Legal Services apprentice Ellie Randall has already done things most 17-year olds only dream of. We go deeper to find out that she just wants to help others whether that’s in the far reaches of the Philippines or her current bolthole in Bristol.

Swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Philippines surrounded by a kaleidoscope of weird and wonderful tropical fish was a typical day in the life of a ten-year old Ellie Randall.

At eight she’d moved to the South East Asian beauty spot from the UK with her mum and two sisters after the passing of her father. By the age of ten she’d already gained her Advanced Open Water qualification and was hooked on exploring the underwater delights of the Pacific Ocean.

It would be her fascination with fish that sparked her interest in studying Marine Law when she returned to the UK at 13. Her time in the Philippines, and her mum’s commitment to community development work in some of its poorest areas, also inspired her to follow her dreams of helping others.

“I went to quite a sophisticated school. It opened my mind. I was ten and already doing GCSE work. It was a Catholic school and it did teach me moral values. My mum founded a company out there called ‘Heart of the Father’ so from a young age me and my two sisters worked in the slums of Payatas and Tondo helping people. We used to build libraries and we also built a youth centre, which I painted.”

Where there’s a will

Being back in the UK was at first a struggle for Ellie but she knuckled down and focused on getting her A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Geography and Law at South Gloucestershire College. “Originally I thought Law would be boring but I absolutely loved it and it was definitely my favourite subject – I excelled at it,” she explains.

Her trips to court as part of the course also fired up her enthusiasm for the subject. “We watched an Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) case and it did make me want to become a barrister because I’d love to defend people who feel they’ve had wrongdoings done to them.”

But Ellie faced a setback when the night before her first A-level exam she was told she could be facing a serious illness. “I was in and out of hospital,” says Ellie. “I did well in the course work but couldn’t cope with the exams.”

Luckily her health scare was just that and Ellie could get on with her life again. After being rejected for work experience by a number of law firms, she was offered the apprenticeship scheme at Co-op Legal Services.

“This place was by far the best opportunity,” says Ellie. My mum was really into it because she loves the Co-op! That’s where my career started. This job has helped settled me,” she admits.

Seven years on Ellie may not be building the foundations of Philippine life but as a Legal Advisor in the Will writing department at Co-op Legal Services, she’s helping others through one of the toughest times of their life. “I’m doing a job that’s helping people. That’s what I love about it. When I heard it was in the Wills department I was intrigued. Because I’ve had my fair share of loss and illness in my family I feel I’m empathetic and know what it feels like for people.
I think that’s a really important part of the job because if a person calls in and says their family member’s died you’ve got to know how to deal with it. Your voice goes into a certain mode and you don’t realise it’s happening,” she says.

Hopes and dreams

After joining the year-long scheme in June (which will give her a Level 2 in Legal Admin), Ellie has already had to cope with another personal tragedy – the devastating death of her fellow colleague and apprentice. She says without her team she couldn’t have got through it.

“She had a heart attack and was only 17 – my age. We started the job together and got on really well. That affected me because I associated work with her and made it quite difficult to come in. My team has been incredible. We’ve worked so hard to keep things together through such a difficult time and I’m so proud of them all,” she smiles.

“My manager inspires me. We’re one of the smallest departments here but we’re so close-knit. If you work together and have a strong bond with your peers it makes life so much easier.”

Despite these emotional hurdles Ellie is determined to carve out a future in Law. “I’ve spoken to my managers and I’d really like to progress here. In the future I’d like to manage my own law firm and give people hope when they need it most.

“Hope is the most important thing in life. If people have hope they have certainty. Hope is what has got me and my family through a lot of stuff,” she says.

Ellie also has a hope of her own. To one day return to the Philippines and continue the amazing work her own family started.

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