Helping you with the next step of your career – Professional Mentoring Scheme

Need help deciding which area of law to pursue, but don’t know where to start? Applications are now open for the Law School Professional Mentoring Scheme, offering LLB and MA law students going in to their second year, the chance to be matched with a legal professional in a wide variety of practice areas. The scheme aims to allow you to gain deeper insights into working in commercial law, and build on your network for the future. Professional mentor for the 2021-22 scheme, Sam Cripps has outlined what he likes about supporting students and what you can gain from joining the scheme. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply.

male mentor
Sam Cripps, Projects Solicitor at Burges Salmon

What is your background in law and how did you get to where you are today?

I have had a reasonably linear (boring!) route to law. I completed my LLB in 2015, and applied for a training contract. In the summer of 2015, I attended two vacation schemes, in addition to applying directly for Burges Salmon (where I work now). I was fortunate enough to receive an offer from each of the three firms, but chose Burges Salmon due to the culture, size and mix of work.

“While I had a successful ending to my training contract journey, I also suffered through many rejections, no-replies, and anxious nights! Everyone’s journey is different, but in my experience, everyone always achieves the same end destination.”

You get better, and more selective as you go through the process, so don’t give up! I completed my training contract between 2017-19, and chose to qualify into Projects. The Burges Salmon Projects team routinely works on large scale asset/infrastructure projects and this appealed to me. I was fascinated about working at the cutting edge of renewable energy, or the roll-out of the latest medical technology, and Projects was the right fit.  

 Why did you decide to become a mentor on the Professional Mentoring Scheme?

Studying law at university, or considering converting at postgraduate level, is very different to the life as a lawyer. Therefore, as a student I remember not really understanding what my application should look like, or even what the job entails. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have legal contacts in their family/friends, and therefore the mentoring scheme allows lawyers to connect with students to help give them that insight. I became a mentor to play a small role in helping students on the next step of their career path. 

What was the highlight of your time being a mentor and why do you think students should apply for the scheme?

My mentee was incredibly organised and driven, so my role was very easy. But I enjoyed the progress we made from setting objectives for the year (in this case, it was to progress with TC applications), to seeing them in the canteen at work on their first vacation scheme. My mentee did all the hard work, but I was there to bounce questions off, and chat through any areas they were unsure of. 

“ If you are interested in a career in law, the scheme offers you access to lawyers from a variety of firms. It is easy to be overwhelmed with the variety of choice when you begin to apply, so being matched with someone who has been through the process helps.”

If you get partnered with me, there will also be free coffee… 

laptop and coffee cup

Application details

Applications are invited from LLB and MA students going in to their second year in 2022-23 academic year. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply. The deadline for submissions is Friday 5 August at 5pm.

I feel more prepared pursuing a career in law, and you could too – Professional Mentoring Scheme

Need help deciding which area of law to pursue, but don’t know where to start? Applications are now open for the Law School Professional Mentoring Scheme, offering LLB and MA law students going in to their second year, the chance to be matched with a legal professional in a wide variety of practice areas. The scheme aims to allow you to gain deeper insights into working in commercial law, and build on your networks for the future. Law student and mentee from the 2021-22 scheme, Alexandra Zanenga outlines why she joined the scheme, how it influenced her career planning and the support it can provide. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply.

law student and mentee
Alexandra Zanenga, law student and mentee

What inspired you to sign up to the Professional Mentoring Scheme?

I was at the point in my law degree where I was beginning to think more seriously about my future and explore what areas of law interested me. Although there is an abundance of information and resources available online to aid students with this, it is difficult to gain an accurate picture of what being a lawyer entails in practice and how to go about pursuing a career in the legal sector. I applied for the mentorship scheme to gain some insight into a department I was unfamiliar with at the time but wanted to learn more about (Projects), and to connect and speak with someone who has potentially gone through some of the same experiences/struggles as I have as a student but ultimately been successful in the legal sector.

How was your experience on the scheme and how do you feel your mentor supported you?

My experience on the scheme was great! I was lucky enough to have been paired with a mentor who works at a firm in Bristol, so I was able to meet them in person and see the office.

“My mentor was incredibly supportive, offering both general advice on how to go about pursuing a career in law, and tailored feedback on how to best improve my competencies and stand out when applying to law firms.”

Despite his busy schedule, he would always make time to meet with me and talk through any questions I had.

Overall, I am incredibly grateful to have had this experience, as I feel more prepared going into the legal sector and pursuing a career as a lawyer.

Which area of law are you hoping to pursue and how did this experience influence this decision?

As of now, I am hoping to either go into Projects (the area of law that my mentor works in), or Corporate Finance, but I am keeping a very open mind. Going into the mentorship scheme I was curious to know more about Projects, as I learned that lawyers in this department work on large renewable deals and the energy sector has always been of interest to me. After meeting with my mentor and getting glimpses into the type of work he does, deals he has completed, and what his day-to-day life looks like as a Projects solicitor, my interest in this area has only amplified and I hope to be able to explore it further in the future.

