Growing up, I didn’t really see myself as an academic. My secondary grades weren’t great, nobody in my family had attended university in the past and it was difficult to get to where I am today.
(Me far left, outside the court at the mooting competition final at Carlisle Combined Courts)
I went straight from secondary school to bar and restaurant work. I realised that I could push myself and do more, but I was concerned that I might not be cut out for academia. Eventually, I decided that I would challenge myself and push for more, I decided that I was going to study Law.
I was reluctant at first because my understanding was that university entry requirements were strict and that without A-levels and great GCSEs, I’d have no chance, especially in law. I finally made the decision to get in touch and Ann Thanaraj, the head of the law faculty who invited me in for an interview. She said as I didn’t have the entry requirements necessary for the Law LLB (Hons) course, that I could prove my ability by writing an essay on whether the death penalty should be reintroduced and if successful, complete a foundation year. She gave me a chance to prove my ability, so I did just that. I went home that evening and frantically made an essay using all the resources I could patch together.
After submitting this paper, I was over the moon to hear that I’d been accepted to do a foundation year at the university, I really was. A foundation year is something you complete when your grades don’t meet the requirements of your desired course, it provides you with core knowledge on a few subjects relevant to the course you want to study. I was keen to get through it and prove that I could study law, so I powered through the year and passed it with flying colours. The university had given me a chance to prove myself, so I did just that.
(With my dissertation, right before I submitted it)
I don’t know what I expected the Law LLB (Hons) course to be like, but I do know that the more I studied, the more interested in law I became, and the lecturers were very supportive. I worked hard, and I pushed myself to get the grades I needed to succeed. During my studies, I was self-supported, working relentlessly outside of university to make ends meet and support myself. If there’s anything I’d recommend, it’s getting involved in all the volunteering and extra work that you can, the university has great connections with local businesses and charities. I volunteered at the local law centre for most of my studies and learned loads about justiciable issues in the local community and how the law works in practice. I was also actively involved in digital marketing for the university where I developed lots of transferable skills that I was able bring with me to my career now.
(At the Law Ball)
So, despite my earlier hang-ups about my academic ability, I will be leaving the University of Cumbria with a first-class degree, as winner of the Sweet & Maxwell Law Prize. I also received subject excellence and contribution to law awards along the way. Work-wise, I have finished my long stint in restaurant and bar work and I now work at Butterworths Solicitors as a Legal Adviser handling civil litigation claims. I will continue my studies, working part-time at the firm and complete the LLM in Legal Practice so that I may train as a solicitor at this same firm – meaning all being well, that I will be a fully qualified solicitor within the next 3 years.
University has literally changed my life and I am overwhelmed by how much I have been able to progress my career because I pushed for more and because of the support and reassurance I received along the way. What I’m trying to say is, don’t doubt yourself, if you want something then you will get there, you just need to work for it.