Why choose Nottingham Law School?
Why choose Nottingham Law School?
As the daughter of a fish factory manager who spent many a school holiday working on Grimsby docks, university seemed completely out of my reach! I was however, fortunate enough to have a fantastic A-level Law tutor at sixth form college who not only kick started my interest in criminal law but also made me aware of the Law (Sandwich) Degree at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and strongly encouraged that I apply. I did and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Sandwich degree really appealed to me as I wanted the opportunity to gain real life experience in a criminal law firm as soon as possible and I really liked the idea of the mixture of an academic and practical degree. The chance to earn some money for a year was also a bonus!
In a fortunate twist of fate my A-level tutor, Becky Huxley-Binns, joined the teaching staff of NTU and so she also taught me at undergraduate level (as did her dad Phil). Becky remains at NTU and is somewhat of a legend amongst her colleagues, students and ex-students alike! It is tutors such as Becky (and Phil!) that really make a difference as they know how to get the most out of their students.
I joined Cartwright King for my placement year in July 2002. By the end of my first week I had shadowed colleagues at court and in client conferences and helped prepare documents. By the end of my first month I had been allocated my own (albeit small) case and was being treated as one of the team – life as a criminal law placement student is definitely more than making the tea and doing the photocopying!
The placement year is fantastic way to find out early on whether a life in practise is for you as the realities are very different from the law books! Criminal law in particular is extremely demanding, you need to be able to relate to a wide spectrum of people have excellent communication skills and work well under pressure. The placement year prepared me for this. It also gave me a further support network outside of university which has been invaluable throughout my career.
A minimum of nine months is required as part of the placement year but I loved it that much – and they clearly they didn’t think too badly of me! – that I ended up spending 14 months with Cartwright King. I continued to go along to work nights out down the pub (and not just for the free drinks!) and would also cover the odd hearing when studies allowed throughout my final year. Clearly my ploy to make sure I was not forgotten worked, and I rejoined Cartwright King as a paralegal in 2004.
In 2005, I began the Legal Practice Course at Nottingham Law School (NLS) on a part-time basis and ran my training contract simultaneously, qualifying in March 2008 (finally!). I remain with Cartwright King to this day and am now an Associate specialising in complex cases such as large scale frauds, confiscation and restraint.
As well as the amazing experience my placement year gave me and the fact it secured me a training contract and a job for the last 9 years(!), it also gave me the focus needed to give my studies the attention they deserved. I admit that during my first two years at university more time was spent drinking than studying but I achieved a first in my final year which dragged my under-achieving 2.2 average to a high 2:1 degree (thank goodness!).
If I can give placement students any advice, it would be to accept all tasks enthusiastically, ask questions, use your initiative and just generally make the life of your colleague’s easier – offer to help whenever possible – and, if you can make a good cuppa, all the better!
Legal Practice Course
For me, the part-time LPC was perfect and is a much under advertised and under utilised route to qualification. It allowed me to continue my employment, which meant I could start paying off the massive(!) bank loan required for the LPC straightaway. Plus it meant I could remain employed, gaining vital experience and building on my reputation within the firm and with peers without having to take time out for my studies. This has put me much further forward in my career than if I had done the full-time LPC.
The part-time LPC is by no means the easy option though. It involves full time teaching 9am to 5pm for one weekend a month (Friday to Sunday). All of my LPC group were in practise and many a Sunday afternoon was spent in a slightly hysterical state knowing it was back to work in the morning! However, balancing such a demanding course with full time employment added to the camaraderie – and I count the tutors in that as they also give up their weekends! – so it was a case of work hard and play hard and I met some brilliant people during those two years that remain firm friends.
The tutors on the LPC were exceptional. All those that taught me had been in practise themselves and therefore were well placed to prepare us for qualification. They immediately gained our respect as it was clear from the outset that they really knew their stuff. Plus, the practical experience from my placement year and paralegal work, put everything into context which was most definitely an advantage.
The focus and determination that stemmed from my placement year continued to my LPC and I graduated with a distinction even despite attending more than the odd weekend lecture slightly worse for wear…!
Throughout my years in practice, I have returned to the university to assist at career’s events, given guest lectures and I am now a member of the Employer’s Advisory Board. The attendance at career’s events in particular, never fails to prove to me just how important a placement year is. To have gained a minimum of nine months of legal experience before even completing your degree puts you head and shoulders above other candidates when applying for jobs/training contracts which is especially important in the current market.
I would not be where I am today without the support and experience of my NTU and NLS tutors and Cartwright King colleagues and would encourage all to start their career via the Placement Degree route in view of the many advantages it brings.
About the author
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