Why do you think students should apply for the scheme?

I believe that being able to speak to a professional who works in the area of law you are hoping to pursue is an invaluable experience which will give you insight into what you can realistically expect for your future.

“It is really helpful to hear about someone else’s experiences going into law and understand what you can do now to make yourself a better candidate in the future.”

Also, you have the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can, which comes in handy when the application period starts!

Application details

Applications are invited from LLB and MA students going in to their second year in 2022-23 academic year. See our Professional Mentoring Scheme webpage for more details on how to apply. The deadline for submissions is Friday 5 August at 5pm.

What should I be doing over the summer?

If you are worried that your career planning will lose momentum over the summer, take five minutes to read the latest blog from our Employability Adviser, Jo Cooksley.  Jo will put your mind at ease with some great advice and some quick, practical activities that will help keep things going at a pace that works for you.

When I see students in one-to-one careers meetings I am often asked ‘what should I be doing over the summer’. My answer? ‘What do you want to do?’

It can be easy to forget that your time is your own, you have had busy challenging years and sometimes we can lose track of what we want to do as we are so busy thinking about what we should be doing.

“As a careers adviser (and a human!) I am a great advocate of the importance of aligning your interests, passions and career aspirations. The more aligned they are the happier you will be.”

When was the last time you really thought about what you want to do after Uni? It can be easy to be swept along with recruitment timelines (more on that later) particularly when studying a subject such as Law which has such a clear recruitment trajectory. This can be very reassuring, until perhaps your timeline and the recruiters timelines start to diverge, maybe you haven’t got the vac scheme you thought you would, or the Training Contract offer. This can be immensely unsettling.

So…why not take some time to really examine what your options are and what interests you. The next question I am usually asked when I say this is ‘but how do I do that’? It is too easy at this point to just grind to a halt, it’s such a vast thing to think about. My suggestion is you do something, almost anything, just keep taking the next step. Below are some suggestions and resources to help you take the next step.

So where to start?

Timetable in some careers time, maybe a Wednesday afternoon? Couple of hours on a Saturday morning? Doing some planning/researching is better than none and will help you to feel more in control.

The Careers Service has lots of resources to help you. Take a look at its ‘Exploring Career Options’ resources.

Maybe you could take a look at the Sector Guides that are available, which provide a summary of key information and starting points to help you explore a range of careers including Advertising, Publishing, policy, TV and Media and MANY more.

Start to engage with others working in areas you think might interest you.

Set up/improve your LinkedIn profile or sign up for the University Bristol Connects Service.

But I need to earn some money this summer…

You are also likely to need to work over the summer to earn some money, don’t underestimate how positively employers will view the less obviously relevant, paid work you undertake. If you need some help articulating the skills you develop in this work for future employers, why not book a careers appointment?

“So, in response to ‘what should I do this summer’… have a break, earn some money and take some time to think about what you’d really like to do.”

 

Why this mooting competition was a highlight of our university years

Participating in mooting competitions is an excellent way to develop your advocacy skills – particularly if you are looking to pursue a career at the bar. The Law School has a well established advocacy programme open to current students throughout the academic year. Current undergraduate law students, Cher Lyne Peh and Chloe Yeung impressively came in second place from 64 universities competing at the OUP & ICCA National Moot Competition. Read their blog below to find out more about what the competition entailed and what they learned during this experience.

Cher Lyne Peh & Chloe Yeung
Cher Lyne Peh & Chloe Yeung

It all started back in September 2021 when we came across the OUP & ICCA National Moot Competition 2021-2022. Having had some mooting experience, we wanted to challenge ourselves and compete at a national level.

The Competition

The Moot took place over eight months and consisted of 64 competing universities/teams across the UK. Each round engaged different legal topics and issues which were very current and mostly unresolved. We were able to moot on cases awaiting the judgment of the Supreme Court such as Fearn v The Tate Gallery [2020] EWCA Civ 104, Paul v The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust [2022] EWCA Civ 12 and many more. In the Grand Finals, we were judged by The Rt Honourable Lady Justice Andrews and were invited to dine at Middle Temple.

Preparation

In each round, we started preparation by doing a broad sweep of the topic across platforms such as Westlaw, LexisNexis and so on. Most of the time, the moot problem would be on a general area of law that we were familiar with (e.g. tort). However, the actual subject area would be a lot more niche (e.g. psychiatric injury for secondary victims and overlooking into neighbours’ windows as a form of tortious nuisance).

“Since the moot problems were set in the Supreme Court, anything could be overturned or overruled, so we had licence to stretch our imagination!”

Hence, we looked beyond merely applying primary sources such as cases and legislation; we looked at the intention of the relevant legislation, rationale of decided case law, academic commentaries and law reform proposals from the UK and other commonwealth countries in order to build strong arguments and a good foundation of knowledge.

