Read this article by Adam from our Birmingham campus about his experiences as a career changer.
My decision to change careers was, to some extent, hastened by my advancing age! I am only in my thirties, but I know building up a successful practice at the bar can take a long time. In 2018, I had reached a comfortable point in my career and felt it was time to start applying for promotions to senior leadership roles. In the back of my mind, though, I knew securing a promotion would probably permanently suppress my dream of becoming a barrister.
Having taken career advice from friends and visited various courts around the UK to see the legal system in action, I determined to retrain as a barrister and enrolled on the part-time GDL course at The University of Law. Nevertheless, I continued to fret about all kinds of things: whether I was too old or too comfortable to start from scratch in a new profession; whether I could cope with the exams after so many years away from textbooks; whether I would have time for a social life on top of my studies and my demanding full-time job.
My concerns about my age were instantly dispelled. Several of my classmates on the weekend course were older than I am (in their forties and fifties) and came from various careers and backgrounds. All of the class, but particularly the mature students, supported each other throughout the course. The excellent tutors, some of whom had undertaken career changes themselves, were empathetic and helpful. The Employability Service was encouraging, too, giving examples of other mature students who had made a similar career change to the one I was undertaking.
When I started the GDL course, it had been over 10 years since I’d completed a closed-book university exam. I realised it was time to get my memory in working order! An essential skill for lawyers is being able to apply legal principles to factual problems, and naturally the tutors at The University of Law teach students this skill, but application is only half the battle. To do it, under exam conditions, you have to remember the law in the first place. Remembering case names and legal tests was the thing I most struggled with. Fortunately, I found and read an incredibly useful book. Perfect for anyone who hasn’t taken an exam in a while, it is called “Unlimited Memory” by Kevin Horsley. It is not a law book, but it teaches you methods for memorising and regurgitating huge amounts of information, which is very helpful in three-hour exams. After reading that book and applying the methods during my revision, I no longer struggled remembering the law and achieved distinctions in my exams.
Being a mature student and working full time was intense. The GDL course materials recommended a certain number of hours’ study per week; I stuck to that by working for two hours every night after work, except Friday nights and alternate weekends, throughout the two years. I enjoyed the course, learnt a lot and still found time for extracurricular pursuits. My advice to any student is to pace yourself when it comes to work and to throw yourself into all the opportunities your free time permits.
I volunteered for as many responsibilities as I could. For instance, I was voted Class Representative for two years running, which meant being an advocate for institutional improvement and attending meetings at which the University staff were really responsive to student feedback. I also took part in competitions, which were a particular highlight of my student experience, including the annual debating, mooting and negotiating competitions, which my partner and I won.
Thanks to the opportunities at The University of Law, I’ve been fortunate enough to be awarded an Inns of Court scholarship and another competitive scholarship from The University of Law itself. Now I am going on to the vocational stage of my barrister training, the BPC, also at The University of Law.
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