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Emma Lilley often reaches tens of thousands of social media users when she posts under her pseudonym “In-house Potter” – a solicitor sharing a different approach to law, its accessibility, diversity, mental health impacts and the support available to those in the legal profession. As a recently qualified in-house solicitor herself, Emma wanted to shine a light on the world of law, dispel notions of exclusivity, and help law students who doubt their abilities or feel they may not fit the mould.
In September 2019, she created an Instagram account, under the handle “inhousepotter”, which now has over 5,500 followers and rising. She later set up a blog – www.inhousepotter.com – to share her journey into law and has since been featured on prominent law websites such as AllAboutLaw, The Lawyer and LawCareers.Net. Her LinkedIn profile has also soared in popularity, with one of her latest posts, about outdated advice still being given to students, reaching an audience of over 30,000.
When taking her own first steps into a law career, studying for her LLB at Staffordshire University, Emma was that student who didn’t know if it was the right path for her. Originally from Packmoor, in Stoke-on-Trent, Emma attended St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy and then Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College.
She said: “I didn’t get great A-Levels and I’d never considered studying Law before. I wanted to stay close to home to save money and be close to my family so I applied for a place at Staffordshire University through Clearing and got on the Foundation Degree in 2010. Then I took a gap year before coming back for my LLB.
“At first, it was like what have I got myself into?! But as I got into the modules, I started to enjoy them. The wide range of options reduced the scariness into making the course work for me. I really enjoyed the Law School itself. The building, the support, and the Law Library. That is a dedicated space for students. A safe space and I could make friends there. There were people working on the same things as I was and I got to connect with them. The lecturers were really good and made me feel at home. I didn’t do too well in the first few years but at graduation I got the Andrew McDowell Memorial Prize 2015 for most improved Level 6 student and graduated with a First.”
During her studies, Emma volunteered at the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC), a pro bono service for the local community. She said: “By the time I finished the degree, I was so ready to start working and got a paralegal role in Crewe before getting into studying for my LPC.”
Emma joined WEX Europe Services in 2015 and started her LPC with a MSc in Law, Business and Management at the University of Law, which she completed in 2017. She was promoted to Legal Counsel at WEX and then left to join Manchester Airports Group as a Commercial Solicitor in 2018. She said: “It was a fantastic opportunity at the time and I was ready for another challenge. It was a much bigger company than WEX and my role was to provide advice across three major airports.”
Paying It Forward
One year after joining MAG, Emma launched “In-house Potter”. She said: “I could see students were being put off pursuing a career in law by outdated advice or inaccurate perceptions of the industry. I think it’s so important to counteract the judgemental and stereotypical voices of many who think you need a degree from Oxford or Cambridge. I have proven that’s not the case. Staffordshire University is a fantastic law school and more should be shouting about it.
“So I set up In-house Potter to help as many law students as possible. I was fed up of people saying you need to be a certain person to have a career in law. Over the past year, In-house Potter has grown and takes up a lot of my time, but it’s something I want to continue to grow and pursue. I can see it being a large part of my life.”
Emma’s legal career continues to go from strength-to-strength also, after being appointed as Sole Legal Counsel for the UK and Ireland at SD Worx in January 2021. She said: “I hope to have the opportunity to build a team here. I want to use what I have learnt through In-house Potter to change the way legal recruitment is done, to make it more accessible and diverse. I’m also going to be doing some talks to the law students at Staffordshire University. When I think about my years studying, I remember key points in which individuals shared their experiences and helped me to achieve each milestone in law. I'd like to pay this forward by offering my support to those who aren't sure whether they fit the mould, just as I didn't back then.”