Secondly, we would refine, test and build on each other’s thinking processes to establish (hopefully!) not only sound but original legal arguments. We would embark on a “rebuttal exercise” where we would put forward rebuttals to each of our arguments to ensure that comprehensive responses had been crafted for any opposing arguments and judicial intervention we could think of. We would then summarise these into documents called “skeleton arguments”, to be submitted to our opponents and judges well before each round.

Cher Lyne Peh & Chloe Yeung

Thirdly, preparing to advocate orally was the next stage of the process. A very practical and effective way to test our fluency, ability to respond to judicial interventions and the strengths of our submissions was to practice them with the other teammate intervening as the judge. For the Grand Finals, we were instructed to print our bundles and skeleton arguments to better simulate an in-person courtroom environment. Filing and tabbing our bundles in heavy ring binders, then carrying them to London with us for the competition, was certainly a physically taxing ordeal, but was truly an exciting moment for both of us!

Skills

The requisite skills of research, legal-mindedness, quick thinking and fluent advocacy are essential for mooting, particularly at a competitive level. However, the first skill that helped us progress to the finals of the competition, ultimately winning second place was definitely having a strategy.

“In a national competition comprising many excellent universities and students, we knew that we had to go above and beyond the traditional mooting scorecard criteria of good advocacy skill and knowledge of the law  – we had to stand out and be original.”

Secondly, mooting on such complex and controversial topics meant that we had to develop a firm grasp of the core issues in each moot problem. Broad research was undoubtedly important, but just like tackling any problem question in an exam, we had to distinguish the helpful resources and strong arguments from the peripheral, insignificant ones, so to build a case that was not simply effective and strong, but focused, persuasive and easy to understand.

Cher Lyne Peh & Chloe Yeung

Finally, teamwork was crucial to our success. Having mooted with each other previously, we knew of each other’s particular strengths, and so delegated arguments and speaker positions accordingly. More broadly though, having a teammate meant that we could bounce ideas off each other and be constructively critical of each other’s thought processes, which helped us massively as we progressed into more difficult rounds.

Final Thoughts

Getting to moot in front of a Court of Appeal judge at the Middle Temple was a great honour and privilege for us, and definitely one of the highlights of our university years.

Cher Lyne Peh & Chloe Yeung

This competition tested our ability to research a broad range of unfamiliar and unresolved areas of the law and use it for a hypothetical client’s interest. This experience no doubt affirmed and enhanced our skills as advocates, law students and aspiring barristers, and has been an extremely memorable way to end our time at the University of Bristol.

“We would heartily recommend any student interested in pursuing the Bar, or a career in law, to represent Bristol at this competition in the years to come!”

Further information

Find out more about the practical experiences of law opportunities available to law students on our Careers and Employability webpages – and find out how you can do more with law.

 

From the ashes: the rise of the Law Clinic education – National Volunteers Week Law Clinic series

A solicitor for almost four decades, the Law Clinic’s Director, John Peake, set up his own firm in 2002. South West Law undertook legal aid work with cases that concentrated on social welfare law. The introduction of the Legal Aid and Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders act (LAPSO) in 2013 saw the availability of publicly funded legal aid work for social welfare removed and the firm’s work massively reduced. In an interview in our latest Law Clinic Annual Review, John talks about how this experience laid the foundations for the pro bono work students now manage in the Law Clinic – and how, whilst there are challenges ahead, the future is bright for law clinics and the students that work in them.

John Peake

How did the introduction of LAPSO lay the foundations for Law Clinic work?

The government reductions in funding meant the availability of legal aid was drastically slashed. That meant that several areas of work that legal aid did cover were no longer covered. There was no legal aid for most family cases, no legal aid for most immigration cases and no legal aid for welfare benefit cases. This significantly impacted the number of people who needed advice and support but could not access solicitors which, in turn, led to a high demand for pro bono help from Law Clinics.

What does that demand look like in terms of the growth of the Law Clinic?

We now have in the region of 230 students who are involved in the Law Clinic ranging from first year law students through to master’s students. We deal with something in the order of 300-400 cases in any one year and we cover an entire range of legal issues from housing, benefits appeals, contract disputes and employment cases.

The people who contact the Law Clinic tend to contact us as a last resort. Most people have already tried to get help from Citizen’s Advice, from a law centre or from a solicitor but find either they cannot help or that they cannot afford to carry on using them. At that point they contact us.

One of the great things about the Law Clinic is that we have a range of clients and it is accessible in the widest sense. We have people who have very little money. We have people who have a relatively moderate amount of money but cannot afford legal bills. And we get quite a lot of people who would not go to a solicitor in any event because they’re intimidated by going to the flashy offices of the big commercial firms.

What other work is the Law Clinic involved in?

We are also involved in several outreach projects in the community with organisations such as Bristol Drugs Project, MIND and a domestic violence charity. This means we have clients with a whole range of problems, both legal and non-legal.

In terms of student development, outreach projects are an incredibly important part of our work. They help develop a deeper understanding of societal issues and the real impact such issues have on people’s lives. Before students meet clients in our outreach projects, we will work with our partner organisations to provide training so students understand the issues they may be facing and how to respond appropriately.

