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Studying with ULaw at the University of Reading: An interview with Olivia Atkinson

We are proud to deliver ULaw courses at several great universities across England. The University of Reading’s London Road campus is one of these locations. Today we’re talking to LPC (LLM) student Olivia Atkinson about her experience of studying at Reading.

By Cara Fielder. Published 20 May 2021. Last updated 19 August 2022.

I want to qualify as a lawyer, and ULaw came highly recommended as one of the best providers of the GDL and LPC (LLM).  This was from a multitude of sources; personal friends who had studied there and on LinkedIn.

I am currently undertaking the LPC LLM, but I also took the GDL last year and came back for more. Having the LPC is essential if you want to qualify as a solicitor. However, the additional element of a Masters was a choice I took time to consider. In the end, I decided that an extra module and a research report wasn’t a huge price to pay for such an esteemed qualification. One that might make all the difference when getting my applications noticed. I’ve always wanted to study a Masters course, so it made absolute sense.

I hope to qualify as a solicitor in 2024 by which time I will be 27 years old. I don’t regret taking my time to get to where I am. All my decisions have been right for me at the time. I can confidently say that I have acquired many transferable skills, met some incredible people and had a variety of experiences over the years. Moving forward, I would love to work in the intellectual property (IP) department of a law firm and eventually manage my own IP team and run the department someday. I also hope to continue blogging and writing about my legal career.

I chose to stay on at Reading after my GDL as I knew the campus well and felt comfortable in a town and campus that I was familiar with. Although we have experienced a lot of this course online so far, I have still felt connected with my course mates and tutors. I found that ULaw at Reading has facilitated the remote working setup very well.

While studying the GDL, I visited the Employability Team many times for CV reviews and workshops. I also attended talks and events run by the University to connect students with law firms and trainees in the local area. The Employability Team organised a day of judicial shadowing at Reading County Court, which was an amazing experience. The judge that I sat with for the day was very friendly and shared many insightful nuggets of wisdom (which I vigorously scribbled in my notebook on my lap while balancing a cup of tea made by the very kind clerk).

I read English for my undergraduate degree and ever since I can remember I have had a passion for writing. Before I converted to law, I was on the path to becoming a journalist. When I started the GDL, I decided not to give up this dream entirely. I reached out to Bethany Wren, the Content and Events Manager at LawCareers.Net, asking if I could write a few articles for free as a conversion student. Beth was very enthusiastic and kindly accepted my offer. Later that year, she forwarded the position of part-time blogger to me. As I was viewed as something of an internal applicant, it was an opportunity that I grabbed immediately. Writing about my experiences in converting to law, applying for training contracts and dealing with rejection has been a sort of personal therapy as well as an informative outlet for my peers. Through sharing my thoughts and advice, I feel that I have already begun to give back to the junior lawyer community in what I hope has been an informal yet constructive and useful blog.

When I first heard about the Junior Lawyers Division for Berks, Bucks & Oxon (JLD BB&O), I jumped at the chance to join the committee. It was an opportunity to be a part of a team, network and connect with junior lawyers in my local area and get creative. I applied to be the Regional Representative for Berkshire and was welcomed into the committee very quickly, albeit virtually due to lockdown. While hopes and dreams of physical events and meet-ups were quashed, I made sure to maintain engagement, enthusiasm and commitment to the role. I showed the team that I was very serious about the position and constantly workshopped new ideas, such as running our own podcast (you heard it here first).

When the position of Vice President became available, I mustered the confidence to put my name in the hat. To my absolute delight, the committee voted in my favour. I have been working closely with the President, Rebekah Sutcliffe, in organising events, networking with societies and other JLD groups, liaising with local law firms, lawyers and sponsors, co-hosting the podcast, and more. The role is very varied and challenging, but I absolutely relish being busy. I always volunteer to write for the JLD BB&O website and external organisations such as The Law Society BB&O Magazine. Being able to merge my passion for writing, personable attitude and eagerness to gain experience in a team/leadership role has really boosted this final year of study for me, brightening what could have been a very solitary lockdown. I would encourage anyone studying the LPC or is a trainee, NQ or paralegal, to join their local JLD, either as a general member or as part of the committee. It really is a rewarding and fun experience.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, I decided to apply for a position with an innovative and forward-thinking law firm, Stephenson Law. For the past few weeks, I have been working as a Content Assistant for the firm, assisting with creating and managing a new subsidiary for startup companies called Flamenco. This role consists of editing content, including written and visual content such as blogs and videos, organising and sharing information using online tools such as Microsoft Excel, Canva and Teams, as well as taking part in team meetings to brainstorm ideas for the website. I am thoroughly enjoying my time with Stephenson Law and hope to continue working with the team post-LPC.

The best thing about studying with ULaw at Reading is the responsiveness of the staff. Whether that’s a tutor, member of the Employability Team, or general administration, ULaw is always on-hand to give students advice about their course. Particularly during the pandemic, I have found that any questions or concerns were dealt with quickly and efficiently. For example, I queried with my former-GDL personal tutor, Margaret Matthews, whether I could continue to study full time and complete the LPC in June while also attending evening and weekend classes to suit my working hours. She assured me that the University was very flexible and that something could be arranged to suit my needs. This flexibility and kindness in approach is something that I have really valued during my time with ULaw at the University of Reading.

I would advise all students considering ULaw to do their research. Don’t enter onto a course without knowing what to expect. Attend virtual and/or physical law fairs and talks, ask questions and be inquisitive. No question is a stupid question. Often, many students sign up to the GDL or LPC expecting things that weren’t part of the deal or are surprised when asked to do something they hadn’t anticipated. You will be taught to a high level and provided with the materials you need to succeed but don’t expect to be hand-held throughout the course. University requires independent learning, stamina and self-discipline. If you don’t do the prep and the reading (of which there will be a lot), then not only do you put yourself at a disadvantage but you inhibit others from learning as well. Be honest with yourself - why are you taking this course? Why ULaw? In general, are you ready to commit to this intense but ultimately fulfilling career path? If you can answer these questions, you are ready to sign up. Good luck.


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