After living and studying languages in Russia, current student Helen Garforth returned to the UK to begin a new chapter in her life. Instead of continuing her career in marketing, she followed her dream of becoming a lawyer and is now studying the LPC with MSc in Law, Business and Management at our Bristol campus. We caught up with Helen to discuss her career change.
By Cara Fielder. Published 2 October 2020. Last updated 15 December 2022.
I chose to study at The University of Law as it is the preferred legal education provider of many law firms and I was keen to stay at the same university for both GDL and LPC. However, I did not have a training contract when I started my studies. I also liked the fact that you are taught by qualified lawyers, which brings an extra dimension of what it is like to practice into the classroom.
When I hear the word ambition, it makes me think of drive, challenge and success. My ambition is to be a good lawyer in my chosen area of practice – I would like to work with Russian speaking clients in commercial dispute resolution.
I am a career changer and my first career was spent in Moscow, Russia. I studied Russian and Spanish at an undergraduate level and my ambition was to live and work in Russia, learn the language fluently, find a role in marketing and be able to move back to the UK and make a career with my knowledge of the Russian language and culture.
I changed careers specifically to be able to use my fluency in Russian with a challenging career – law. My ambition has stayed the same since joining ULaw but it has grown stronger over time as I have become more familiar with the legal market.
I participated in the internal ULaw negotiation competition and that made me think that I could improve that skill for my career as dispute resolution work is no longer only about litigation, it is also about negotiation, mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
As I spent ten years in a different career, it has been a challenge to ‘start again’ and be among much younger students. However, ULaw has given me many opportunities to be involved in extra-curricular activities and events that have helped me to become much more comfortable with that.
My advice to new students would be to get involved with as many activities and events as you can. The University does provide budgets for new societies; you just have to have an idea and go for it. I would also recommend using the tutors and other support staff as much as possible; they have been invaluable throughout my time at the University.
I study at ULaw in Bristol and had my sights set on a career in London as that is the centre for international legal work in the UK. I have met a few students with similar ambitions to me but I did have a firm plan when I embarked on changing career and this has held strong throughout my studies. I have found that the tutors and supporting staff have been excellent in providing advice whenever I have needed it, which has been extremely helpful in securing a training contract.
In five years, I hope to be working in London as a qualified lawyer. I hope that this will open more doors for me and that I will have developed professional legal skills during my training contract that will help me to build a niche for myself within the legal market.
I am proud of what I have achieved and that I did not choose the same route as everyone else – get a degree, move to London, etc. I followed my ambitions, lived and worked in another country for a decade and then returned to pursue another ambition – to be a lawyer. It is never too late to change and I am a true believer that we will all have several careers. The main advice I would give to anyone is to believe in yourself and it will get you far.
Discover how ULaw can support your ambition to change your career path.