We also carry out work in the Wellspring Settlement, an area of Bristol which is also one of the most deprived in the country. Most clients that we see here are members from the Somali community. This means students conduct cases for people for whom English is not their first language which raises difficulties but also helps student further develop their communication and problem-solving skills.

How is the Law Clinic moving forward?

The Law Clinic is always moving forward. In fact, it is essential it does so. The opportunity to work in a law clinic is going to be increasingly important to prospective students and they will be looking to gain that experience. It is a demand that is met by the demand for law clinic services and pro bono advice from the public.

previous law clinic students

In recent years, there has been a three-fold increase in the establishment of law clinics in UK universities. When I started at the Law Clinic there were around 30 universities in the country that had law clinics. Now there are in excess of 90. We are often asked for input in relation to other clinics and situations that other students or directors might have. People come to us for advice and guidance, and that indicates how well the clinic is regarded nationally.

Nowadays students do not just want the UK experience. They also want to gain an international perspective. In recent years, we have been developing the Law Clinic by partnering with law clinics around the world. We have established links with universities in India, France and Germany and are currently planning to run sessions with universities in China. As we move forward, we are committed to further growing our international network of partner universities.

Equally important, though, is our ongoing commitment to nurturing and expanding our links within the community and with community organisations. Over the next few years, we will be particularly looking at how we can develop our immigration work because there is a clear need there.

What is the biggest challenge facing the future of the Law Clinic?

The biggest change to the legal sector will be whether law clinics should be regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA). Now they’re not, but within two to five years there could be a move towards regulation as the demand increases to ensure the standards of law clinics are maintained and kept high.

Making sure that you have the appropriate levels of supervision in place is essential for the ongoing quality of the service. And achieving that will pave the way for a successful outcome if there was a move to regulation. The key to running a law clinic and maximising its effectiveness both for students and members of the public is the quality of the supervision. That means that you need to have people in place who are experienced, who know what they are doing and who can communicate. And that is what we offer.

At the end of the day, being a supervisor is really a teaching role. It is a matter of making sure that a student understands what is involved and to address any concerns and mistakes in a sympathetic way so that students learn from them rather than feel they are being punished for them. It is a question of there being enough resources to make sure that the degree of supervision that is required is actually in place.

How does the Clinical Legal Studies Module feed into your supervision in the Law Clinic?

The Clinical Legal Studies module is available to all third years. Taking the module means compulsory membership of the Law Clinic. I devised and set up the module to ensure quality of service was embedded into the Law Clinic from day one. The module is designed to get students to think about their place within the law and why they react to a particular situation the way they do.

“We are trying to develop students who want to become people who will shape the future, who want to become policy makers, who want to be influencing decisions, but to do that they have to understand the setting that they’re actually in and clinical legal studies provides them with that.”

How a student reacts with a client is really important because it can influence the way that the advisor client relationship actually progresses. We get students to think about their role and to approach things in a non-judgmental way because, quite often, our clients are very vulnerable.

We try and get students to think about how to approach particular situations. If, for example, a client comes in and they’re wet, they’re grubby and they’re smelly – the natural reaction is to take a step back and recoil slightly. But, as soon as you do that, the client will perceive that to be a judgement and an adverse criticism.

But once a student talks to that client, they might find out that they lost their job a couple of months ago, that they have not been able to afford their rent so they are now homeless, they are having to sleep either on a park bench or in somebody’s car and then everything else fits into place. Through that, students develop a much better understanding of clients’ problems and how to go about addressing them.

How does the Law Clinic support students’ employability?

The Law Clinic attracts several types of students because students have different objectives. One of the things that we try not to discourage, because we recognise that it is a reality, is that students will want to work in the Law Clinic because they believe it looks good on their CV. And to be honest, it does. You talk to partners at firms, and they say law clinic experience is invaluable, setting students apart from those students who have not been involved in a law clinic.

So, you have those students who see the Law Clinic as very much a badge to go on their CV and we also have students who join the Law Clinic because they want to help people, because they appreciate the social justice function of the Law Clinic. But there is a tension between the two.

“If we have somebody who comes in with the motive to get the experience because it looks good on their CV, but at the end of their time with us they actually understand why the Law Clinic is so important and the role of the Law Clinic within the local community and society, then I think we have achieved something.”

One of the really rewarding things about my role is to see a student who comes into the Law Clinic and you talk to them, and they say the most terrifying they have ever done at university was to sit down in front of a client for the first time.

To see how that student develops from being somebody who is really quite scared of the situation they find themselves in – with another human being relying on them, depending on them – to see how they become someone who is confident, who is able to put clients at ease, who is able to draw out the information they need and then respond in appropriate ways, that is really what our job as supervisors is all about.

It is the development of those skills that makes our students stand out when they are applying for jobs and that puts them on a path for a successful, meaningful career wherever that might be.

Further information

Find out more about the work of the University of Bristol Law Clinic and the pro bono activities our students and alumni get involved in by reading our National Volunteering Week 2022 blog series.

