ILSPA Profile – Maria Richards, Course Assessor

The Institute has a great team of people who help our Students achieve their goals. Maria Richards has been assisting Students with their queries and marking coursework for nearly eight years now. Her role within the company is of great value, and you can learn more about her here.

How did you become a Course Assessor with the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs?

I first started teaching in 2004, shortly after I met my husband (who is also a teacher). He gave me the confidence to pursue something outside of my comfort zone. I started off by volunteering at the local college in my spare time whilst obtaining my teaching qualifications, which was difficult as I was also working full time in a solicitor’s office at this stage! By September 2005 I had proven myself and was offered a full-time job teaching a variety of law courses for legal secretaries, paralegals and legal executives as well as legal units on other BTEC courses. In 2008 I went back to legal practice; however, the passion for teaching was still there. I had studied via distance learning myself for a number of years before I became a qualified legal executive, and therefore I appreciated first-hand how much a distance learning tutor is relied upon. I got in touch with the National Association of Licensed Paralegals and became their senior examiner in June 2008. Amanda Hamilton then introduced me to the Institute in March 2009, and the rest is history!

Tell us about your legal experience.

I studied a secretary/paralegal course at college when I left school, and at the age of 18 I took the leap of moving away from Cornwall and got a job in Stevenage as a Legal Secretary in 1998. Unfortunately, the homesickness kicked in, so three months later I was back in Cornwall and was very lucky to secure another job within a matter of days. I temped for the firm for one week and was employed as Senior Secretary despite only having a few months’ experience! Conveyancing can be a love/hate relationship, and I happened to find it the former! The lawyer I worked for at the time was an inspiration and had a big role in providing me with the support and opportunities to progress, and within four years I was a qualified Legal Executive and was given my own caseload. Move forward another 13 years and I am now an Associate and part of the management team for our department, in a firm with the largest conveyancing department in the county. My firm has also recognized my teaching skills, and I am therefore the Training Manager for residential conveyancing, a role for which I create training plans for individuals, monitor the training and progress of my colleagues, and identify external courses where appropriate. (The Legal Secretaries Diploma and Foundation Certificates are of course on my list of recommendations!)

What’s your favourite part of your role?

A huge part of teaching is the reward you receive from watching the success of your students and knowing that you supported them in achieving their goals. I love the variety that both law and teaching bring. Not a single day or case is the same. Working in conveyancing, I clearly have a passion for land law and conveyancing; however, what I missed when I first started working in legal practice was the other topics! With teaching I can still be involved with litigation, crime, family affairs, commercial work, etc., and I find these fascinating.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

At the start of my teaching career it was believing in myself. As a child I lacked confidence, and whenever the teacher set a task where we would have to stand at the front of the class and deliver information, I went into panic mode! It was my husband who helped me realize that I can be anything I want to be so long as I put my mind to it. I attend careers fayres at the local secondary schools every year, and I tell students of my experience and explain that you don’t have to be the A* confident student to succeed in life and that everyone has the potential to be who they want to be.

What are your interests?

I am extremely privileged to live by the coast, and therefore I like to spend my free time with my husband and two children, surfing and having barbecues on the beach (even in winter, where we have toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate to warm the cockles!) I also enjoy gymnastics and swimming, and I play the piano. I also love reading and generally read a book a week!