The most obvious I suppose, what made you want to study law? Especially seeing as your first degree wasn’t a law one? Did you always want to do law, but wanted another degree first – or did you decide after to do law?
My decision to pursue a legal career surfaced as a real possibility around the time of completing my GCSEs in 2008. I geared my A-level choices (English, History, Politics) towards applying to read Law at University and undertook my first work placement at a firm of solicitors in 2009. Despite this, I applied to study Politics instead. It was a double-edged sword of really enjoying my A-level course and never having studied law before.
Having spoken to a number of people; from teachers to lawyers to current University students and alumni, the general consensus was “pursue whatever degree subject you have an interest in and come back to law afterwards”. Law firms do not favour law undergraduates over non-law undergraduates. In fact, most look to recruit around 50/50 from both backgrounds. So the route I took felt like the most logical and efficient one for me.
How did you find studying the GDL?
The GDL was definitely the most gruelling course I have done to date. Cramming the core undergraduate law modules and a dissertation into just 8 months is a challenge for even the most accomplished student.
I don’t think anyone enjoys every aspect of the course. For me, being faced with “the maxims of equity” and the deceptively obscure question of “what is a trust?” within the first week was as daunting as it was unfamiliar. But with this being my first real exposure to studying law academically, it was a welcomed challenge. It also taught me a specific way of thinking. Whilst my undergraduate degree was very much based around essay writing, the GDL focused on analysis of fact patterns and application of the law. Of course, this is an invaluable practical skill for the aspiring lawyer.
How did you find studying the LPC?
The dynamic of the LPC was wildly different to that of the GDL. The emphasis shifted from academic legal application to learning and applying procedure. This came with both its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, the work itself was easier and less controversial overall. Unlike with the GDL, the questions generally had a right or wrong answer. There was also more freedom in choosing our 3 elective modules and the topic of our Masters Dissertation (for those completing the LLM LPC).
However, the flip-side was the workload. I personally racked up around 1 lever-arch file a month over the 8 month period. The structure of the exams also meant we had to know everything and couldn’t selectively revise.
Despite this, the procedural nature of the course gave me a better idea of the work a lawyer does in practice. It also improved my writing, drafting and advocacy skills which are all essential for a legal career.
Did you study all three at the same place? If so, why?
I studied my undergraduate degree at the University of Nottingham, and then went on to study both the GDL and LPC at Nottingham Law School. My decision to stay in Nottingham over the past 5 years has been grounded in a few factors.
Aside the fact I had become familiar with Nottingham and wanted to continue my education there following my undergraduate degree, it made more practical and financial sense to stay on. Had I opted to study the GDL and LPC in London, the expensive accommodation would have meant living at home and commuting in every day. This definitely wasn’t an attractive prospect!
Nottingham Law School also maintains a good reputation for providing one of the better GDL/LPC courses. It doesn’t really matter where you do the courses, and law firms generally don’t mind unless you have a training contract with them and they expressly want you to study in a particular place.
What has been your favourite module to study and why?
That’s a tricky question! If I had to pick one, I’d probably say it was my Commercial Law elective on the LPC. Learning about share and business sales and franchise, distributorship and agency agreements in the scope of EU competition law has a lot of practical application. Commercial law is often a key practice area for many firms.
However, my favourite part of the module was learning about Intellectual Property rights. This included copyright, registered and unregistered designs and how this applies in reality to big brands such as Coca Cola. With my Masters dissertation focusing on the pitfalls in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, this part of the module provided me with an invaluable basis on which to plan my research.
Any top tips for anyone considering the GDL route?
As I said before, firms generally look to recruit 50/50 from both law and non-law backgrounds. In that respect, I fully encourage students to pursue a non-law degree in a subject that really interests them.
Be prepared, however, because the GDL is likely to be a bit of a shock to those fresh from completing an undergraduate degree. The intensity of the course means a newfound reliance on organisation, keeping on top of work preparation as consistently as possible and, probably, a reduced social life. It really is a case of “the more you put in, the more you get out”. Dive in with both feet and you’ll find it rewarding in the end.
Have you got involved with anything legal related at uni or outside of uni that is law related?
Whilst at University, I competed in an internal mooting competition and volunteered with the Pro Bono Society to teach children in schools about human rights. But my most important role was as co-founder and Vice-President of the Nottingham branch of the Howard League for Penal Reform. This is a national organisation focusing on the criminal justice system. As part of my role, I organised trips to a number of prisons and debates on issues such as the death penalty and the regional hustings for the Nottingham Police and Crime Comissioner Election. The hustings was attended by the BBC, the Nottingham Post and the University TV and Radio stations – this was particularly rewarding!
Have you been able to undertake much legal related work experience?
I have worked at a variety of firms since my first week of work experience back in 2009. This has ranged from bigger firms such as Olswang (vacation scheme) and TLT to smaller boutique ones like Clintons and Bevan Kidwell. I have also worked at 3 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn and in Broxtowe Borough Council’s Legal Department. These experiences have given me the chance to work in corporate, employment, music, media, family, litigation and many other areas of law.
I have generally sought these work placements out myself, and I would urge prospective future lawyers to do the same. Work experience in a wide range of firms and practice areas is vital in confirming whether a legal career is right for you, honing in on what area of law interests you most and demonstrating an interest in law when it comes to applying for vacation schemes and training contracts.
What are your future plans? legal related? long term? short term?
My short term plans revolve around completing my Masters dissertation and graduating later this year. From there, I plan to work in a firm of insolvency practitioners to enrich my knowledge of corporate matters and how the law is applied outside of a law firm. Hopefully I will do this for a few years before securing a training contract with a firm and working my way up the ladder from there. But who knows! We’ll have to wait and see how things work out
UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM [GRADUATE]
NOTTINGHAM LAW SCHOOL [GRADUATE]
CURRENT LLM LPC STUDENT