‘There are not many people who make it to the bar as a disabled person’
A paralegal at Simpson Millar’s London office who wants to become a barrister is asking the public to help fund her Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) course at the University of Oxford.
Katy Sheridan, who already has a first-class undergraduate law degree from the elite university, told Legal Cheek the masters will “improve” her chances of securing pupillage in the “extremely competitive” world of public law. She said:
I can’t stress to you how competitive public law is. Having a brilliant degree is a baseline, then you have to take masters courses and get more experience in order to differentiate yourself.
And why should you back Sheridan and her barrister dreams? Three reasons, she says: her motivation, her academic record, and because there are not many disabled women in the profession. On the latter, she explained:
In 2016 I was diagnosed with endometriosis which is a chronic gynaecological condition. The long and short of it is that this condition, as well as perhaps impacting on my ability to have children in the future, means that I often experience chronic pain and fatigue, and get more easily exhausted than others around me. As is true with a lot of women with endometriosis, I also have a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder, which exacerbates a lot of my symptoms.
While the 22-year-old told Legal Cheek her condition makes pursuing her barrister dreams harder, “you could easily say it’s a condition that could stop me getting a first-class Oxford law degree, but I still did it.” Sheridan — who has completed a vacation scheme at Hogan Lovells and acted as a legal adviser at Brixton Advice Centre — said:
There are not many people who make it to the bar as a disabled person, and I implore you to support me in my efforts to do so.
The BCL costs nearly £20,000 and there are of course living expenses, but Sheridan’s not looking to crowdfund the whole whack. She’ll be applying for a government loan, has about £8,000 and counting in savings, and says her parents will help her out a bit. Taking all this into account, the aspiring barrister is hoping to raise £4,350 via her GoFundMe page.
Why not defer her place and stick it out at Simpson Millar for a few more months? Sheridan told us there’s “no guarantee” she’d be accepted for the BCL next year, plus her retired parents will be moving away soon meaning she’d have to start paying London rent.
Two days after setting up the profile and thanks to 50-odd donors, she’s received over £1,000. Sheridan — who attended a fee paying school on a scholarship — is using #BacktheBCL to help promote her campaign.
Please help me raise £4350 to take up my place at Oxford! #BackTheBCL
— #BackTheBCL (@BackTheBCL) May 11, 2017
Though it’s still unusual for aspiring solicitors and barristers to resort to GoFundMe pages to pay for their education, Sheridan is certainly not the first person to do so.
Just weeks ago we brought you the story of Leila Taleb, a bar hopeful from Bradford who claims to have raised all of her Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) funds and more thanks largely to a £12,500 pledge from a “mystery person”. Below you can watch Legal Cheek journalists discuss whether crowdfunding law school fees is the way forward.
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