I was recently asked by a colleague what the value of my law degree was and it set me thinking about my experiences as a student.
Many moons ago I studied at Sheffield Hallam University on the very same course that I now work as a practising solicitor, teaching the next generation of lawyers. Not exactly where I had thought I would end up. Not least because I’m a member of the 2:2 club and for a long period of time had convinced myself that my degree classification meant I wasn’t as good as others (which I now know was totally the wrong way to look at it and appreciate how much other qualities come into play).
There was one part of my degree that stood out from everything else, that was my experience in the law clinic. Back in those days the clinic offering at SHU was much more restricted. For a start it wasn’t within the confines of a fully operational and regulated law firm. It was an opportunity that was only available to third year students who had to submit a full application and attend an interview to participate in the only clinic module that was available at the time. Only a handful of students (probably 10/15) made the grade and in 2000 I was lucky enough to be one of them. I applied not thinking that I would be successful, as my academic attainment wasn’t as good as other students, who didn’t get through, and it was after all, a barrister making the selection. That set me thinking that I might just be able to do this: I must just be capable of becoming a solicitor. I just needed to hang on with the studying!
A few months later after some training and under close supervision I got to sit face to face with a client. A real life person! I remember it like it was yesterday. I was nervous, as was my colleague who was conducting the interview with me and the client displayed behaviour that to be honest unnerved me. He stared at me uninterrupted, talked over me and in reality I couldn’t quite understand why he wanted our help as he seemed to think he knew everything already. It was a real baptism of fire but one that I’m really grateful to have had.
On reflection we made mistakes but we remained professional and we got to see first hand how the individual had been impacted by their legal matter. It only got better after that and it gave me a true insight into the skills needed by a lawyer and also the types of issues clients faced. I enjoyed it. Had I not had that experience I think I would have given up and perhaps looked at a different career path because I always found the studying of the academic parts of the course really hard. The value of my degree therefore extended far beyond the degree classification I achieved.
Roll forward 20 years and I’m now at SHU Law. All of our students in all years of study get to come into SHU Law to work with us (what an opportunity) and the experiences and subjects on offer are so much more varied but equally as valuable to those taking part, not to mention the clients benefitting from our services.
Hopefully in a few years time when our graduates are asked what the value of their law degree was, they’ll be able to answer with a similar response as me. Either they’ll have had the value to commit and invest in becoming a lawyer in practice or similarly it will have helped them make their mind up to follow a different path. Whichever path they take they will have learnt some very valuable and transferable skills to set them apart in their chosen profession.
To learn more about the services that we provide and our students experiences please visit our website www.shulaw.co.uk.