Student story: Entering the legal world through the Legal Advice Centre

Daniel Rees Alexander Halford, 2nd year LLB student (left in image below)

halfordWhen I started studying Law at QMUL last year, I had been ‘out of the game’ for quite a while. I spent time abroad after graduating from my previous degree before working a year in Greggs in my sleepy Welsh commuter town.

I needn’t have worried about being older than everyone else on campus – everyone on the Senior Status degree was my age or older. Though I was the oldest in my Pooley flat by a couple of years, the other flatmates were second years from the States and people who for some reason or other hadn’t gotten sucked into university at eighteen.

But shovelling pasties is a little easier than getting through a contract law case. I tried to expand my comfort zone, mooting and making a last-minute application to the Legal Advice Centre. I went to see a panel of barristers talk about their experiences and dropped by the Law fair. On the networking side, I had a strong desire to be talked at, to hear stories, but didn’t really have enough stuff to talk about myself.

After two rejections from LAC positions I opened the third email, mentally boarding the Megabus back to Cardiff. Congratulations! I had been thrown a bone! I had been selected for the SPITE for Schools project! After a quick google, I realised that this was actually going to be a tasty, dynamic and involving bone – I would be running workshops for schoolchildren about a new revenge porn law.

During the project, some stuff worked well and others didn’t. I spent a lot of time creating fake Facebook profiles to demonstrate the spread of an explicit image online, proudly displaying my work for the class of thirteen-year-olds at our first workshop. None of them used Facebook anymore. Apparently, I was no longer down with the kids.

The groups changed each time we started preparing a workshop for a new school. Our second group was a blend of members from different teams, and we cobbled together a Frankenstein presentation from what had worked well in our previous groups. We sounded bored discussing our stale content and our audience knew it. Don’t recycle your presentations, kids.

Our group had a lot of assistance from people within the LAC. Something which really helped was having a debrief session shortly after finishing each workshop. Frances Ridout, the Deputy Director of the LAC, listened to our feedback on what had worked well and what hadn’t, identifying areas for improvement. Rather than getting into a rut, we were constantly encouraged to improve on previous experiences, delivering tailor-made workshops for the schools.

One of the barristers gave us another tip for our final workshop. Never say things like ‘here comes the boring bit.’ This was actually a slide heading in our first presentation, and we were proud of our self-effacing wit. Lines such as these indicate to your audience that they can switch off for the next few minutes.

I love talking about this project. It helps a lot in interviews and on application forms, especially when dealing with the dreaded team work question. It’s allowed me to take advantage of other opportunities at the LAC – this year I will start advising on the Immigration project – and given me the confidence and experience to take on other advice service work around East London. If you’re just starting your Law degree, I would not hesitate to recommend volunteering at the LAC.

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