By Patricia Jjemba • April 03, 2017•Writers in Residence, Careers, Legal Academia, Other Career Issues, Law School, Curriculum and Classroom Dynamics, Other Law School Issues
Name: Zoe Kasujja
Professional Title: Student
Law School: Nottingham Law School NTU
Year in Law School: 2nd
Specialization: LLB in International Law
Plans to Use Your Law Degree: Zoe intends to use her legal degree as a foundational degree and add onto it by also obtaining a Master’s degree in international affairs and human rights.
I took my talents across the pond.
From the quick facts above you can probably tell that this month’s feature is not about a licensed attorney, but instead about a young woman just beginning her legal education. What you may not be able to tell, however, simply from the facts above is that Zoe’s story is even more unique than previous posts because she is currently studying law in the British legal education system. That’s right, I took my talents across the pond to get some insight and perspective on how other young women immersed in the legal field conquer their own hurdles in the profession. As indicated above, Zoe Kasujja is a second-year law student at Nottingham Law School NTU. I initially asked her to briefly explain how the legal education system in the United Kingdom works to give readers (and myself) some background.
“There are two major legal professions in the UK- barristers and solicitors. The paths [for] these two professions are different and both require separate training. Barristers can be distinguished from solicitors because they wear a wig and gown in court. They work at higher levels in the court than solicitors and their main role is to act as advocates in legal hearings, which means they stand in court and plead the case on behalf of their clients in front of a judge. “
“In order to become a solicitor in the UK; the first option is to study law at the undergraduate level, a Bachelor of Law (LLB); on successful completion of the LLB, you need to study the Legal Practice Course (LPC). On successful completion of the LPC, the trainee solicitor needs to secure a training contract (TC) with a law firm or chamber. The TC is the last step to becoming a solicitor and takes two years to complete, which is inclusive of the Professional Skills Course (PSC). The PSC is compulsory if you want to become a solicitor.”
Alternatively, “to qualify as a barrister, a prospective lawyer can study an undergraduate degree in law (LLB) or an undergraduate degree in any other subject followed by the conversion course or GDL. A prospective lawyer can then take the vocational training Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which involves one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. However, all trainee barristers are required to be admitted to an Inn of Court before registration on the BPTC. After the vocational stage (BPTC), the trainee barrister needs to do a pupillage for a year, where he or she shadows an experienced barrister.”
"Being able to change or adjust the law could have a ripple effect on our communities."
Once I had learned a little bit about the UK legal educational system, I then wanted to know more about Zoe’s personal experience. When talking about what sparked her interest in the law, she emphasized her desire to help people. “I LOVE being involved in charity/humanitarian work—so I thought about how some of the problems in and around our societies could potentially be solved in the long term, by the law. The law governs society, so being able to change or adjust it could have a ripple effect on our communities.” But it has taken more than that desire to help people to keep her in law school. Zoe credits her parents and her passion to repay them for all that they have done for her as what gets her through the difficult days in school.
When we delved a bit deeper into some of the specific difficulties of law school, Zoe shared that one of the most difficult things so far has been realizing that law school is not high school. “I now get that reminder constantly. At times, I leave my work to the last minute and I think that just as in high school, I will be able to do a bit of reading and that will give me a decent grade. That is not true anymore…time management is a real thing. That is where I have struggled and still do struggle.” She went on to say that sometimes her classmates make it seem like they are not going through the same battle, but this may just be because not many people openly show that they too are facing struggles.
"I may need more time and that is okay."
In order to ensure that her time management does not cripple her through her law school experience, Zoe has actively started pacing herself and acknowledging that how others work will not be how she works. “I may need more time and that is okay.” She recognizes that the only way she’s been able to overcome this hurdle has been through self-reflection and seeking advice from those who have achieved what she ultimately wants to. When I asked her what advice she would give herself when she first started her law course, Zoe stated, “Stop- don’t panic. It is very easy to panic in law school, for example, when you are reading a case and you don’t seem to understand the point of law being made. In that moment, just stop and slow down. And try your hardest not to compete with anyone. You are your own competition.”
"Put measures in place so that it doesn't happen again."
Finally, what words of encouragement did Zoe have for another young woman embarking on her own legal educational path or career who has just recently faced or may soon face struggles of her own? She placed great emphasis on first ensuring that the law is not a course that someone else has chosen for you, you are pushed into, or you are unsure about studying. “It is a challenging course [and] you need passion and drive when you are having a hard day. You will need that reminder as to WHY you want do law.” And second, as it relates to struggles or failure, Zoe had some really poignant insight. “Personally, I don’t use the word failure often; not because I do not fail at things, but because it has such negative connotations. When I have setbacks or hurdles, I try to look at why I have had that setback and what I can do better next time. I look internally and externally. I try to be brutally honest with myself as to how the failure came about and try to put measures in place so that it doesn’t happen again.” That is some pretty impressive advice from someone just kicking off her own competition.