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We Support Your Ambition: An interview with Tutor Imogen Hamblin

Practising lawyer Imogen Hamblin joined ULaw as a visiting lecturer in 2020. Since then, she’s supported numerous students through their LPC and LLB. We caught up with Imogen to discuss teaching through a pandemic and the importance of working in a supportive environment.

I have worked at ULaw as a visiting lecturer since April 2020. I teach on the LPC, mainly BLP and the employment elective as I work as a commercial employment lawyer in practice. I predominantly teach at the Nottingham campus, although I have covered courses at Guildford, Leeds and Birmingham campuses during the pandemic. I also have an interest in and have covered the LLB courses in public law and contract law.

For someone who works as a solicitor, it is nice to have a change of pace and work in a collaborative learning environment. I find teaching more relaxed and enjoy a good joke with the students as well as trying to inspire them on interesting political and legal issues that are interwoven with our course materials.

While I have adjusted to teaching digitally through Collaborate, I really enjoyed returning to face-to-face teaching a few weeks ago and meeting the students in person. This has been an absolute pleasure.

Teaching at ULaw is enjoyable because I find the students are eager to learn and are interested in the materials we cover on the course. I love being a student mentor, both academically and in relation to careers advice.

I have tried to keep my teaching style consistent despite the method of teaching. However, I find that it is easier to ensure that students participate during in-person sessions than on Collaborate. Therefore, I have tried to ensure that all students get an opportunity to be active within the sessions by using break out rooms and developing their presentation skills. I have tried to be much more available remotely and give extra support around revision and before exams.

During the pandemic, I have made myself more available via email and telephone, despite the fact I work as a lawyer and this is my second job. I have put on additional revision sessions. I have made myself available after Collaborate sessions for those who have not been confident to speak in front of everyone.

I initially trained as a barrister and was seeking pupillage when I was offered a training contract instead. I took up the role on the express understanding that I could do my own advocacy. I felt that the lines between barristers and solicitors were blurring. I took advantage of carving out a place for myself as a solicitor-advocate, which was fairly unusual at the time of qualification.

Furthermore, I worked as a junior lawyer in traditional target-driven law firms which took more account of commercial interests and partners pockets over taking an interest in people and the contribution that staff made to the firm/stakeholders. I became frustrated at the culture in which junior lawyers worked. They were often remunerated little and required to work long and arduous hours, while firms offered little support regarding mental health, preferring to back booze-driven socials. I joined a new kind of law firm (Thrive Law) set up by a friend of mine from bar school, where we place mental health and diversity at the forefront of everything we do. Most of my work revolves around supporting people with mental ill health in the workplace and I champion LGBT+ rights within the legal profession.

At Thrive Law, primarily, we wanted the focus to be mentoring junior lawyers with a key focus on positive mental health. Thrive did away with the traditional target-driven model of employment, introduced commission structures on work that staff bring in for themselves and offer healthier, alternative models of working. Flexible working is the default position at Thrive. We have an open-door policy and reward staff who have put in an exceptional performance over the month by giving them an extra day’s annual leave. It is genuinely a nice place to work, where the team support one another. This is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the competitive nature of law in general. We also really value diversity. The legal profession has a long way to go when it comes to proportionate representation across race, gender and disability. Thrive has won awards for diversity and inclusion for the past two years running.

For the next generation of lawyers, I would like to see continued themes of ensuring that access to the law is fair and representative of the population generally. I would like to see more female, Black, Asian and minority ethnic lawyers in senior positions. In addition, I would like to see less emphasis on networking at events where alcohol is served and instead think about introducing healthy practices into the workplace. Flexible working should be the default to enable people to have an effective work-life balance.

My best piece of advice for students is - perseverance in this profession is key. I know it is competitive, but if you continue to focus on what you want and keep going despite any setbacks in obtaining pupillage or training contracts, you are bound to make it. Ensure you are accessing work experience. While on placements, make connections and foster good relationships within the profession. But always, always be true to yourself. If the firm doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, find one that is. And if you are already in the profession and think something could be done better, be brave and make those changes. We don’t have to repeat patterns of working simply because it’s ‘the way it has always been done’.

ULaw is very good at balancing legal knowledge with commercial skills. While you may feel that some of the skills sessions are quite prescriptive, they will definitely give you a good basis in client care and how to handle yourself during your training contract and beyond. It also has excellent career advice services, student societies and pro bono opportunities to strengthen your CV.

I love the energy within the classroom. I enjoy mentoring students and getting the best out of them. In particular, I like to ask questions that get my students thinking practically about a subject, and I love the ideas that spark as a result. I enjoy discursive topics and understanding a student’s point of view. I get such enjoyment out of students doing well and engaging with the subjects I have taught.

My legal inspirations are Baroness Lady Hale in the UK and Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the USA. Both women started their careers as barristers and later ended up as judges in the highest courts in their respective lands. They paved the way for women in the law where there was previously no place for us.

 

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