When did you decide law was the career path for you?
To be honest, when I finished my GCSEs in 2010 I was set on being an accountant like my dad. I enjoyed Maths, problem solving and just the challenges that surround that subject. However, sadly I didn't quite get the Maths GCSE grade required for the A-Levels so I decided: why not try Law? It was more of my back up plan. From day one, I fell in love with it. Probably because the teachers were lovely, but regardless I loved it! I took great pleasure in understanding every subject I was taught. I used to go visit the courts and listen to some cases and trying to picture myself in a solicitor or barrister's shoes. It was amazing. My interest in the subject grew further when my college tutor asked if I would be interested in doing an extra qualification course called CILEX, which was designed for students who wanted a career in law. My best friend also wanted one. We used to help each other and study together because we knew how demanding the career is and how quickly you have to grasp the subject in order to fully understand it. We both want to own a law firm one day. Having such a big goal in mind increased my desire to be a lawyer and although I am still working towards that goal, I know, as I did four years ago, that a career in law is the right path for me.
So you’re now completing your LPC, can you explain a little more about what an LPC is?
An LPC (Legal Practice Course) is a course that you have to complete if you plan on becoming a solicitor. Now, many misinformed people (me at one point) think that after you have completed your law undergraduate degree, that's it and you're done! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you are far from done. During your undergraduate course, in particular the LLB Law, you need to think what kind of lawyer you want to be – barrister or solicitor. A great deal of research is required at this point. The LPC is for those who want to become solicitors. It is, in a sense, the next step up to expand your knowledge from undergraduate and gain further knowledge on how the law actually works in practice. You have to study some mandatory subjects which are required by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and then you choose the subjects which most closely relate to what area of law you wish to practice, for example Corporate. It is very hard, I am not going to lie - it's really the 'make it or break it' point in anyone's journey to being a solicitor.
We all have the stereotypical image of lawyers: briefcases, powersuits, quoting names of cases at will. What’s life actually like for somebody like yourself who has studied law?
I used to have the same stereotypical image of lawyers until I got to university. It is nothing like what we see on TV or read. Like any subject, it is hard. However, I think what makes law even harder is the fact that you have to constantly read and fully study the law, scrutinise it, break it down into a formula and apply it. With law, you would think it's applicable for every case you come across – yes, the law should be standard and should not be one rule for one case and different for another, but as times change and as new developments arise, not just in law but in everything, the law will never always be the same. You have to always keep yourself up to date with the law statute and/or case law. Yes it does mean long hours in the office and some sleepless nights, especially if you want to get to the bottom of a case. But if you like something that challenges you morally and intellectually, then it's great!
What would you say your greatest challenge has been thus far?
Studying part time for the LPC and working full time. I personally do not recommend doing this as it can be hard to balance the two. I would suggest either taking a year out after your undergraduate degree to work and get experience or continue with full time for the LPC. I could have done either, but when I finished my undergraduate degree last year in May, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in terms of work or study. So I applied for jobs in law firms and also applied for my LPC and luckily I got both at the same time. The job was in a law firm I had been trying to get a training contract for since I started university in 2012. I couldn't pass the opportunity up and my application for the LPC had already been processed, meaning it was too late to defer. Therefore I took it upon myself as a challenge to see what full time work and part time study would be like. To be honest, it's been very tough. But almost a year and half down the line, I'm now a Senior Case Handler within my team and I've nearly finished my LPC. I'm due to start the Masters part of my LPC in September 2017.
You are currently balancing postgrad life alongside work and other commitments, do you have any tips for those who struggle with their time management?
As stated above, it's been a struggle, but I found a great time management technique that I'm happy to share with everyone. Friends of mine who are in similar positions have said this has worked for them and thanked me for it too. I am a visual person – I work with colour, posters, post-it notes, you name it. When I realised I was starting to slip and lose balance with work and postgraduate life, I created a timetable, like the ones we used to get in school. I have planned my days from Monday to Sunday, hour by hour. So for example, I work the standard 9:00am-5:30pm Monday to Friday and I go to university every other Saturday. At university, we have 3 sessions, each lasting 2 hours each, and depending on the topic, each require roughly 3-4 hours preparation. This means I have to split those hours evenly across the week and still manage to maintain a social life, see my family, my boyfriend, go to the gym and other things. I plan my time evenly so that it does not get too overwhelming. Yes, sometimes I will lose track and things do get out of control - it's only human - but I do believe having a set timetable does help you to manage your time well, regardless of your current situation.
What would you say motivates you the most?
Firstly, my parents. They have always been hard working people and I guess from a young age I have been driven by seeing how hard they work and how much they have achieved. I definitely agree with the saying that 'hard work does truly pay off'. They are very supportive and encouraging with my career choice. When I feel like I'm losing hope or faith, they urge me to not give up.
Secondly, myself. I believe if you want something in life or want the best in life, you have to work hard for it. You have to start from the bottom and work your way up. I believe that if I motivate myself enough and push myself every time, I will become a successful lawyer. I don't need to be successful in wealth (that would be a bonus) but rather in having a satisfying career.
Any final tips for any prospective law students reading this?
Do your research! Not everyone is built for law. You need have a passion for the subject in order to truly appreciate its greatness. Don't make the mistake of realising that it's not for you when it's too late and you have wasted a lot of money and time. Be sure with yourself.
Don't give up! Yes it's VERY HARD but it will be worth it in the end. I will gladly tell you when I've finished my LPC.
Remember to enjoy your life. Just because you study law or are going to be a lawyer, it doesn't mean giving up on living. Go out, have a few drinks, take those long deserved lazy days. Have fun!
Interview by Ash Threadgold
We speak to Denise Matambanadzo, who gives some inspiration for those aspiring lawyers amongst us
Denise Matambanadzo Student at BPP Law School
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