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Wannabe barrister who overcame anorexia to study law at Oxford now crowdfunding her Cambridge masters degree

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She hopes to raise £10,000 after spending childhood in care

An Oxford law graduate who overcame eight years of suffering with anorexia and bulimia is now hoping the generosity of others will help her fund her masters degree.

Lucy Pearce tells Legal Cheek she has received an offer to study a masters degree in Cambridge’s criminology department, which she hopes will be a stepping stone to a PhD researching the impact of crime on the family. Despite taking a year out to work as a tutor, Pearce is short of funds and hopes a new crowdfunding page will help her raise some much-needed cash for her postgrad degree.

Though Pearce benefitted financially from a scholarship while she studied at Oxford, she has missed out on one from Cambridge. “I don’t think I was rejected on means,” she says, “but because there’s only a few scholarships a year offered to Cambridge criminology students.”

Pearce doesn’t have the benefit of a rich family: she has little contact with her parents, who are divorced. She spent time caring for her grandfather following his wife’s death, but “he doesn’t have much money either”. Pearce continues:

“Although I looked in to loans, I couldn’t find any that seemed to cover me, and apart from taking out a huge loan against my grandad’s house and mortgage (which is probably the back up plan) I couldn’t really think of anything.”

Pearce was for a time homeless when she was studying at college, and is now looking to crowdfund because “I just thought it was worth a go”. Though she’s still thousands from her target, Pearce is “really, really happy” with how it’s going and says “it’s really lovely that people have helped me out”.

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A quick scan of Pearce’s LinkedIn profile shows she has plenty of barrister-focused experience, such as marshalling in the administrative courts. She’s also completed two mini pupillages, one at XXIV Old Buildings and one at 7 Bedford Row — and was master of moots at her university. Why not study the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and become a barrister? She explains:

“I had always wanted to be a criminal barrister. People said I was good at arguing! I did really enjoy criminal law at university but I did find it very depressing. I’ve lived through quite a lot of the things that we were discussing in tutorials, like domestic violence, and I decided criminal law practice was a bit too close to home for me.”

Indeed, Pearce reveals in a blog post for eating disorders charity Beat that she developed an unhealthy relationship with food aged 11 as a result of abusive behaviour in the family.

Though Pearce, who spent time in care from the ages of 11 to 16, has now recovered from anorexia and bulimia, in her post she says she “experienced a huge reduction in [her] ability to remember, focus, and to be able to think about anything”. This “massively affected” her exam performance.

Despite this, Pearce applied for extenuating circumstances and went on to study law at Oxford. As for her childhood dream of becoming a barrister, she says she has long-term plans to become an advocate, perhaps in an area of law like insolvency or housing. “I hope to do a masters and PhD that brings about social changes and can help a wide group of people,” former Jones Day intern Pearce says.

Pearce is not the first aspiring Oxbridge postgrad to turn to crowdfunding.

Last year, we brought you the story of Katy Sheridan, a then 22-year-old Simpson Millar paralegal. She’d secured a place on the Bachelor in Civil Law (BCL) course at Oxford but was in need of a financial boost before she could take up the offer. Sheridan, who has endometriosis, anxiety and depression, reached her £4,350 target in just four days. She’s now started the BCL and will graduate this year.

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29 Comments

Anonymous

Barristers do NOT argue

(12)(4)

K&E Rat

Exactly.

(1)(1)

Commercial Barrister

We definitely argue.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I don’t argue. I just explain where my oppo is wrong.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Where can we donate?

(4)(2)
(7)(5)

Anonymous

No point in donating. She has straight hair, so easy career ahead. Right?

(48)(14)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(11)(11)

Anonymous

She suffered domestic abuse… I suffered childhood sexual abuse. It’s bloody hard. Give her a break. I hope you’re not a lawyer. I would never employ you

(26)(9)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

Why can’t she take a year off to work and save for her postgraduate degree?

(29)(7)

Curious passer-by

Because that would require too much self-responsibility and maturity. Its 2018 so the social media begging bowl is the way to go. I completely understand she has had a tough upbringing, so have many people, and I don’t begrudge her using the internet to raise funds if that is what she wants, but there is much to be said for people who sit up and do things for themselves regardless of the obstacles. There are many outstanding young barristers who worked as paralegals before the BPTC or practice.

(53)(9)

Diane Abbot's Counsel

Although on paper we shouldn’t let our financial background fetter our aspirations, it should at least be taken into account when planning. A career in academia is probably not a good idea when you have to crowdfund your masters – why can’t she practice in other areas for a few years first?

