivered where it counts in terms of his studies, he won’t be one to give up easily…
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