• New Year, New Career with The College of Law

  • 10 January 2011

  • Anyone itching for a change at work now that the New Year has arrived can find out how to take their career in an exciting new direction at a series of events hosted by The College of Law in Birmingham.

    The law school, in Great Hampton Street, is holding ‘Switch to Law’ open evenings on Wednesday, January 26 and Tuesday, February 1 aimed at non-law graduates keen to move from their current career into the legal profession.

    The events, which run from 6pm to 8pm, will demonstrate that not having a law degree is no barrier to achieving a satisfying career as a lawyer and that it’s never too late to change.

    Attendees will be introduced to The College of Law’s Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), a conversion course giving non-law graduates an entry route into the profession, and can speak to the College’s careers advisors. Current College students and alumni will talk about their experiences of moving from established careers into law and attendees will also have the opportunity to network with leading members of the Midlands legal community including representatives from some of the region’s top law firms.

    Professor Bernardette Griffin, Director of The College of Law in Birmingham, said: “Law is a popular choice for people wanting to change careers and we get lots of enquiries from potential students. The main reasons they give for the switch include wanting a challenging and varied career, a clear career path with good progression prospects, intellectual challenge and a desire to give something back to society.”

    A survey of all College students carried out at the start of the current academic year found that nearly 20 per cent were career changers. The three most common former career areas were marketing, PR and sales; banking, finance and insurance and health and medicine.

    “The College offers students the flexibility to choose from a range of full-time, part-time and online courses designed to fit around their current job and lifestyle, enabling them to earn as they learn to be a lawyer,” said Bernardette. “We have made a huge investment in e-learning technology, which allows students to study away from the centre at their own pace."

    Last year the College launched an online version of the GDL, which uses e-learning techniques to give students increased one-to-one supervision from their tutors and enable them to fit study around work and family commitments and reduce travel and accommodation costs.

    One former GDL student at the Birmingham centre is Ronald Langstaff, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Hillingdon Hospital. Aged 54, Ronald is now training to be a barrister at the College’s London Bloomsbury centre.

    He began to look for an alternative career after starting to feel that medicine was less of a challenge for him than before. He turned for inspiration to his long-standing interest in the law, which he’d had since school when he toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer instead of a doctor.

    He said: “It started off as an academic diversion and intellectual challenge for my own enjoyment, however I got more and more into it. I enjoyed the GDL and learning case law and am thoroughly enjoying the Bar training course, particularly advocacy which appeals to me as I used to do a lot of acting."

    He combines work and study by getting up at 4am every morning and studying for two hours before going into the hospital. On finishing the course he plans to apply for pupillage with a chamber of barristers, the final stage of training to become a practising barrister, and hopes to specialise in personal injury and medical negligence cases.

    Simon Grimshaw, of Lionel Street in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, enrolled on the College’s GDL in 2007 after working for three years in insurance claims management for a car hire firm. His interest in the law was awakened by attending the small claims court and liaising with solicitors and barristers as part of his job.

    He went on to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the next stage of training for prospective solicitors, and landed a highly sought-after training contract with international law firm Eversheds. He started at their Birmingham office in September 2010 and is due to qualify in 2012.

    He said: “The College’s careers service was pivotal in helping me to get a training contract with a law firm. The tutors have all been in practice themselves and have real world experience. They are not academics who are just interested in getting their research done.”

    Simon grew up in Bromsgrove, attending Bromsgrove School, and hopes to remain in the Birmingham area as his career develops. He believes that his previous work experience was a key factor in his success.

    “My experience set me apart from people straight from university,” he said. “I was able to give real world examples of things I was asked about in interviews. When moving into a new career, many people think that their previous career is not relevant. However you can relate the skills you learned there to your new role.”

    The College of Law is the leading provider of professional legal education and training in Europe with centres in London, Bristol, Chester, Guildford, Manchester and York in addition to Birmingham. To book a place at a ‘Switch to Law’ open evening visit www.switchtolaw.com

    Case studies of career changes

    Ronald Langstaff

    Following a successful career as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon Ronald Langstaff, aged 54, is now training to be a barrister.

    He undertook the GDL part-time at The College of Law in Birmingham between 2007 and 2009 and then enrolled on the part-time Bar Vocational Course (now called the Bar Professional Training Course) at the College’s London Bloomsbury centre and is due to graduate in 2011.

    Ronald qualified in medicine from the University of Oxford in 1980 and then followed his father into the Royal Air Force where he qualified as a surgeon. In 1996 he left the Air Force and became a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Hillingdon Hospital, where he still works today.

    He began to look for an alternative career after starting to feel that medicine represented less of a challenge for him than before and turned for inspiration to his long-standing interest in the law, which he’d had since school. His interest was heightened when, some years ago, he began to appear in court as an expert witness in personal injury and medical negligence cases.

