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Thomas Maxwell-Harrison is a BPC (Bar Professional Course) and LLM (Master of Law’s) law student, we asked Thomas what he does on an average day, why he chose to pursue a legal career and what his goal and plans were for the future.
Why did you choose to pursue a legal career?
I have always found law fascinating. Reading about how the government creates legislation to the way courts operate has always captivated my attention. However, it wasn’t until I reached my 20s that I decided I wanted to be a part of this legal system, to play my part in the bigger picture, to offer something back to society, and develop and learn at the same time.
I think the law is ideal for me, as I have enjoyed studying it so far and frequently visiting courtrooms.
Have you faced challenges throughout your study?
Being the first in my immediate family to go to university, not having a lot of money, or being well off and living with a long-term health condition are just some of the obstacles I have endured during my studies. It makes life harder, but it also makes it more rewarding. I know that I have the drive and determination to do well. I completed my LLB with the Open University and it was the best choice I made.
Having that flexibility to work when I chose was ideal as I could fit it around some of these challenges. As I have moved onto the bar course I have quickly realised the biggest challenge is doing the work and making sure I understand it. Anyone with long-term health conditions will struggle at times but that doesn’t deter me. It’s good to have a strong support network and to prioritise your mental and physical well-being. Eat healthily, be active, and have a social life.
What do you do on an average day?
This is my day when I attend campus for my bar course classes –
7:00am – I wake up at 7 am, nice and early to catch the sunrise and then I’ll get ready for the day. I’ll have breakfast with something caffeinated, usually green tea or similar, and then boot up the laptop and make sure that my mobile is charged for the day.
I read through my emails as I may have missed something important from the day before. I also like to have a read on Legal Cheek and check Linkedin for any relevant and interesting articles. During this time, I might save an article for later on in the day. I will also check my university email address and my daily calendar which is online so that I am aware of what is happening today.
I pack my bag, taking notebooks, pens, highlighters, and sticky notes for the white book! I pack my white books in my suitcase if it’s a civil litigation day, along with my folder of casework. I get the train around 8 am and get into Manchester around 8:30. During my train journey, I will read a book for a short duration, anything that I may pick up from my bookshelf.
8:30am to 9:00am – I have had about 30 minutes from arriving on campus to class so that has given me time to unpack my books and folder and grab another drink if needed. Depending on what is required I may use the library to print off work or to check a case or statute, or anything that might be relevant to the class. I will then do some more reading, usually something from the white book that is required during the session, and highlight where appropriate.
Civil litigation class lasts 2 hours. The white books (civil procedure rules) are used quite extensively during these sessions, so taking notes is essential, and making sure to bookmark important pages is even more so.
11am – The class will break at 11:00 am for 15 minutes.
I can get yet another drink, although it won’t be caffeinated as it can become a habit at this point. I’ll be reviewing notes from litigation and making sure that they are in order for when I get home to consolidate. Any questions or queries can be answered by the course lead, tutor, or personal tutor.
It’s important to ask lots of questions and engage during the class as it is easy to get overwhelmed with the readings, and being able to understand the material can be a challenge.
11:15am to 1:15pm – Civil skills will also last for 2 hours. Skills sessions are workshops in which students can engage with the practical aspects of the litigation they have learned. For civil this could be drafting particulars of claim or opinion, for criminals, it could be preparing a bail application or cross-examining a classmate. These sessions require a suit, so I have to wear one and if I don’t then it could result in a little bit of trouble.
These sessions are quite fun, regardless of what is being studied. It’s another chance to get practical experience, feedback and to learn and grow as a group. You get to learn more about yourself and how you work. The only downside is that there is not enough, in my opinion, there should be another skills session workshop in the week.
The class may finish early, but most of the time… it finishes on time. This allows plenty of time in the day to go away and consolidate or review what has been taught and hopefully learned. I will set off back to the train station as I like to complete my consolidation at home. If I need to, I can head to the local library for some peace and quiet, taking my laptop with me.
2:00pm – I usually get home around 2 pm. I unpack my books and notes and I’ll spend half an hour reviewing what has been written, any information that might be missing, and then I will log onto the university site and begin the consolidation tasks. That may include further reading, an activity like completing some test questions, or a short piece of work. Consolidation takes me another 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
3:00pm to 5:00pm – I will review all my emails again, have another check of Linkedin and look through law blogs and sites for more articles. I then use this time to go over any mooting work I have to do – at the moment working on a human rights moot.
I’ll check the status of my mini-pupillage applications if possible, and I’ll try and find one I can apply to for the following day, I like to have a fresh mind when I apply, so try and separate this from consolidation. Usually, I will have other events planned, like virtual talks by law firms, or maybe a qualifying session to look forward to.
I’ll always try and find something to fill my time. Recently I applied to volunteer with Greater Manchester Police and was successful in being called for an interview, so I will have to see how that goes. I like to start to unwind by going for a walk and maybe calling or texting a friend or family member.
5:00pm – By 5 pm I will have completed the tasks for the day and will have entered a relaxed state where I can focus on my wellbeing. Planning a meditation session or booking to attend a yoga class is a good idea, something my university now offers. I can’t quite help myself and will have a look at the preparation for the next class, something that I’ll most likely do.
What are your goals/plans for the future?
Embarking on the bar course has been such a big and difficult decision. I have met some incredible people in my classes and the university had been providing a good course so far. I do intend to apply for a pupillage, but for now, my goals include first, completing the course.
I like to see myself successfully passing the course and gaining pupillage and within 2 years be working within a law environment where my skills will be well utilised.
Not law-related, but I intend to continue writing and developing my blog which has gained quite a following over the last few years. This is something I enjoy. I believe it is important to enjoy yourself instead of focusing on one point or one goal, otherwise, you get consumed and end up with nothing else.
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