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Career Changer Scholarship winner: An interview with Percy Preston

Current student Percy Preston is studying the GDL at our London Moorgate campus after deciding to change careers. Following a successful career in film and media, including time as a freelance football columnist, he decided he wanted to do something meaningful with his skills and take his first steps towards a new career in law. Percy was awarded one of our Career Changer Scholarship and was able to start his studies to become a lawyer. We caught up with Percy to discuss what inspired this decision and ask his advice for other people considering a career change.

I worked in film for two years as an Acquisitions Executive for one of the world’s largest independent distributors of documentaries. I was based in London, though my work took me to film festivals and industry conventions in Europe and North America. I then worked as a freelance copywriter and writer, writing for a variety of magazines, including Idler, where I am the football columnist and When Saturday Comes – Britain’s leading independent football magazine. I enjoyed both of these lines of work but I wanted to work in an industry where I felt I could really stretch myself and do work that I felt was important.

I’ve thought for a while that I’d like to pursue a career at the bar but it wasn’t until I met a few barristers and spoke to them about their work that I was really inspired to pursue this path. Although the barristers I met all have very different practices, they share a sense of the importance of their work and the duties and responsibilities that accompany their profession.

I’d heard good things from a friend about The University of Law, who said that the teaching and the library facilities were excellent. That and the generous scholarship provision made ULaw the natural choice.

I’m only a couple of months into the GDL (now known as the PGDL), but so far the teaching has been brilliant. As I’ve acquired some legal knowledge, it’s been interesting to see how that knowledge has begun to shape my understanding of current affairs. Whether its Brexit, coronavirus or even football, almost every story is shaped by the law and has legal implications.

I’m hoping to specialise in media and communications law. Media law encompasses some of the most pressing legal issues we confront today, such as the tension between the right to privacy of individuals and freedom of expression. I’m especially interested in defamation and how it intersects with questions of human rights.

My first experience of mooting was a terrifying, if ultimately rewarding experience and I’m approaching the next one more with excitement than fear. I’ve also loved the public law module, it’s been a really exciting introduction into how the law governs the relationship between the State and the individual.

I think the encouragement I’ve received from both the University and members of the profession has been a welcome surprise. Changing career is a major and daunting undertaking but I’ve felt nothing but supported throughout. I’ve also been very grateful for the support and services of the Careers Team.

I think the main challenge in starting a new career is that adapting to education again after a few years of working can take some time. At times it can be overwhelming to embark on an entirely different career path, especially one as competitive as the law. But I don’t see it as a complete departure: I’m hoping that a lot of the skills and experiences that I acquired in my previous career – commercial awareness, written communication skills and experience of working in the media - will translate to any future career in the law.

I’m open-minded to the possibilities raised by the GDL but if I manage to secure pupillage and I was working on the kinds of cases that come under the broad umbrella of media and communications law, that would be fantastic. As a barrister working in this area, I could be resisting an application for an injunction one day and working on a case involving data protection the next.

The help the Career Changers Scholarship has provided has been crucial. Without this generous support, I doubt I’d have been able to pursue a career a career in the law at all. Being awarded the scholarship was the moment my ambition of being a lawyer became a real possibility.

The process of applying was easy. I wrote a fairly brief statement about my motivations for studying law, why I thought I was a suitable candidate for the scholarship and how I foresaw any award facilitating my career ambitions. I then submitted the application alongside my application for the GDL and that was it.

My number one piece of advice to anyone considering a career change is that it’s a big undertaking and there will unquestionably be moments of self-doubt, but it’s been absolutely worth it. I’ve found that now I’m immersed in the course, my eyes have been opened to just how wide-ranging and varied the opportunities presented by legal work can be. It’s very exciting.  

       

To find out more about moving into law, join our Convert to Law event on Wednesday 9 March from 4:00pm to 6:30pm. Book now