(14)(8)

Anonymous

I like her, she’s charming. I wish her well in her future legal career. She deserves a break. Growing up in care is so difficult, unless you have personally experienced the rejection, isolation and neglect that is commonly associated with life in care, you really can barely empathise. It’s so bad when you are 16, and completely on your own between leaving the care system and starting university. Actually, most local authorities tell care leavers NOT to go to university, even though it’s the great equaliser. Honestly, I wish all the luck.

(12)(2)

Anonymous

I have spent time in care and came from an incredibly abusive background. I have also worked with kids in care extensively. A lot of authorities go far in providing for kids in care including paying for their degree if they were in care at age 16. Kids who have been in care rarely go onto further education (about 5%) let alone higher education but the funding and support is there for those that do. Beyond an undergraduate however I do not see how her being in care at one point puts her in any great disadvantage most parents do not pay for their kids undergraduate let alone postgraduate.

(7)(5)

Anonymous

I think it’s less than 1% of people from care homes go to university. That she went to Oxford and had massive health issues is phenomenal. Katy Sheridan was not deserving, but this girl really really is. I hope she gets double the money she’s asking for.

(16)(4)

Anonymous

Could not agree more as to who is more deserving between the two. But at least given the precedent set last year, this girl probably can expect that the internet will end up giving her what she is asking for.

The wider point made by other commentators is accurate though – there is no reason why young people cannot try to be self-sufficient instead of looking for handouts. I myself spent 5 years working after my undergraduate studies to both (1) repay my student loans taken out to fund my undergraduate studies, and (2) make enough to pay my own way to do my graduate studies. Just because you don’t come from a rich background and don’t have mommy or daddy to pay for what you want (not need) to do (and many of us don’t, perhaps a point easily lost when you are studying in a place like Oxford) doesn’t mean that you should expect others to do you a favour and give you money.

(5)(5)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

For once I believe her and feel she deserves assistance. Definitely not a snowflake.

All the best for the future.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(5)(4)

Anonymous

Maybe she should consider taking out a loan

I lost a leg in an accident and i can still manage to take out a loan and work it off, rather than crying online and using my story to pay my fees.

Im sick of these kind of things

This post has been moderated because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(15)(6)

Anonymous

100% agree! If the rest of us without rich parents have to use loans, so should she. Its not easy but its not impossible.

(7)(3)

You know who

That’s nothing, the entire LC staff have lost their brains in an accident, but has that stopped them from inflicting their opinions on society? Not at all

(7)(2)

Anonymous

Why not get a job and study part-time?

And who will then fund her Ph.D?

I wish that someone would fund me for 5 years whilst I try to become a professional golfer, but that is quite unlikely.

(10)(4)

Anonymous

It does say she has a job, besides PhD’s in those areas are departmentally funded and students are paid a minimum wage

(5)(0)

Anonymous

How she raises the money she needs is neither here nor there. The important thing is that she is actually taking some action to do so, whether we agree with how she goes about it or not. Far too many people would simply feel sorry for themselves and do nothing to better their career prospects. The path to law is often a circuitous route for many and the more interesting, the more life experience can be collected along the way, which serve well to give a broader perspective. If you disagree with her funding method, don’t donate to it. It’s simple.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Why can’t she just get out a loan? I didn’t know that Oxford does ‘scholarships’ but considering she got that for her first degree, means that she hasn’t taken out any loan at all so she could easily take a student loan for her masters (+ everyone can take at least one postgraduate loan anyways?) No offence she sounds very smart and very able and would be great in this line of work, but should really be realistic about her situation rather than choosing to ‘beg online.’ I’ve always find crowdfunding only necessary for when you are trying to raise money for a cause that you want to help to but do not have the means to, or for people in desperate situations where asking others for funding is literally the last resort — rather than someone very capable of doing part time work/taking a year off to work/etc but chooses not to just because it’s not convenient?

(6)(5)

Anonymous

While I empathise with her tough upbringing, I don’t agree with this millennial obsession of using the begging bowl that is crowdfunding. Why didn’t she take a year out working in a better job to raise the money in the first place, seeing as a tutor is hardly likely to cover the fees? Why didn’t she apply to other great universities which offer more scholarships? I don’t know if she’s set on Cambridge just for the prestige but the world is bigger than Cambridge.

(21)(3)

Anonymous

Scholarships won’t usually cover full tuition and living fees for three years, just make it easier to reach the money they need including a loan. Besides, Cambridge masters degrees are over 24,000 in total and the government funding available for masters is only 10,500. With the year out its says that she is having, 13,500 or more is hard for any graduate to raise, and without an incredible credit history where would she get the loan? University offers cannot be deferred indefinitely after failing to receive a scholarship.

(7)(1)

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