Helen Horswell -  LLB and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice Graduate

Why did you choose Plymouth University?

I chose Plymouth University first and foremost for its location – not only because it is my home town but because of its proximity to the Cornish beaches and Dartmoor in particular.  Plymouth provides a great mix of the city and the countryside.  Further to that, I considered Plymouth to be a fairly up and coming University with a vastly expanding student population that I thought I would be well served by. Having attended an open day, I felt sure that the staff I met would guide me through the following three years.

Why did you choose this particular course at the University? 

I had always wanted to study Law and it was simply reassuring to know that Plymouth had a rapidly developing Law School.  

What was your entry route to the course? 

I came straight from sixth form at Eggbuckland Community College.

Your Student Experience

What was your experience of the course?

I found the course really accessible; the course materials were easily available, the library was simple to use and staff usually on hand to help when needed.  I thought that the course progressed well from one year to the next, not being overwhelming but not going over anything that had been taught previously.  I also thought there was a good mix of optional modules to study from environmental law to media law.  One thing that could be improved was the physical spread of the lectures/tutorials/staff offices/libraries.  It was sometimes a rush to get from one diary event to the next!  A small negative, but the only one I could really think of!

Did you receive support, both academically and socially while you were here?

I was fortunate to live at home with my parents during the course so did not require any support or assistance.

Did you take part in any extracurricular activities during your time here? 

I played hockey for the University; hockey is a great passion of mine and was something I didn’t want to give up on during my study.  I found it very positive to have something completely different to enjoy a couple of times a week and it proved to be a great stress reliever around exam time.  

Did you win any student awards during your time here?

I won the Sir George Fowler Prize for my Pg Dip LP – it represented the highest level of achievement on the LPC for those graduates who had already secured a training contract with a law firm.

Did the course change your career goals at all?

Yes – I knew that I was interested in and therefore wanted to study law but didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my degree.  To begin with, I thought I might join the police, prison service or crown prosecution service.  However, once I graduated, I realised I wanted to give the profession itself a try and hence I wrote to various law firms in the area to see what was on offer.  Luckily, I secured a paralegal position with Foot Anstey LLP and have stayed there since.

What advice would you give to anyone else considering the same course here?

Make use of the library facilities, in particular.  Having visited one or two other university libraries, Plymouth University really has invested a lot in its service and it has a lot to offer, not only in terms of the resources available for study but for personal interest too.

Student Placement

Did you undertake any work-based learning during your course?

Yes – instead of a dissertation, I carried out a work-based learning module and spent two weeks working with the Anti Social Behaviour Unit at Plymouth City Council.  I was able to shadow a solicitor there and get out an about in the community.  It offered me an insight into office working that I had never really had before.  I attended some client interviews, internal meetings, court hearings and carried out some research to assist team members.

What are your views on the placement element of your course? 

I would suggest it is a much more worthwhile experience that a dissertation – it provides invaluable experience that a prospective employer might think highly of.

Would you recommend undertaking a placement to current students on the course? 

As above, yes – I can’t pinpoint whether that particular placement helped me in my career but it certainly helped me in my own personal development and in helping me to figure out whether working in an office environment was for me.  Good quality work experience is difficult to find in such an aggressive competitive market as it now is for law graduates.

Your Career – where are you now?

Did you go straight into work after completing your course? 

I graduated in summer 2007 and started working at Foot Anstey LLP in October 2007.  I worked there for 10 months whilst securing a training contract and then returned to Plymouth University in September 2008 to complete my LPC.  I graduated in summer 2009 and then began my training contract in September 2009.

If you are currently in employment, please tell us about your career path.

I qualified as a Solicitor in Clinical Negligence in September 2011.  I work in a unit of nine fee earners and a team of around 35 fee earners spread across the South West.  I have a caseload of around 20 cases from a delay in diagnosis of stroke to negligent prescription of steroids to historic abuse claims.  I carry out all work on my cases from the first client meeting to settlement.

How has your Plymouth University qualification enhanced your career opportunities and employability?

Foot Anstey LLP in particular, being a regional firm, appreciated that I was dedicated to the South West and wasn’t looking to work in London.  More than that, Plymouth University gave me the opportunity to become an 'all-rounder' with a good quality degree, a keen interest in sports and activities generally and valuable work experience. The LPC in particular equipped me well with regards to the knowledge I needed to hit the ground running once I started my training contract. The LPC at Plymouth University only had around 50 students per year and therefore there was a great community feel to the course which aided my learning and enabled me to achieve what I did.

What would you list as your greatest career achievement? Do you have any goals for the future?

Qualifying as a solicitor was a huge relief!  Since then, I have helped pursue cases in the Court of Appeal and assisted on complex cases such as one involving a spinal cord injury which settled for around £3.65m. I am currently acting for various clients affected by childhood abuse which gives me a true sense of achievement and is not something I anticipated I would ever be involved in. In the future, I would love to develop my work with those affected by childhood abuse, fostering relationships with local charities as part of my role in the south west community.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Research the law firm you wish to work with – no two are the same!  Make enquiries and commission good quality experience.  Quality, not quantity is important when it comes to work experience.

Recommendation

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Yes – for the reasons above. There are so many opportunities in Plymouth generally and specifically at the University for a young adult looking to build on ambitions and aspirations.  It’s a great place to work and live!