‘Achieving peace and justice for families’ – National Volunteers Week Law Clinic series

In recognition of National Volunteers Week 2022, this blog series shares insights into the work of our students who are involved in pro bono activity at the University of Bristol Law Clinic. In this series, we will look at the scope and impact that these vital projects have on the local community, on the development of our students and on our alumni’s commitment to give back.

In 2021, a family reached out to the Law Clinic on behalf of their non-verbal child who had profound and multiple learning difficulties. The family were seeking advice for an upcoming Best Interests Meeting which they hoped would lead to improved care for their child. In an interview as part of the latest Law Clinic Annual Review, recent LLB Law student, Cora Danieli was one of the case workers. Cora explains more about her involvement in this project in her blog post below.

“The planned Best Interests Meeting (BIM) was one that would determine whether the ongoing inadequate care the family’s child was receiving in their care home would be sufficient to determine the current placement unfit. In that time, their child was living in poor conditions with their basic care needs not being met. They had been left unattended on countless occasions, there was no sufficient sensory training (which is seen as a necessary component of emotional stimulation) and, on the worst end of the spectrum, the family had been denied access to their child and left uninformed when their child was rushed to hospital from epileptic fits.

At this BIM, the family would be in the company of experienced medical professionals, social care workers, an independent mental health advocate (IMHA) for their child, and individuals from the care home. Our job was to adequately prepare the family for this daunting meeting and put together a list of recommendations (from highest to lowest priority) which would support their claim. Thiscame with many challenges, not least due to the inherently emotional nature of it for all those involved.

Our preparation involved conducting legal research into the Mental Capacity Act, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (MCA DoLS), the Care Act and BIMs themselves. Having familiarised ourselves with this, we were given the opportunity to review extensive medical documentation and liaise with health and social care professionals.

“This case really highlighted how important the work of every single student and member of staff in the Clinic is. Whilst it is a wonderful learning opportunity for us as students, our work is often the only hope for clients that come to the Clinic to achieve justice and that makes a real difference.”

We wrote numerous medicolegal advice letters based on this information, and further used these as a foundation for advising our client on the complaints process for the relevant healthcare bodies. As a university student, this was both extremely challenging and highly rewarding and I am very thankful to have been involved.

My case partners and I successfully supported the family in securing a positive outcome at the BIM and securing a long-term better quality of life for the family’s child. We are overjoyed to have been a part of this success and wish our clients all the best for the future. We also hope that the complaints we helped to raise will come to fruition in the near future and help them, and any others in similar situations, to achieve both peace and justice.”

Further information

Find out more about the work of the University of Bristol Law Clinic and the pro bono activities our students and alumni get involved in by reading our National Volunteering Week 2022 blog series.

‘An unparalleled taste of what it is like to be a solicitor’ – National Volunteers Week Law Clinic series

In recognition of National Volunteers Week 2022, this blog series shares insights into the work of our students who are involved in pro bono activity at the University of Bristol Law Clinic. In this series, we will look at the scope and impact that these vital projects have on the local community, on the development of our students and on our alumni’s commitment to give back.  

The Law Clinic primarily works with individuals who have low incomes, are disadvantaged and are likely to experience difficulties. Much of the work undertaken by students relates to welfare and disability benefits, employment issues, discrimination, mental health, housing and immigration. In this Q&A as part of the latest Law Clinic Annual Review, we talk to Dimitris and Eve, joint winners of the University of Bristol Law Clinic Award for Best Final Year Student, about just how far students go to secure a successful outcome for their clients.  

What was it like to receive the Final Year Student Law Clinic Award for your social security case?

Receiving the Final Year Student Law Clinic Award was a surprising and humbling experience. Our motivation for engaging in case work was primarily to help individuals at some of the most vulnerable times of their lives, and so we’d never really considered the possibility of being awarded for this work. 

“Defending our client against experienced litigators from the Department for Work and Pensions was particularly challenging and I’m elated we won part of the appeal.” Dimitris Trigkas (LLB 2021)

 

Can you tell us a bit more about the case that secured you the award? 

The award serves as a recognition of our hard work on a multijurisdictional social security case. It was a benefits appeal that centred around UK, Greek and EU law in which the entitlement to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was being disputed on two grounds, the first being whether the UK was the competent state to pay the benefit and the second being whether the client was in need of, or entitled to the benefit. 

How far did your support go in terms of securing a successful outcome for the client?

As there were two grounds of appeal, we focused on one each, whilst supporting each other in relation to general queries and aspects of the appeal. Throughout the progression of the case we had regular meetings with the client to gain all information needed and keep her up to date as to how we were proceeding. Having this open line of communication with the client enabled her to trust us and have confidence in our abilities and commitment to gaining the most beneficial outcome for her. As this case involved Greek law, we contacted IKA, the Greek Social Insurance Institute to gain relevant information for our case as our client was receiving a pension from Greece following the bereavement of her husband.

