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Studying online in Hong Kong: An interview with Justin Griffin

Justin Griffin recently completed the second year examinations for the part-time online GDL and is back to study the online LLM LPC. To celebrate International Students' Day on 17 November, we caught up with Justin to talk about learning online while living in Hong Kong and how studying English law has helped his career abroad.

By Cara Fielder. Published 16 November 2020. Last updated 14 September 2022.

From 2010 to 2014, I studied an MA (Hons) Business Law and Business Management at Heriot-Watt University where I left with first class honours. Being from Scotland, for my undergraduate, I didn’t want to study outside of the country but I also wasn’t committed to the idea of studying Scots law. Therefore, it made more sense for me to convert in England/Wales rather than it did to follow the Scottish route and do an accelerated LLB.

After graduating from Heriot-Watt in 2014, I wanted to put myself outside of my comfort zone and start travelling the world now that I was free to do as I pleased for the first time. I became TEFL certified over the summer with intentions of teaching English in Asia. By October I had moved to New Zealand where I lived a nomadic life for a year before relocating to Vietnam to work in the public schools. I didn’t end up in Hong Kong until 2017 but, as luck would have it, teachers are paid substantially higher here than elsewhere in the world meaning that I could self-fund my legal studies and finally take steps towards converting without more student debt.

I chose to study at ULaw because it is one of the few private law schools in the UK that has an outstanding reputation along with extensive connections to leading firms. Additionally, it is one of the only universities that provides remote learning in terms of the GDL and even more so with the LPC. Unlike other GDL (now online PGDL) providers, ULaw offer more flexible payment arrangements to students than their competitors, making further education more accessible.

As a distant-learning student, my contact with tutors is via emails. However, Richard Haggett has been an invaluable connection at ULaw for any queries or concerns that I have had about the course.

I would definitely recommend studying online. Distant-learning enables the student to maintain the lifestyle that they already have without having to make unnecessary sacrifices. The ability to study remotely has been the sole reason why I have been able to study at all. Had I moved back to the UK to study in-person, then I would have had to take a substantial pay cut, which in turn would have meant that I would have had to resort to relying on student loans once more for education, which I was not willing to do. 

It is impossible for me to single out any one moment as a highlight during my time at ULaw. The past two years have been a significant period of growth for me as a person and as an aspiring solicitor. Through commitment to my studies, I have shown myself that I am more than capable in this field, and that with perseverance no obstacle is insurmountable. Now to overcome training contract procurement.

The structure of the course means that you can choose as and when you study, with no pre-determined requirements such as scheduled lectures/tutorials, meaning that it can easily fit around your existing commitments.

The GDL has been a really important process for me, in terms of both realising my potential, as well as confirming that I have made the right choice in pursuing a career as a solicitor. After graduation I am looking forward to getting back into studying with the LPC and building on my existing knowledge and experience.

The online GDL looked daunting to me during the application process as I was concerned about my ability to remain on track. However, the course is very well designed with a weekly workshop focus that gradually builds up your knowledge and practical ability in the modules before an assessment. I was surprised how easily I slipped back into a studying schedule, especially alongside full-time teaching. My advice for anyone consider it, is to go for it. What do you have to lose?


If you want to follow in Justin’s footsteps and begin your career change journey, you can discover more about our online courses.