An aspiring legal eagle is reassuring Lithgow HSC students that there is more than one way to secure a place at university as she commences a law degree without an ATAR.
Higgins Lawyers employee Sophie Quince has forged a pathway to pursuing her dream of studying law by completing a Certificate IV in Legal Services online with TAFE NSW and working full-time at the local firm after leaving high school in year 10.
"I completed my year 10 work experience at Higgins Lawyers and really enjoyed my time there," she said.
"I really enjoyed the challenge and then decided that was the career path I wanted to follow."
Miss Quince said she has always been interested in law.
"Once given the opportunity to see the legal process in action I knew that is what I wanted to be," she said.
Miss Quince made the decision to go to TAFE instead of completing her Higher School Certificate at high school.
"It was a big decision at the time and after researching my options I decided that TAFE was a pathway that best suited me," she said.
"It provided me with the flexibility of working full time and studying from home."
Over the past few years, Miss Quince has dealt with a fairly demanding study load.
"I set a goal to complete TAFE and apply for University at the same time that I would if I completed year 12," she said.
"I have had a fairly rigid timetable that I have had to adhere to."
Miss Quince was quickly able to put theory learnt and practical work skills into work with clients, colleagues, court administrators, and barristers, to efficiently process legal documents including producing and filing affidavits, contracts, and legal correspondence.
"Working at the law firm has helped me put my studies into practice, all the staff at Higgins Lawyers have been very helpful and guided me through my practical experience," she said.
Miss Quince's end goal would be to work as a lawyer and specialise in criminal law, as it was the field that most interested her.
"It has been challenging at times, working full time and studying has meant I have to manage my priorities and sometimes miss out on social events, but I know these sacrifices will benefit me in the future," she said.
Miss Quince said that she enjoyed the flexibility TAFE Digital gave her to study online while working full-time to further her career, which meant she could work at her own pace and at a time and place that suited her.
"I have enjoyed the large variety of difference topics that I have studied, the TAFE courses were a great help in leading me into my law degree," she said.
According to Job Outlook, the number of people working as solicitors grew very strongly over the last five years, from 65,100 in 2014 to 79,300 in 2019. This strong growth trajectory will continue its upward curve, with 92,800 roles for qualified solicitors forecast by 2024, or 2,700 per annum.
Higgins Lawyers office manager Jennifer McGrath said she had witnessed Miss Quince grow both professionally and as an individual.
"Since undertaking her year 10 work experience placement with us in 2017, I have seen a new level of maturity and confidence in Sophie, and believe her personal and professional growth can be attributed to the knowledge and skills gained from her studies," she said.
"She works closely with our conveyancers and senior solicitors, takes client enquiries, and quickly learnt to produce legal documents such as sales contracts."
Miss Quince said she would like to thank Ross Higgins.
"He has been a role model and inspiration for me throughout my career so far. I am very grateful for all the opportunities he has provided me with, and I would not be where I am today without him," she said.
According to The Law Society of New South Wales, 74 per cent of Australian law school graduates obtain full-time employment within four months of graduation.