Law - student stories
Sean Walsh, Trainee Solicitor
What do you currently do?
I’m currently a trainee solicitor with Mace & Jones Solicitors, a firm of solicitors that has branches in Liverpool, Manchester and Knutsford.
What did you do before?
I worked in the print and design industry before. The majority of the time I worked in the studio transferring mock-ups and designs into a printable format. The last job I had was as a studio/prepress manager. I have fantastic memories of working in the industry; by the end, though, I felt frustrated and unchallenged.
What made you decide on OU study?
I wanted to do law but I needed to do it on a part time basis. When I heard the OU were finally going ahead with a law course I immediately applied.
What courses did you take?
As I did not have a previous degree I started on the Social Sciences foundation course, then called D103. It had a summer school back then and I went to Sussex University, which was highly enjoyable.
The other courses I did were:
- W200 Understanding Law
- W201 Law: the individual and the State
- W300 Law: agreements, rights and responsibilities
- W301 Law: ownership and trusteeship – rights and responsibilities
- DD200: Governing Europe
What were the high and low points of your time as a student?
I liked completing the TMAs but found studying for the exams very stressful. The exams themselves I was a bit more philosophical about, as I knew I had prepared and studied to the best of my ability.
The law profession is very competitive and you really need a 2:1 or a first to get on. Therefore the only real low point of the course was when I just missed out on a 2:1 when I completed W200. However, the high point was when I completed the degree with a first.
What did you do after you graduated?
I completed the degree in December 2004 but then had to wait nearly another 10 months before starting the Legal Practice Course, which I did full time at the College of Law (now the University of Law). I completed that in June 2006. My partner was working by that stage so I looked after our daughter until I started at Mace & Jones at the start of December 2006.
How would you describe a typical day?
I’m based in the Employment Department. I qualified in March 2009.
A typical day involves writing advice letters and emails to clients (all checked by a supervising partner before they are sent); telephone conversations with clients; research (usually into the more complex areas of law); and attending meetings with clients. Sometimes you attend at the client’s offices to take witness statements, etc. Occasionally you attend at Tribunal. For a trainee this is usually when a barrister has been instructed on the more complex cases. We also do mock Tribunals for our clients for training purposes and I’m playing the disgruntled claimant in the next one we are doing.
What skills do you use most and what are the best and worst parts of the job?
Analysing the law and applying it to practical issues the clients have. The best part is attending at Tribunal and I’m really looking forward to doing some advocacy (if not a little anxious at the same time). At the moment the part that’s not so nice is the travelling but I travel by train so I utilise the time to catch up on all the employment updates – believe me there is plenty of reading there on a daily basis!
What are your future career plans?
I want to stay at Mace & Jones. My aim is to reach partner level within the next 8 to 10 years, if not sooner. I am getting on after all!
What advice can you offer to current OU students?
The law is a competitive profession. Currently the most competitive area is securing a training contract. More people than ever are coming into the profession and it has been that way for a number of years now. To give yourself a good chance of succeeding and certainly to open up choices for you, you need a 2:1 or above.
In addition, you need to research when to apply for training contracts. Some of the bigger firms accepted applications two years in advance!
Be prepared to stick it out. It’s a long slog. Doing the degree part time means it has taken me nine years to get to where I am today.
Previous work experience is invaluable for the skill set it gives you and the knowledge of how a business works. That knowledge and experience were two advantages I had over students that had come straight from college. You may find that your age is a barrier, I was constantly told this although, happily, I did not experience it personally.
What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier?
To apply much earlier than I did – I applied the summer of my last year doing the degree.