Former Sunderland and Hartlepool United midfielder Adam Bale had to give up the game after a leg injury and made a major career change, fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer.
The 24-year-old, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, gained a first class degree from Sunderland University and won the Sweeney Miller Law Prize for outstanding results in commercial law.
Mr Bale combined his studies with serving as a magistrate.
He said said: “Football was my first love, and when I moved to Hartlepool, I suffered an injury and never quite bounced back.
“My aspiration, however, was always to move over to law later in my career, but thought I might as well grasp at the football while I was young and could play.”
His skills were spotted on the playing field when he was aged 12 by Sunderland AFC Academy of Light. He then left SAFC in April 2019, in order to complete a permanent move to Hartlepool United FC until the end of the 2019-20 campaign.
Mr Bale continued his studies and completed his A-Levels while he was a footballer.
He now aims to become a barrister, which he hopes will lead to becoming a judge one day.
Presenting the Sweeney Miller Prize – a certificate, cheque and placement opportunity – law firm partner, Damien Todd, said: “Achieving such a fantastic result in Commercial Law at the University is something that Adam should be greatly proud of.
“No doubt the mark is culmination of a significant amount of studying throughout the year. We are extremely pleased to present the award and welcoming him to Sweeney Miller Law when his placement starts later this month.
“We have a great relationship with the University which was born due to much of our staff studying at Sunderland before going into practice.”
Toni Spencer, principal lecturer and solicitor, has been Adam’s lecturer and personal academic tutor over the course of his time with the university.
Adam Bale with Damien Todd, left
She said: “I have seen the determination and that competitive edge that Adam speaks of on many occasions over the past three years. Always setting that bar slightly higher each time and I hope he is incredibly proud of himself.
Get the latest news, sports, and entertainment delivered straight to your device for just £4 for 4 months here.
“Not only receiving the Commercial Law Award from Sweeney Miller, but also finishing with the highest mark overall in his cohort is a phenomenal achievement. Adam, and his fellow students have undertaken a difficult degree in challenging circumstances during lockdown and I am incredibly proud of each and every student.’
Toni added: “Having been a practicing solicitor myself for over 12 years and represented clients in court hearing on many occasions, I can see that Adam has the skills, determination and knowledge needed to get him through the BAR course and to become a very accomplished barrister.
“I wish him the very best of luck for the future and hope he will be happy to return to the University one day to pass his knowledge and experience onto our future students”