Combining this information with our independent legal research we were able to prepare a compelling tribunal submission. Going up against experienced litigators from the Department for Work and Pensions was particularly challenging and we’re elated to have won part of the appeal. The opportunity to represent a client in court and speak on her behalf as her personal representatives, with the result being a significant amount of money back-paid to the client, was hugely emotional. We were acutely aware of the difference if would make to our clients life. 

“The highlight of my time at university is undoubtedly the Law Clinic. The freedom we were given to interact with clients and make significant decisions was something I did not anticipate.” Eve Hughes (LLB 2021) 

 

How did the case prepare you for future careers?

Preparing the appeal bundle and representing our client at the tribunal gave us an unparalleled taste of what it’s like to be solicitors. It enabled us to put into practice everything that we have been studying for the previous three years. Additionally, representing a client in a tribunal whilst we were still studying has been such a unique experience that has allowed us to stand out in applications and interviews. It has also confirmed our interest in law and the areas in which we would like to qualify. 

What advice would you give to a future Law Clinic student?  

Both of us have experienced rejection, in applying for a Law Clinic place, or for a training contract. Rejection did not dishearten us. Our message to fellow students and graduates is to learn to endure disappointment and keep pushing until you’ve reached your most coveted goals. 

Further information

Find out more about the work of the University of Bristol Law Clinic and the pro bono activities our students and alumni get involved in by reading our National Volunteering Week 2022 blog series.

From Housing Law to the Financial Ombudsman Service – National Volunteers Week Law Clinic series

In recognition of National Volunteers Week 2022, this blog series shares insights into the work of our students who are involved in pro bono activity at the University of Bristol Law Clinic. In this series, we will look at the scope and impact that these vital projects have on the local community, on the development of our students and on our alumni’s commitment to give back.

Dispute resolution, the process of resolving disputes between parties, is a skill that most students will hone whilst in the Law Clinic. In an interview as part of the latest Law Clinic Annual Review, alumna, Georgia Austin (LLB 2020), explains how her experience helped to open doors to a meaningful career.

“I enjoyed my time at the Law Clinic because it was interesting to learn about areas of law outside of my course. I appreciated the opportunity to develop practical legal skills and to use these skills to help members of the community. Whilst at the Law Clinic I worked on a client’s tenant dispute. The mould and damp in his flat had got so severe his health was negatively impacted, his possessions were ruined, and the flat was uninhabitable, meaning he was having to sleep on the streets.

To approach this issue, my case partner and I explored dispute resolution via the civil courts and the Housing Ombudsman. In this case, the Housing Ombudsman wasn’t a possibility since the letting agents and the landlord were not signed up to the Ombudsman’s voluntary jurisdiction.

As a result, we prepared the client to present as a litigant in person to argue his case. The experience helped shape my future career.

“My experience at the University of Bristol Law Clinic laid the foundations for many of the skills I would be developing in the workplace. I now have 30 to 35 cases at a time and having a foundation in case management certainly eased the learning curve. The ability to effectively research unfamiliar, complex topics was also an invaluable skill.”

 

My role in the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

As an investigator at the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), my role is to suggest a resolution to complaints made by consumers against companies providing financial services. As FOS is an independent third party, I assess the evidence presented by both sides and consider it in light of the relevant legislation, regulation, best practice guides and industry standards to suggest a fair and reasonable resolution to the complaint. Investigators spend the first six months of the job in the academy which involves a mixture of seminar learning and hands-on learning.

Following my experience at the University of Bristol Law Clinic, I had laid the foundations for many of the skills I would be developing throughout the academy. For example, the ability to juggle casework with other commitments was an extremely valuable skill to have practiced while at the Law Clinic. I now have a caseload of 30 to 35 cases at a time and so having a foundation in case management eased the learning curve.

Similarly, the ability to effectively research unfamiliar, complex topics was an invaluable skill that I had developed at the Law Clinic. Having developed strong research skills at the Law Clinic was another asset when working to meet my academy targets. Having graduated from the academy, I now work in the fraud and scams department specialising in authorised push payment investment scams.

“This case opened my eyes to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and the many opportunities there are to resolve issues outside of court. It inspired my application to the Financial Ombudsman Service.”

My caseload includes cases where people have tried to invest using established investment platforms such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, UBS etc. but have been scammed through a cloned company. I consider the individual facts of the complaint to determine whether it was reasonable and fair for the respondent organisation to choose not to reimburse the consumer for their loss under the Contingent Reimbursement Model Code and the Payment Services Regulations.

I was always worried that my first job outside of university would define my career. I was stressed because I hadn’t got a Training Contract lined up straight out of university. However, ultimately this was a blessing because it meant I explored different routes into law. I realised there are many jobs outside of Training Contracts and paralegal roles that allow you to actively use your degree in a meaningful way.”

Further information

Find out more about the work of the University of Bristol Law Clinic and the pro bono activities our students and alumni get involved in by reading our National Volunteering Week 2022 blog series.

