Having spent the two years prior to doing the CPE writing for an e-commerce magazine, I already knew that I wanted to work as an e-commerce/IP lawyer. According to my research, there were only two law schools in London offering electives in e-commerce and commercial law. What swung the pendulum in favour of The City Law School was the idea of attending the same law school as Mahatma Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The successes of the alumni certainly said a lot more about the quality of the education at The City Law School, Grays Inn Place, than the school prospectus.
My experience did not disappoint. The LPC itself, though not particularly difficult, is an intensive programme. Students are expected to have undertaken the preparatory exercises and reading before every lecture and tutorial. Lecturers assume that this has been done and teach accordingly. However, the timetable was designed with this in mind – lectures and tutorials finished in the early afternoon. It also helped that there was always one day off each week.
I found it particularly reassuring that the lecturers were all practising or formerly practising solicitors. This gave the teaching some credibility, especially as the LPC focuses on legal procedure. The law school and the lecturers go out of their way to create an environment as close as possible to a law firm (without the long hours). The lecturers were always throwing in little titbits of information about the reality of practising law.
I also found the Pro Bono Unit to be helpful in two ways. Towards the end of the course, the law school runs a pro bono advice clinic, where I had the opportunity to interview a real-life client, carry out research and help to solve a real life problem. It was really satisfying to be able to advise a council tenant on a dispute with the council over a failure to carry out repairs. The Pro Bono Unit also has details of various pro bono organisations and I was able gain experience as a result.
While doing the LPC, I volunteered with the RCJ Advice Bureau, a litigation advice clinic. I worked on reception and this gave me the opportunity to talk to several clients a day about their cases, so that I could brief the duty solicitors. It also meant that I dealt with a broad range of clients, including the homeless, those with limited knowledge of English and those showing clear signs of stress. There were some opportunities to carry out legal research but the RCJ Advice Bureau is a great way to get to know the High Court and Court of Appeal system and work outside of my comfort zone.
After the course, i arranged a three-month internship with the Environmental Law Foundation. I worked in the Advice and Referral Unit, answering the telephones and interviewing callers about their environmental law problem. An internship at ELF is a good way to gain an understanding of what environmental law is about. It was also the best place I have ever worked, particularly because I was surrounded by people who were clearly passionate about the environment and their jobs. This internship was for me a life-changing experience.
I started applying for training contracts while I was doing the CPE. As I neared the end of the LPC, I started to look for paralegal work as well. However, it took me a full year before I found a permanent position as a paralegal. That is how competitive the legal market is – I discovered that more people do the LPC each year than there are training contracts registered with the Law Society.
Since 2006, I have worked as a conveyancing paralegal for a national law firm. Ironically, this was the one area in which I said I would never practise. But conveyancing cases can be just as interesting as other areas of law. After all, your role as paralegal or solicitor is to advise people how to resolve legal matters and problems and buying a house is probably the most important decision anyone can make – after getting married, of course.
When I started the LPC, I had a firm idea of what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, things did not work out as I hoped. I learnt that when it comes to choosing LPC electives, interest is just one factor to be considered. It is also important to consider your employability afterwards, especially as a mature student, and having a broad range of electives helps. Instead, I focused on the commercial electives and this meant that I limited my options.
I have enjoyed working as a conveyancing paralegal on actual cases and narrowly missed out on gaining a training contract with the firm. However, in the course of my work, I came up with ideas that I really wanted to look at but it was outside the scope of legal practise. So, when the firm was hit by the credit crunch and had to make people redundant, I saw it as an excellent opportunity to do a PhD. During the next three years, I am looking to develop the skills and expertise needed to be a professional researcher.
Pravin’s PhD topic is “The effectiveness of incentives as a regulatory technique for protecting the environment” – connect to him on Linkedin.
Find information on all of The City Law School’s courses here.