Retired solicitor, Devon

I had just graduated from university with a degree in fine art when a solicitor friend asked if I could sit behind counsel. I read the file and was hooked.

My legal training was excellent. I found the LPC engaging as well as challenging. I was practising civil, criminal and family while studying for the same core law examinations, all immediately applicable skills.

The hardest set of challenges I faced were the long hours, the public funding cuts, the struggle to do enough chargeable hours in a day at the same time as doing what you consider to be vital work. I specialised in family law but I always took on a lot of domestic violence work. Let’s just say that in doing your job properly you are not liked by respondents. Some decided to make the fact abundantly clear.

The law affects everything and that is what makes it so interesting and dynamic. It’s an organic beast and an amazing construction. The study of law has given me a measured outlook on life. I cannot fail to see both sides of an argument and I always feel I can make a difference.

Seeing a case through from the first handshake to the goodbyes at court brings rewards. The images that remain are the grateful clients, especially if the case was particularly horrifying.

Lost in the changes I have seen to the profession are intelligent, devoted, hardworking and conscientious lawyers left demoralised by being undervalued, underpaid, overworked and left anxious about their future.

Someone jokingly said to me there is only one thing worse than having one client in the room and that’s having two. Personally, I enjoyed mediation work.

We have seen the growth of niche firms, including criminal firms which are arguably good for clients. But it also means that the public have lost the quality relationship with a single solicitor, even the single firm that knew them quite intimately. Of course, there is satisfaction in having command of your subject, but a spread of areas can enrich a practice too.

I hope good lawyers are appreciated and paid adequately to reflect their years of study, hard work and dedication. That a social life or even some free time in the evening is not just a dream. That we can have a publicly funded system that is effective, serves the vulnerable and does so in a cost-efficient manner. That we cut down on waste, across the board, from courts being used to capa city to paper-free applications.

We cannot all be Atticus Finch, but every lawyer has a part to play in improving outcomes. We need a legal system that reflects today’s society. Solid, robust legal argument can exist without holding on to archaic tired structures.

I retired in 2012 on the grounds of ill health. I have stage 4 malignant melanoma and have been told by doctors there is no further treatment they can offer except the life-saving TILs (tumour infiltrating lymphocytes). My treatment is scheduled to begin on 18 May, but this is not funded by the NHS so I desperately need to raise £70,000.