 

I completed a legal internship and this is why you should too – National Volunteers Week Law Clinic series

Recent LLB graduate and Law Clinic member, Ibukun Badmus completed a two-week internship in collaboration with the University of Bristol Law Clinic and law firm Burges Salmon. Burges Salmon sponsored this new internship, open to Black students, as part of the Law School’s anti-racism work to address the chronic underrepresentation of Black talent in the legal sector. In an interview as part of the latest Law Clinic Annual Review, Ibukun explains what she gained from the experience, and why seeking out legal work experience can help shape the path you might like to take in your career.

 

What was my internship like?

The beginning of my two-part internship was at the University of Bristol Law Clinic. From the first day, I delved into tasks I had never previously undertaken, such as drafting court submissions for clients. Following on from this, I conducted legal research, independently held meetings with clients and responded to queries for employment, benefit, family and real estate matters.

Although, I was supported and supervised throughout, I was granted the scope to be independent and develop my problem-solving skills by coming up with solutions on my own, before discussing them with my supervisor.

Following on from my Law Clinic experience, I completed a two-week work experience at Burges Salmon. Throughout my internship, I sat in the employment department. Here, I was given an opportunity to conduct real trainee tasks such as, drafting employment clauses, attending hearings and amending employment defence templates.

“This experience equipped me with greater insight on what it would be like to work in a commercial law firm, including practically undertaking day to day tasks.”

Prior to this experience, I was only superficially aware of what working in a commercial law firm would entail, having only been informed through word of mouth and not through personal practical experience.

My experience at Burges Salmon has solidified my desire to pursue commercial law and has galvanised my motivation to complete my applications in this upcoming cycle.

I am grateful to Sumayyah Malna (Solicitor at the Law Clinic and lecturer in law) and the University of Bristol for enabling this collaboration, as it has undoubtedly given me greater confidence to embark on my legal career.

Why should students apply for a Law Clinic internship?

The first thing I would say is that nobody should doubt their ability and if you can, you should apply to the Law clinic internship! I know many people (such as myself) are sometimes apprehensive to apply for legal opportunities, as you may feel as though you are not equipped with the necessary skillset to perform well. This is simply untrue and besides the experience gained and skills you will develop are the most important things.

“Focus on what is to come and not what you feel like you do not have.”

In my application I was honest about why I wanted to apply for both the law clinic internship and Burges Salmon internship and indicated how I believed it would benefit me and develop my legal skills.

From my first day as an intern at the Law Clinic, I was met with imminent deadlines. My supervisor encouraged me to embark on the work (court submissions) and send her drafts, as I went along. I was set unfamiliar work and admittedly, I initially found the tasks daunting. However, after taking the initiative to look at templates on Practical Law, I was able to successfully complete the draft. I was tasked with several court submissions following this and it became considerably easier to complete.

My top tips for students gaining an internship

As such, my top tip for this internship or any legal work experience generally would be to always endeavour to independently come up with your own solutions. For me, it allowed me to offer effective solutions to the client and even see things from multiple perspectives, as I was critically analysing my own thought process.

This is not to say that you should not ask for help if stuck (I did several times) but make sure you have a go beforehand. Moreover, even when working in a team, by thinking about the matter individually first, it enables you to bring valuable considerations and solutions to the forefront during team discussions.

This skill was also necessary during my internship at Burges Salmon, where I was faced with corporate employment matters. There was a particular task where I had to amend an employment defence template against an advisory guide. I was initially doubtful as to whether my amendments were accurate, nonetheless when I showed my work to my supervisor, it was correct. Had I gone to my supervisor before properly tackling the task, I would not have demonstrated a willingness to complete the task, even where I found it challenging.

This is only one of the many skills I developed whilst on this internship. I would strongly advise anyone who is able to apply for this fantastic opportunity to do so.

“I then had the courage to embark on my  first application cycle. I frequently cited my work during the Law Clinic, as well as my two-week work experience at Burges Salmon throughout my applications and even mentioned them at my assessment centre. Eventually, I was lucky enough to obtain a training contract from a magic circle firm!”

Sumayyah is planning to run this scheme again in the future – keep an eye out for more details on the University of Bristol Law Clinic website.

Find out more

The Law Clinic has been extremely lucky to have obtained funding from Leigh Day for a six week internship for one eligible Black student who is a UK national. This initiative is intended to address the chronic underrepresentation of Black talent in the legal sector. Law School final year and postgraduate students can apply by completing this form by 5pm on Friday 1 July.

Read about the invaluable work of the University of Bristol Law Clinic and the opportunitities it provides to our students and local community.

How playing video games inspired my journey into law #WorldIPDay

Dr Yin Harn Lee is a senior lecturer in law at Bristol and her area of expertise is in intellectual property law. In this blog celebrating World Intellectual Property Day 2022, Yin Harn discusses how she embarked on a love for IP law through a non-conventional route, and how this could be an interesting area for you to explore in your career.

How did you end up specialising in copyright law and in particular, in relation to video games?

