After almost 20 years of working in retail, Lee Tilling reached a crossroads in his career.
Having fallen out of love with his current job, he sat down with his wife to discuss his options.
It was a conversation that kick-started a new chapter in Lee’s life – one which would see him apply to study Law at the University of Hull, to pursue his dream of becoming a barrister.
The “father” of his university year shared his inspirational journey into the legal sector.
“I started working at 16 for McDonald’s part-time, and got promoted very quickly. I became one of the youngest store managers for the company in the whole country,” Lee said.
“I decided, due to financial problems, to leave my A-Levels and focus on work – that was something I regretted for a long, long time afterwards.
“I rose through the ranks at McDonald’s, and then went on to run my own business for a period of time, but it came to a point where I wasn’t enjoying working in retail. It had just become a necessity due to having family commitments.”
A conversation with his wife proved to be the decisive moment in Lee’s career.
“My wife said to me ‘why don’t you follow your dream, and go and study law?’
“I started looking at universities, and chose the Law School at Hull. I came and did one of the Applicant Days, and liked the fact the campus was all on one site.
“The library was fantastic, the Law School professors were experts in their field, many had written books, but most of all they were very passionate about what they did.”
Lee was accepted onto the Law degree at Hull, and started his new course at the age of 35.
He remembered fondly the first time he walked into a lecture theatre, to meet his fellow pupils.
“Walking into the class and being called ‘Sir’ put things into perspective for me,” Lee said.
“I was definitely the father of my year. It was nice to be around younger people though, it certainly made me feel younger.
“Looking back, making that decision to study law at Hull was 100% the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Lee secured a mini-pupillage with Wilberforce Chambers in Hull while he was studying at the University, giving him the chance to shadow a barrister for a week.
He also won a prize for achieving the highest academic mark in law at Hull, was awarded further experience with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Since graduating from Hull, Lee has commenced his Barrister training course which will allow him to be called to the Bar.
Looking back at his time at Hull, Lee said: “I started my degree at 35 years old. I remember thinking by the time I qualified, I would be over 40.
“I thought ‘no one is going to hire me, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, am I going to be able to keep up with all these people around me?’
“University challenged me intellectually, and I realised the skills I had gained in my career up to that point were all transferrable.
“You’ve got to give so much credit to my lecturers. The passion they showed and the care they have…I would not be where I am today without the support from the University of Hull. There’s a lot to be said for it.”