    On finishing his Bar training course he plans to apply for pupillage with a chamber of barristers, the final stage of training to become a practising barrister. He hopes to specialise in personal injury and medical negligence cases.

    He believes that law is still a profession in a way that medicine no longer is, in the sense that it is made up of an autonomous group of individuals in control over their own admissions criteria, training and disciplinary procedures.

    “Like medicine, law can make an enormous difference to people’s lives and has the same power to do good,” he said. “However the legal profession has an autonomy and breadth of practice that is now lacking in medicine.”

    Simon Grimshaw

    After graduating in history from the University of Nottingham in 2004 Simon, aged 27, worked in insurance claims management for a car hire firm.

    His experience of attending the small claims court and liaising with solicitors and barristers awakened an interest in the law, which eventually led him to make it his career.

    In 2007 Simon, of Lionel Street in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, decided to enrol on the GDL at The College of Law in Birmingham. He went on to complete the LPC graduating in 2009.

    Simon’s decision to change careers paid off and during his GDL he managed to land a highly sought-after training contract with international law firm Eversheds. He started at their Birmingham office in September 2010 and is due to qualify in 2012. He believes that his previous work experience was a key factor in his success.

    “My experience set me apart from people straight from university,” he said. “I was able to give real world examples of things I was asked about in interviews. When moving into a new career, many people think that their previous career is not relevant. However you can relate the skills you learned there to your new role.

    For instance my transferable skills included negotiation, organisation and communicating at a business level. I was also used to working in an office environment and understood what it’s like to go to work every day. People sometimes find that difficult because they have no idea what life in an office is like."

    Simon grew up in Bromsgrove, attending Bromsgrove School, and hopes to remain in the Birmingham area as his career develops.

    Danielle Nicholls

    Danielle, aged 30, recently returned to studying law after completing a law degree at Coventry University in 2001. From 2008 to 2010 she undertook the LPC part-time at The College of Law in Birmingham and achieved a distinction.

    Following university Danielle had gone into marketing after finding it difficult to secure a training contract with a law firm. She worked for marketing agencies in Birmingham and Halesowen where her clients included life assurance company Pearl Group, after-sale car parts manufacturer Lucas and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.

    However her ambition had always been to become a lawyer and she eventually decided to work towards achieving her dream.

    Her employer allowed her to reduce her hours to four days a week to enable her to undertake the part-time LPC. Combining her job with studying took organisation but she believes it was worth it.

    She said: “When I was nine, I told my mum that I wanted to be a lawyer because they have lots of money but, as I learned more, the attraction was not the money. I find law interesting and thrilling. One of my childhood friends’ fathers was a judge, and he told us stories that I found enthralling.

    “The College was amazing and the careers service and personal tutors were so helpful. I didn’t have too much thrown at me, so I was able to fit everything in well."

    Danielle, who lives in Hinckley, Leicestershire, now works as a Contracts and Investments Assistant at the Warwick base of energy company, ConocoPhillips, which supplies Jet petrol stations as well as the aviation and marine sectors. Her work involves drafting and amending contracts and utilises her legal knowledge.

    She is currently applying for training contracts with law firms and hopes to work in commercial law. Her ultimate ambition is to become a judge.

    Wilfred Pugsley

    Wilfred Pugsley, aged 57, was a highly successful consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, who currently practises with the Royal Air Force Medical Services and has served as Commanding Officer of a Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) squadron.

    He is currently undertaking the part-time LPC at The College of Law in Birmingham, due to graduate in 2012. This follows his successful completion of the GDL at the College in 2009.

    Wilfred, of Sheepcote Street in Birmingham, qualified in medicine in 1978.  After formal training in surgery, he specialised in cardiothoracic surgery and was appointed Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon to UCL Hospitals in 1990.

    In 1998 he pursued an additional interest in military/trauma surgery, joining the RAuxAF, the voluntary active duty reserve element of the Royal Air Force, to develop a part-time career in that area of medical practice.

    In 2002 he was appointed Lead Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon to The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust with the remit of setting up Cardiothoracic Surgical Services in Wolverhampton. On completion of this project in 2005, having also served as Commanding Officer of a RAuxAF Squadron, he transferred to the RAF Medical Services to further his interest in military/trauma surgery.
    He said: “I have had a long standing interest in medico-legal work especially in relation to clinical negligence and medical ethics. Between 2002 and 2005 I became more involved with contractual issues and employment related matters. These factors, coupled with an understanding that my military career was “short-term”, led me to undertake the GDL. The course itself stimulated further interest in law."

    After he finishes the LPC he says he is open to any potential work in Law but realistically is likely to work within hospital legal services and governance or in the area of clinical negligence and personal injury. He describes his longer term career ambitions as “to see how far I can get in the time available."

    Further information from Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (lucy.wray@lawcol.co.uk)