Well, this is because I had very long summer holidays, and during the holidays I was playing video games and was interested in modifying them, so making them do something a bit different from how they were originally designed. That led me to a lot of legal questions, such as is any of this allowed? And if it’s not allowed, should it be allowed? And what does this actually mean in terms of people’s ability to work creatively with existing video games?

“So, when parents say playing video games will never get you anywhere, you can tell them that’s not exactly true.”

Why did you choose to come to Bristol to teach?

I came to Bristol because it’s very well known as a research-intensive institution that values research alongside excellent teaching. There was a key group of colleagues that were interested in information technology law and intellectual property law, and we all do different things. But things are related enough that we can talk to each other and really bounce and spark interesting ideas off each other. That was what attracted me to Bristol intellectually, and in terms of career development.

How have you developed your research since coming to Bristol?

In terms of further research, I have previously looked at copyright on video game modifications. I’m now working on another project also about video games, but this is about the cultural preservation of video games. What we want to do is look at questions around how would a museum, for example, preserve a video game for future generations? What does it mean to preserve a video game? Are we only dealing with the code, or do we want, for instance, to also preserve some sense of how it was received by the public and how people engage with it? This raises a lot of complex, but also really interesting legal and even social questions. On that project, we have got the support of the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield, which is excellent, and we look forward to working closely with them.

What advice would you give a student looking to forge a career in intellectual property law? 

If a student wishes to forge a career in either intellectual property law or perhaps information technology law, I would advise having a really good grounding in the foundations of legal knowledge, because that student will need to be able to engage with contract law, standard property law and even trust law – so all areas of basic legal knowledge. And then to build up that knowledge and become more specialised by studying intellectual property law and information technology law, obviously.

Another area of importance is to develop a strong sense of commercial awareness.

“How will intellectual property and information technology law affect commercial dealings, the overall business environment and perhaps even the overall social environment?”

And then be able to reflect critically on how these would translate into issues that need to be addressed by the law, how these would translate into challenges that people will need lawyers to overcome. That is all really important, and students should develop that by wider reading on all of these issues, following for instance technology blogs, intellectual property scholars on social media and so on. There are so many of us. And importantly, I think what would be helpful for students at more advanced levels of study is to try and get a vacation scheme or mini pupillage in a solicitor’s firm or barrister’s chambers that specialises in this area so that you can really see the law in action.

Your research spans many areas, how interdisciplinary in nature is IP law?

My own work is inevitably becoming more and more interdisciplinary in nature because we have to engage not only with computer scientists when we’re dealing with computer programmes and digital art, but also with the art world when talking about more conventional forms of art. We need to talk to musical composers and understand how they see the process of composition. We need to engage in the kind of literary and film world production practices around TV and film to understand how intellectual property law fits in there.

So, in that sense, my work is inevitably interdisciplinary.

What do you see as the future for IP law in relation to video games? 

In terms of how I see my own research on copyright and video games and indeed intellectual property and video games evolving, I think it’s only going to become an area of greater and greater interest to people in the future. We’re already seeing that video games which were previously thought of as some sort of niche entertainment, taking a bigger and bigger market share in terms of the overall entertainment sector. The routine use of them outstrips film and television on a regular basis.

People are beginning to see the kind of social and cultural influences that video games have, especially over the last year with the pandemic, when people have been at home. One of the main ways of entertaining oneself and also communicating with others is through video games and especially the large online video games like Minecraft and Fortnite. I think people are becoming more and more aware of these issues, and therefore there will be greater interest in this field in future years.

Do you still play video games – and are you rare as an academic working in this field?

Well, this is a very sad question, because since I started researching video games, I have not had time to play any. But in terms of what I used to like to play, (which was so long ago, that it is now fashionable) are classic isometric role playing games like Baldar’s Gate, which I used to mod by BioWare, including Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

Whether I’m rare in being a lawyer who mods or used to modify video games, I would like to think not, because when I was more active in the video game modification scene than I am currently now, I met all sorts of people from all walks of life. Granted, they were the usual suspects, like computer scientists – people who were themselves professional video game developers. But you also got surprising people like a schoolteacher from Portsmouth that I worked with. You can get all kinds of unexpected people in that scene. While I’m currently the only lawyer I know who does this, or used to do it for fun, I’m sure there are more of them out there, I just need to hunt them down – in a nice way.

Have you seen an increase in students with computer science degrees moving into law/IP? 

If you study law and then go on to do something else such as computer science, I do see that becoming more popular, although I’m more familiar with it the other way around – a computer science student, then deciding to study law. I think there are some natural connections in that sense because both of these areas depend on a certain kind of logic. Computer science has a certain logic to it. Law has a certain logic to it. And while the logics are not identical, you do get a sense that you’re working up something from first principles.

“If you are a student who has a strong interest in intellectual property law, I think going into one of the related fields like computer science is a very natural career path.”

I do think more students will be undertaking this kind of flexible way of studying in the future.


Further information

Find out more about studying intellectual property law at the University of Bristol, by exploring our undergraduate and postgraduate courses that allow you to tailor your degree with our diverse range of optional units.