Aspiring lawyer Steve Lewis has an inspirational story to tell about returning to education in his forties and winning a prestigious scholarship to help his legal career. He has praised Birkbeck and its lecturers for helping him transform his prospects and change his life.
Steve, from East Ham, left school at 16 with 7 ‘O’ Levels and a burning desire to prosper and succeed. He worked as a bank clerk with Lloyds Bank, a cost draughtsman, a baggage handler at London City Airport and as a mobile phone salesman, before deciding to pursue his interest in Law.
Aged 41, he began a Certificate of Higher Education in Legal Methods at Birkbeck in Stratford. He said: 'It was daunting at first, but now I enjoy my classes so much. If the opportunity didn’t exist in Stratford, I don’t know what my route would have been. Having a renowned university teaching in east London and leading to a University of London qualification was really important. Birkbeck has changed my life in a few ways. It has been a real eye-opener and I do not look at things in the same way. I enjoy my classes so much.'
The father of two has been impressed with Birkbeck’s tuition, online resources and facilities, especially the library. He said: 'The lecturers are extremely good and they are recorded, so you can catch up if you missed one. Birkbeck has done so much for me so far. It is hard for me to quantify. I feel I have gained so much knowledge from studying at Birkbeck.'
After completing his CertHE, Steve enrolled on an undergraduate Law (LLB) degree taught over three years in the evenings. During his first year, he found out from lecturers in the School of Law about a pioneering scholarship scheme set up by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. Steve applied and was accepted after undertaking a series of challenging tasks at a two-day assessment centre. From autumn 2013, he has benefited from mentoring, £3,500 a year for study costs and a guaranteed training contract interview as part of the new scholarship scheme designed to help Black men from low-income households become trainee lawyers.
Steve said: 'The scholarship is life-changing – it is a dream come true. It will give me the opportunity to be a successful lawyer with a world renowned Law firm. I love the subject and what I am possibly able to do for other people. One of my personal aims is to get more black youth into the Legal profession.'
Steve, who is a leading member of the Ebony Steel Band, based in Notting Hill, said many of the youngsters involved in the band see him as an inspiration. He added: 'There are ways to achieve that don’t involve going down the wrong path. It is not about the lack of information, but the lack of direction. Many people are saying I am an inspiration and I am encouraging them to think about studying.'