Open Eye: opening up From catwalk to courtroom

Orchid White gave up modelling for a career helping others, and then developed an ambition to join the legal profession. At 32, she has become the first OU graduate to win a place at the College of Law.
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The Independent Online
What was your family background?

Working class, really. I was born in Finchley. My mother was nurse and my father an office manager.

What was your earliest ambition?

I was very interested in fashion. I started modelling at 14, doing fashion shows, but I wasn't allowed to enter for competitions because I was too young. The first competition I won was Miss Stoke Newington in 1982.

How were your school years?

To be quite honest, I hated school. I've always known from an early age what I want, and I wasn't being taught things I was interested in. I couldn't wait to leave.

What was your first job and how much did you earn?

I left school at 16 with two O-levels and got a job as a junior sales assistant in Top Shop in Oxford Street.

I was interested in the clothes and I enjoyed it. I think the salary was about pounds 4,000 or pounds 5,000 a year. At the same time I was modelling, mostly in the evenings.

I had a brilliant time travelling around Europe, doing fashion shows and photo sessions. People sometimes say modelling isn't as glamorous as it seems but, personally, I think it's glamorous. It may be hard work, but I can't think of any other job you can do and enjoy so much. And you usually get to keep the clothes you model.

What made you start studying with the OU?

I had become interested in social issues and did a full time one-year Diploma in Policy Studies at Loughborough. I wanted to go on studying but not at a traditional university because I also wanted get some work experience. I did some probation work, and some para- legal work and ended up as a legal advisor on a helpline for victims of racial discrimination in Southampton. I taught myself what I needed to know, and I did OU courses that were relevant - Crime, order and social control; Family life and social policy; Race, Education and Society.

What difference has the OU made?

It has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I've been able to study in my own time, do full time work and come out without a lot of debts at the end. The OU was major part of getting a place at the College of Law, because you can't get in without a degree.

What does your current job involve?

I've just started full time at the College of Law training to be a solicitor - it'll be for three years. First you have to do your Common Professional Exams, then the legal practice course and then get a training contract.

How did you get it?

I had been told it was very, very difficult to get into the College of Law, but I applied anyway. When I was offered a place I thought at first it was a mistake, I was so shocked. I think I got in because of the combination of my OU degree and my work experience.

What do you enjoy most about it?

The law is interesting because almost everything in society is law-related -even simple things like buying something in a shop. Also I like to help people. I'm particularly interested in criminal law and family law, but it's too early yet to say that I'm going to specialise in a particular area.

...and least?

It's very, very difficult. There's a lot of work to get through, a lot of reading which you have to do very quickly, and this can be quite stressful at times.

Would you do more OU study? And if so, what?

Yes, I'd like to do the MBA, if I had the time. Hopefully in the future I will.

To what do you attribute your success?

I suppose I have to say determination, and my personality. I'm not the type that wants to sit still, I always want to be doing something. and being busy.

What (if anything) do you most regret?

I don't have any regrets - there are always things that could have been better but I don't look back, I prefer to look forward.

Then what are your goals for the future?

To qualify as a solicitor, and just generally to be happy.

How would you like to be remembered?

As never giving up. Just being determined.

Since 1997 it has been possible to study for a Qualifying Law degree part-time through the OU's new programme of law and legal studies courses, offered in collaboration with the College of Law.

Holders of this degree are eligible for entry to the College of Law's second (vocational) stage of legal training.

The Law Department can be contacted on 01908 653231.The OU website for further info: