Year of graduation: 2010
Current employer: Financial Times
Current job title: Legal Counsel
Current location: Belfast
“I found the lecturers very approachable, and keen to help the students do as well as they can: they are really in your corner.”Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.
Immediately after graduating I worked as a commercial property paralegal for a large South West law firm. At the same time, I studied part-time for the Legal Practice Course, largely via distance learning, but with a few weekend seminars in London. After two years, I started as a trainee solicitor with the same firm, and two years after that finally qualified as a solicitor. Since I qualified, I have worked for a corporate law firm, a small firm which specialises in personal (i.e. non-business) affairs, and now the Financial Times.
What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?
I find my work at its most fulfilling when I can develop skills and perspectives I can apply in my wider life. The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ introduction to alternative dispute resolution changed the way I deal with conflict not only in my work, but also in life generally. Skills such as looking for gains for both parties and separating the people from the problem are useful in contract negotiations, but they are also good 'life skills' when disagreements arise. Similarly, the Law Society’s conference on business and human rights changed my perspective. In-house lawyers need to be aware of a company's impact on the wider world, but business and ethics is an incredibly important area generally. I am learning more about it, and getting involved with pro bono initiatives outside the workplace.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?
Be bold. Ask for advice. Ask for work experience. Ask for a job. There are a lot of organisations with different business models and specialisms, and at any given time many will have a need for new recruits. Solve their problem for them by showing you are interested.
At the same time, it is never too early to start helping other people. If you are a third-year undergraduate, pass on what you have learned to first-years. If you are a first-year, go and speak to sixth-formers at your old school about studying law. The law can be linear and hierarchical, but we can all think more freely and innovatively about the profession if we break these hierarchies down.
What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?
It felt like a lot of exciting things were happening at the end of the first term. I was enjoying studying, getting absorbed in recent cases for my contract law coursework, and secured – with the help of the University – a period of marshalling (work experience) with a judge. Two months later I was up on the bench in the crown court, sitting next to a judge hearing a fraud trial.
Do you stay in touch with other University alumni or lecturers?
I try to attend the student careers events whenever I can, and always encourage colleagues to join me. It is nice to catch up with old lecturers and meet enthusiastic new students. I have also published two papers in the University’s Plymouth Law Review, and am grateful to the faculty’s editorial team for assisting with this.
At my last firm, I sat next to someone I studied with at Plymouth. It was nice: we could reminisce.
Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University, and why?
I would. I found the lecturers very approachable, and keen to help the students do as well as they can: they are really in your corner. The University also has good links to businesses in the South West, which is helpful when looking for work experience and jobs.