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Legally Grey: There is a group of pensioners studying law at the University of West London

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We are up for the challenge, says 79-year-old fresher Maureen Matthews

Image via BBC

It would appear age really is just a number — if this group of law freshers at the University of West London (UWL) is anything to go by, anyway.

Of the approximately 25 over-70s that start full-time undergraduate degrees each year, a number have ended up in UWL’s law lecture theatres. Mike Derks, a law lecturer at UWL, thinks this is a good thing. He told Legal Cheek:

“Having a range of backgrounds and ages makes for a far richer university experience, and is something that all our students benefit from. Higher education makes such a huge difference and we are delighted to provide this opportunity.”

One of these over-70s is Maureen Matthews. At the sprightly age of 79, she has embarked on three-year law degree at the university in Brentford, West London.

“You may look at me and see an older face — as may many young people,” she told the BBC. “But through my eyes I’m experiencing the same aspirations that I had before. It’s always been to engage in involving myself in education.”

Ditching Countdown for contract law, Matthews now attends lectures alongside her ambitious training contract and pupillage-hunting peers. Unfazed, she explained:

“All older people are capable of being up for a challenge. They’ve been through life where they’ve had to meet many challenges. I would say to older people, recognise the fact that your hearing may have decreased, your eyesight may not be as good as it was before, maybe you can’t use the computer very well, but think about strategies that will enable you.”

Matthews, despite being almost 80, even took part in UWL’s freshers’ week. We wonder if she enjoyed the Jägerbomb-fueled bar crawl or the traffic light party the best.

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Incredibly, Matthews isn’t the oldest law student to grace the lecture theatres of UWL this year.

Matthews’ pal Craigan Surujballi is 84-years-old and shows no signs of slowing down. With a desire to continue educating himself, Caribbean-born Surujballi wants to use his law degree to help people with legal issues at his local Citizens Advice centre.

But who is to say a career in legal practice is off the cards?

Across the pond, a corporate lawyer at US outfit Skadden recently celebrated his 100th birthday. Bentley Kassal fought in World War II and has no intention of retiring.

Whether Matthews and Surujballi end up going into law or not, they certainly have the respect of their more fresh faced UWL law students. “Maureen and Craigan are an inspiration to all of us,” said LLB-er Omar Idrees. He continued:

“They’ve proved to us that no matter how old you are, no matter what life has put you through, you can walk in and say, ‘This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m still young, I can still do it.'”

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9 Comments

Anonymous

“Of the approximately 25 over-70s that start full-time undergraduate degrees each year, a number have ended up in UWL’s law lecture theatres.”

“a number”………anyone else have issue with this sentence?

Anonymous

Zero is a number when you are looking for a tenuous link to the law.

Anonymous

Forget AI, it’s the over-70s that are set to shake up the legal profession. I’d be very surprised if at least 60% of the magic circle’s trainee intake weren’t pensioners by 2030.

Anonymous

At Durham (when I was there at least) there was a contract law tutor who was, I believe, in his 70s, having studied law after retirement for fun. He was one of the best tutors I had there, given that he knew the law thoroughly but also had a lot of real world business experience to illustrate what we were learning in action.

Anonymous

How is this helping us to end racism against people of BME descent?

Get your priorities straight.

Anonymous

Ageism isn’t a problem then?

Raye

Ageism in the legal arena is a true problem in Australia. I graduated with LL.B (Hons) in the top 1% of graduating year in 2015, completed a post graduate diploma in 2016. The only paid work I have found in last year was 10 weeks replacing another lawyer (on vacation). I have now worked for free at a community legal centre for more than a year and have applied for over 150 legal roles. No luck, when I am short listed all they see is my grey hair, maybe I should get a face list and die my hair.

Lewis

Raye, I was admitted in 2005 and have had the same problem. I have decided to go solo, I don’t need a law firm or a government job in legal to practice law. I will have my own firm, and provide pro bono work for those in need of legal advice and representation. No one can’t stop me. They can all go to HELL! Cheers.

Raye

Oh, forgot, I am 55 year young.

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