Skylar McKeith reflects on an ‘eventful’ past year and a half
I am a consultant solicitor specialising in immigration law in the London office of an international law firm.
Growing up within a family of mixed heritage is initially what compelled me to choose the immigration elective on the Legal Practice Course and I subsequently developed a love for this area of law. I come from an American-British family with Ukranian and Russian ancestry so the topic of immigration has always been an interest of mine.
But the past year and a half has certainly been eventful in many different ways. 2020 was the year of lockdowns, the year I gave birth to my first child and the year I qualified as a solicitor.
It was very early on in my pregnancy when the lockdown was first implemented and not many people knew I was expecting. When I first found out I was pregnant before the pandemic I had so many plans for how I wanted my journey into motherhood to go. I had envisioned taking pregnancy yoga classes and getting to know other mums-to-be. However, my pregnancy panned out in the most unexpected way possible.
I spent most of it in lockdown with the remote support of the firm. Most people in both my professional and personal life did not ever see me pregnant. My final seat took place from my living room while my Professional Skills Course was transferred online, meaning I completed the final stages of my training, like many other trainees, locked down in my home.
My department adapted well to home working. We continued to have team meetings but they took place on Zoom rather than in-person. My supervisor was wonderful and kept in regular contact with me throughout the day. I had already started my final seat shortly before lockdown, so the day-to-day work was not new to me by the time the lockdown arrived. The experience may have presented certain challenges, such as missing the social aspect, but overall I found the switch to remote working to be seamless.
I am grateful that my firm was accommodating during lockdown and my pregnancy. Any documents I needed were scanned and emailed to me. My firm also had regular weekly social evenings on Zoom where we could all keep in touch with each other, which definitely helped get through the anti-social isolation of lockdown.
I gave birth shortly after the first lockdown ended and not long before the beginning of the second. Being pregnant during a lockdown is definitely a strange and isolating experience (but incredible at the same time). I had to attend all of my antenatal appointments alone, as well as experience the early stages of labour and the post-birth stage alone with my baby.
I took my maternity leave before returning to work and qualifying as a solicitor. My return to work took place during the second lockdown so I completed the final month of my training contract from home. I was delighted to finally qualify as a solicitor after many years of hard work.
I now work as a consultant immigration solicitor for the same firm I trained with and absolutely love my job. The Immigration Rules can be fairly complex for the average applicant and I am aware it can be challenging to find trusted and diligent lawyers. To me immigration law can be compared to a puzzle and I enjoy placing the pieces together.
Consultancy offers me greater flexibility to balance work with motherhood. I set my own hours which enables me to be a hands-on mother to my baby. It is the perfect ‘work-life’ balance.
Skylar McKeith is a solicitor specialising in immigration lawyer.
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