ULaw Tutor Philippa Loader joined our Guildford campus and has been teaching law with us since 2020. We caught up with Philippa to discuss her career in litigation and learn how she has supported her students' ambitions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before teaching at ULaw, I practiced in banking litigation and financial services regulation.
I trained at a Brighton law firm opposite the law courts; from a very early stage, I appeared as an advocate in the County Court on an almost daily basis. The firm was very much a traditional ‘high street’ practice with a mix of private and legally aided work, ranging from personal injury litigation to domestic violence injunctions. It was a real baptism of fire as I started seeing clients during my first week of work but it taught me resilience and the importance of building rapport and trust with clients.
My love of litigation continued, and my next career move was to a niche banking litigation practice in Sussex. I spent seven happy years working for a very progressive litigation partner who firmly believed solicitors needed to be rounded as individuals as well as good lawyers to win the best clients. Our team was trained in presentation skills, body language and personality analysis, and we even had a style make-over. I’m not sure what some of the older male partners thought about it as the approach was terribly ahead of its time for those days but it was immense fun.
After that, I wanted to broaden my experience, and I spent a few years working for a legal expenses insurance company. I supported members of business federations with a range of commercial issues ranging from contract to employment law. The role gave me time to work on a few projects like writing content for a legal training website and co-writing a consumers’ guide to business law.
My next move was to join the UK’s biggest retail bank as an in-house senior solicitor, where I had roles in its Retail, Private Banking and Insurance Divisions. The work predominantly involved implementing changes to the business/products from new financial services law/regulation, launching new banking/investment products, training bank staff on areas of legal risk and supporting trust litigation.
My last project before moving to ULaw was a Brexit project to establish an EU subsidiary of the bank’s insurance arm. It was incredibly pressured due to the timescales involved. Still, it was fascinating to deal with foreign financial regulators and be closely involved with the new company’s board of directors in Luxembourg.
After many years in practice, I started to feel remote from the things that motivated me to become a lawyer in the first place, which were helping people and academic learning. I hoped that my practical experience and enthusiasm would make a difference to students and inspire them in their legal studies.
I also studied at the Guildford campus between 1996 and 1997 and have very good memories of that time. Aside from the local pub and deer on the lawn, the quality of the teaching and the beautiful study environment enabled me to achieve excellent outcomes in my LPC. ULaw has retained its reputation for excellence from when I studied there and offers a variety of courses/legal areas that appealed to me to teach.
My teaching experience is relatively new, but I am constantly delighted when students ask a question and then reply with, “Ah yes, I get that now” – it makes me feel the job is worthwhile. It’s also great to see students enjoying themselves during sessions (either by their comments afterwards or interactions during the session). I feel, if you enjoy what you are doing, you will always get the most out of it. I really enjoy student interaction and working with my new colleagues. The other tutors have such a collaborative and supportive approach – I was made to feel welcome and valuable from the start.
From what I have seen so far, I am impressed that ULaw not only ensure students have the necessary knowledge and understanding of the law but have opportunities to apply and practice that knowledge as they would in real life. Workshops dedicate time for hands-on activities to challenge students and give them practice in analysing situations and developing solutions.
The biggest challenge when we were teaching remotely was connecting with students when I could not see their body language or facial expressions. It is this connection that enables me to monitor and then adapt the pace of the workshop and ascertain the degree of understanding students have. Teaching remotely requires a lot of verbal checking-in with students to ensure they are still engaged. ULaw ensures tutors can use a great range of tools when teaching remotely to ensure good outcomes for students, like using breakout rooms (so students can work in smaller groups), polls and collaborative working on OneDrive. I must admit though, I was delighted when I was able to meet my students face to face for the first time.
I think it is helpful and efficient for students to know there is a ‘go to’ person with whom they can start a conversation if they need help. The most important element of being a personal tutor is to be approachable, a good listener and available for students.
I like to convey to students the importance of good interpersonal skills in being a lawyer in practice. While intellectual ability is important, in my experience, the most successful lawyers are excellent communicators (by which I mean listening, empathising and speaking clearly) both with clients and colleagues.
Meeting and interacting with so many lovely students and seeing them grow in their knowledge and confidence in readiness for practice in law is the highlight of my job. As a tutor, there is never a dull moment and you are constantly learning, which makes for a very refreshing work environment.