Jennifer Smith – LLB (Hons) Law graduate
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Jennifer Smith

Current employer: Magdalen Chambers

Current job title: Pupil Barrister specialising in law

Current location: Exeter

"You must remember to always be kind to yourself and remember that university is also about making lifelong memories."

Jennifer's advice for prospective law students:

I am frequently asked by prospective students whether they need to study in London or at a university at the top of the league tables to succeed in a career in law. My answer is certainly not – it is increasingly rare for employers to place emphasis on where you attend university and some firms anonymise job/pupillage/training contract applications.

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies?

"I studied a part-time Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at the University of the West of England. I also worked as a Legal Assistant at a solicitors firm specialising in criminal law and my work included clerking and assisting barristers in a murder trial. I also continued undertaking voluntary work experience to build upon my experience in the legal sector before applying for pupillage."

"I graduated from the BPTC with an ‘Outstanding’ and the highest overall mark in my cohort. I then worked as a self-employed Solicitors Agent until I commenced pupillage. My work as a Solicitors Agent involved attending court on a daily basis for a wide variety of cases including insolvency, Consumer Credit Act disputes, landlord and tenant disputes, mortgage disputes, general applications under the CPR, case management and infant settlement hearings. I commenced a specialist family law pupillage at Magdalen Chambers. This is my last stage of training before qualifying as a barrister and I intend to practice as a self-employed barrister in the future."

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What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

"When I commenced my undergraduate studies I already knew that I wanted to qualify as a barrister and I have had several achievements that have allowed me to pursue this highly competitive career path. I attended the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple in London as a third-year undergrad for a BPTC Scholarship interview; to say that I was terrified is an understatement and I will NEVER forget the feeling when I received the news that I had been awarded a full scholarship (and having to re-read the letter at least ten times and double check that I was the correct addressee to make sure that what I was reading was right!). After seven years of voluntary legal work experience, five years of intense and challenging studies, having been called to the Bar of England and Wales and facing several rejections for pupillage, I was offered pupillage at Magdalen Chambers."

Why did you choose the University of Plymouth?

"In hindsight, my reasons for studying at university were very significant. It is so important to study somewhere that you are happy and I was sold on the friendly, social and student-focused atmosphere at the University of Plymouth. I attended an open day and knew that I wanted to study at Plymouth – it sounds rather cliché, but I just had ‘that feeling’; I felt truly excited at the prospect of studying at Plymouth and I did not have this feeling at open days for other universities."

"The quality of support, teaching and opportunities offered by the School were fantastic. I was also the Secretary of the Law Society and the Society continues to offer endless social events and professional opportunities to boost your CV including networking events and advocacy competitions. 

I knew that I would choose to base my career in the South West and studying at Plymouth allowed me to make and maintain connections with the local legal profession. However, many of my friends from the University have gone on to obtain pupillage and training contracts all over the country. It is also a university that has everything you will need right on your doorstep."

If you were about to start university again what would you do differently?

"It is very easy to let the stress and pressures of second and third year of undergrad get to you and turn you into a 24/7 study worm (especially during dissertation!). 

I would have told myself to have a greater work-life balance because it is extremely important. You must remember to always be kind to yourself and remember that university is also about making lifelong memories."

How did we support you in your studies?

"My experience of the lecturers and personal tutors at the Law School was that they always went the extra mile for their students and this proved invaluable. I always felt fully prepared for my exams due to the quality of teaching and thorough learning and revision resources provided by the lecturers and my dissertation supervisor really pushed and supported me to produce a first-class piece of work. I really benefited from the University's Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS) and I also became a PALS Leader in my second year – you learn a lot from those in the years above you!"

"Obtaining a career as a barrister has been very challenging, mainly due to the level of competition (but do not let this put you off!). I took full advantage of the networking and advocacy opportunities provided by the Law Society and this really boosted my CV and gave me experiences to talk about in interviews. The local profession is also extremely supportive of the students at the University of Plymouth and often judge the mooting, debating and negotiation competitions – this allows students to really show off their talent to prospective employers/barrister’s chambers."

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