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Law is more than a three letter word

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What a mixed bag this year has been.

It’s been painfully too close for comfort on my family side of life, but I’m grateful that we’re all able to see the year out together. And I’m also very relieved that I made the decision to have surgery at the start of this year, as I hadn’t realised the impact my issue was having on my life, until post-surgery. It still makes me growl, knowing that the past five years could have been avoided.

But on the flip side, on the academic and professional side of my life, it’s been a whirlwind of changes and experiences. I’ve completed my Paralegal diploma, found my ad-hoc legal support role and started my Law degree with the Open University.

And I know how hard it can be to find that kind of newbie/entry experience role, so that has been the best surprise of the year for me. I had only intended to start looking for somewhere to gain some experience in the interim of my diploma and degree, expecting it to take some time to find, given how I also work full time shifts. That’s why it surprised me when it happened; I wasn’t expecting it. I know this doesn’t happen and it goes against the grain of everyone else’s experiences, but it does show zero legal experience entry-level does exist, and can happen.

So here I am, just under half way of my first module of my Law degree and now with six months legal office experience, and I’m finding the one common question I’m being asked is “what do you want to do in Law?” And hand on heart, at the moment, I don’t know. I’ve never worked in Law before this year, and everything is new and different and has wider implications than anything I have ever done before. Law is more than the three letters that make up the word. It is interwoven into everything we do on a daily basis, and when you’re stood at the start line and are looking at everything, how do you know?

I hope the answer will reveal itself to me over time, as this was one of the reasons I chose the Open University, given their history of distance learning and helping people figure out a path so dreams can be fulfilled.

So in the meantime, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.

I’m going to continue listening to podcasts for the areas of Law that are in Stage 2 of my degree, to help me decide on what optional modules I’d like to take, and continue with the development booklet from the Open University career advisor whilst I get myself ready for the next assignment. And I’m going to continue reading news articles and Law Reports about all the different goings-on and see how I feel about it and what I make of it.

For example, the one event from 2023 that still confounds me is the case of Andrew Malkinson.[1] He was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit, yet nearly twenty years later it was private DNA testing from the charity Appeal.[2] that ultimately prove his innocence, something I feel the Criminal Case Review Commission.[3] should have ordered when his case first presented itself to them, because the testing hadn’t been done at first instance. I’m probably missing some key element on this, but the fact that there are still miscarriages of justice like this in the 21st century is mindboggling to me.

As does the comments from the Government to those who work in Immigration law, who work on ensuring those who are in genuine need receive the basic human right to live, as well as the comments that are being made about barristers.

To claim that the clients’ barristers represent means that counsel is aligned to their beliefs is outright stupid. This is the cab rank rule at work, a process that ensures equal due process no matter what and even for a newbie to Law, it’s not rock science. Simply, when a case presents itself, the first available barrister with the needed discipline must accept the brief without discrimination. There are very few finite reasons why it can be refused but like the black cabs of London it’s named after, it’s accepted “no ifs, no buts”.

I know as I gain more awareness of Law itself and how it ebbs and flows and intertwines, that there will be more items like the examples I’ve used in this blog that will challenge the way I think. Maybe one day it will help me fine tune my compass. And maybe that’s the point.

For now, as I look back on 2023 in both a pleased and relieved way, all I can say about 2024 is this.

I may not know exactly what I’m going to do next, but I need to get a few things in place so that in 2024, I’m finally where I want to be.



[1] BBC article “Andrew Malkinson’s rape conviction quashed after 20-year fight”, by Lauren Hirst & Tom Mullen, 26 July 2023, accessed 31 Dec 2023


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Me

A message to myself: the first academic day of unit W111 Criminal Law, 7th October 2023

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Edited by Gayle Cosgrove, Sunday, 8 Oct 2023, 07:11

Hello to my future self and all other OU students/alumni who come across this.

I'm aiming this post at my future self, so when I look back, I'll be able to see how far I've come, the journey that I've had and be able to laugh at myself at the not yet knowing the "what happens next".

It's a weird feeling to be able to say that I'm actually studying a Law degree. Never mind me saying that I've come a long way from my NALP L3 diploma, I've come along way from my GCSE/A-level years. The naivety I had then in believing that the "career advisor" was doing the right thing for me by directing me towards the Royal Navy.

It might have taken me 25 years to come to the realisation that that moment was a box ticking exercise, but maybe that floundering about feeling lost, was what I needed to get to the point of not just wanting something different, but being ready to find out in what direction my compass was truly pointing to.

I've always done things in my own time, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think Law was the direction I was looking for.

When I applied for a different position in the company I work for during the first lockdown of 2020, I did it as my little white flag. It was my "I can do more than this, can anyone see me" moment. I didn't get the job, heck, I didn't even get an interview. 

But what I did get was so much more better for me. 

Paul had had the decency to call and explain why I wasn't even getting a sniff of an interview, and we got talking. Proper hind legs off a donkey talking. No recent qualifications (true) was his feedback. What do I do about that? was my reply.

That was my snowball moment. Those six words, what do I do about that, have brought me here.

Paul offered to mentor me and over conversations where more hind legs got talked off the donkey, he saw something in me that had been completely missed, something that is as obvious to me now as it was to him then.

"If you love history so much why have you never thought about Law?"

I did scoff. 
Law? 
Me?!
Give over, I had pretty much bombed my A-levels. I failed History (most of my year had too), I couldn't pull the Chemistry modules together to master the encompassing exam, Business Studies was a mathematical nightmare that I just about scrapped a pass on and General Studies was completely laughable, and you're talking Law?!

But, I did go and find some short courses as a taster just to see, before that led me to the NALP L3 diploma, something that I self-funded because I didn't want the added pressure of work expecting me to pass. 

That was in June 2021, and by 2023, before I had even passed and received my diploma on the day of King Charles III's coronation, my application to the Open University to study their Law Honours LLB was in as soon as the doors opened.

Law.

I never saw that one coming.

I hope I have a lot of good surprises on the journey ahead and continue building my confidence from my studies, and do well enough for an Upper First or maybe even a First. One thing's for sure, I'm going to give it my all, and make it one hell of an interesting journey to look back on and be proud of. 

Equally, I'm looking forward to finding out where this will take me career wise, given the volume of different areas within this industry.

And good luck to everyone else starting with the Open University today too, regardless of your study subject.

And with that, W111 Criminal Law, I hope you're ready. 

Because I finally am.
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