What is your current job title and what does that involve?
I am currently the LLB course leader which means I am responsible for the three years of the LLB programme. It involves an awful lot – far more than I ever envisaged. I also teach; my love is teaching which is why I entered this profession. I teach for 18 hours a week but in addition to that I have academic responsibility and pastoral responsibility. I run inductions, make sure students are enrolled, I sort out module choices, deal with timetabling issues, make sure all assessments are posted and rolling out generic rules such as coursework submission. That is just the day-to-day running of the course. Overall, I am responsible for writing reports on how the course has progressed and faired in the academic year and we are working on re-validating the course over the next few years. I try to hold everything together as a package. It is the largest award – we have the major minor awards and the accelerated route students – but the LLB is the largest award and everything feeds into the LLB.
What steps did you take to get to where you are today?
I did not have the opportunity to study law at school. My UCAS choices were based on what I had the opportunity to study at A Level. I studied Welsh, English and History and I opted to take a Welsh degree at Cardiff University at the age of 18. Welsh is my second language. I hated it – I hated every minute of it. Studying in another language can be quite isolating and previously, my experience of Welsh was in the classroom and not beyond that. Suddenly, you are immersed in this culture and so I did not last long. Unfortunately, I disengaged and dropped out after three months. This was at a time where you could find a job quite easily so I sent my CV round to lots of organisations I was interested in working for. I got a job in a local authority where I started work as a poll tax advisor. It was an interesting job at the time because of the riots and people were protesting outside my work. So I did that for a few years then became a housing benefits officer but I needed stimulation – I needed to study; I had always loved studying. I picked up a law A Level in an evening class and that was it – it was like a love affair. I thought law might be interesting and it was a choice between that and sociology so I took both for a couple of weeks to see which one I preferred. There was no contest. It was a revelation. I completed the A Level in a year whilst working full time and then gave up my job and went to do a law degree. I had no career ambitions; I just wanted to learn. I knew I did not want to be a barrister or solicitor. I thought I would like to teach, because law is alive when you teach.
At the end of my degree, my friends were filling in applications for training contracts but I was quite happily immersed in books. I was asked to do some research for the school in the holidays because that was my love. At the end, I applied to do an LLM in Public Law, being my preferred area, and I went off to Bristol to do that. As a result of my master’s dissertation, I was offered a PhD scholarship which I accepted. I was also employed then by the university as a researcher working for Martin Parkington who wrote the book on the English legal system, so I was just proof-reading the first edition published in 2001. It was a really exciting time. The PhD went well but it became very isolating – you start off in a room with 100 students but it was just you with the PhD, and it was very isolating. I did not complete it. I went to do a PGC – I just wanted to teach. I went to do a placement and taught here (University of South Wales), then became an hourly-paid lecturer. I applied for a couple of teaching jobs. I taught A Level law for a while. Then I was offered a full-time post here about three years ago. I came in, not thinking about the administrative roles. It is my dream job, but it is a lot of work.
Do you think the market for work experience for students is more competitive now than ever before?
I think there is more awareness now for the need to have work experience, which is so different from my day. We did tend to exist in a bubble – we were not commercially aware. There were some students who would apply for training contracts but none did work experience. They were successful but there was no requirement for experience. It has become so much more competitive. When I left school, we were told we would never have it so hard but that continued through the 1990s. Students are more aware it is no longer sufficient to have a degree.
Do you have any tips for students who are seeking work experience?
Be persistent. People receive so many knockbacks. You need to be resilient and keep trying. Attend conferences and networking events. Use your contacts. You have to be willing to do anything. Be willing to be flexible and do things for free.
Do you have any advice for students who are unsure of which route to take when they leave university?
It is really common for students to not know what they want to do. I would just say do what you like and what you enjoy – that is such an important part of it. Do not necessarily do what you are good at – do what you enjoy. Do not worry about the time – everyone thinks the answer must come immediately after graduation and there is a lot of pressure on you but doors do open. As a student, you have to present a persona that you are willing, industrious, and that you are flexible and you will be surprised at what comes your way. Take your time. Be prepared to go with it – you will be surprised where your law degree can take you. You may have parental pressure. But do not worry – it will come.