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I hated studying law at uni, Court of Appeal judge reveals in rare judicial podcast

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Lady Justice Davies also admits to suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’ in convo with fellow female judge

📸 Lady Justice Davies

Good news for law students who find their textbooks less than riveting: being bored out of your skull is no bar to reaching the top of the profession.

No less a figure than Dame Nicola Davies DBE, Lady Justice of Appeal, has confessed that she loathed studying law as an undergrad and wishes she’d done English or history instead.

Davies, the first Welsh woman to reach the Court of Appeal, was speaking to fellow jurist Heather Hallett on a podcast published last week. Davies tells Hallett:

“If I was advising the teenage me, I would say to her, ‘do English or history at university’ — which is what I wanted to do. I didn’t realise that I could do a non-law degree and then become a lawyer. It would have given me a breadth at that early age, 18 onwards, that I didn’t have.”

Oxford graduate Hallett interjects, saying that her own experience was different: “I loved reading law”. “I didn’t”, Davies replies. She goes on to say that while both judges present studied law, “one enjoyed it, one didn’t”.

In previous reflections on her legal career, Davies has said that she “didn’t exactly enjoy the study of law” and applied to Unilever as a graduate trainee after Birmingham University. When a Unilever executive advised her to stick with law, Davies trained as a solicitor — only to abandon that role to work in finance.

Davies, who turns 66 on Wednesday, eventually settled on the bar. She went on to become a medical law specialist who represented serial killer GP Harold Shipman at his murder trial. A judge since 2010, Davies was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 2018.

In the podcast, published to mark International Women’s Day, the two judges also discuss “imposter syndrome” — saying that not even top judges are immune. Hallett says that “I have no doubt that confidence is very important to a successful career. I’m astonished that you and I have female colleagues who still talk about suffering from the imposter syndrome. We don’t have male colleagues who do”.

Davies agrees, saying that lack of confidence in herself “is something I have struggled with”. Men, she adds, “are better at faking it”.

Judges are increasingly making an effort to communicate through digital channels, with the Judicial Office and Supreme Court setting up YouTube channels and, in the latter case, an Instagram account. Davies and Hallett’s discussion marks another step forward: while recorded discussion between judges have been played at legal conferences in the past, this seems to be the first dedicated judicial podcast that has been made available to members of the public.

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21 Comments

Anonymous

I honestly don’t know why you’d study law at 18

Uni is for expanding your mind, thinking new thoughts, getting high and drinking beer

Just do a solid curriculum subject at the best uni you can get into then do the conversion in London

(12)(21)

JDP

If anyone forgets to mention shagging as a lesson from uni they fail our initial application sift.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Can wealthy people stop being casually insensitive about the fact that lots of young people can’t choose to not read law because the conversion course is simply prohibitively expensive?

It is tasteless and frankly mean – it is as bad as criticising a child for not having been to the Ritz often enough or for never having been skiing …

(51)(12)

Anonymous

Amen to this. Lots of junior members at the Commercial Bar have been to the the same private schools that older members of chambers send their kids.

They really have no idea how the real world works, do they?

(33)(1)

Anonymous

Even putting money factors aside, if you really hate the law so much that the thought of doing a three year degree in it fills you with dread, then maybe you are not going to like doing it for the next 45 years.

(19)(6)

Anonymous

Yes. I studied law because I wanted to become a lawyer. I enjoyed it. Now I enjoy practising. Seems pretty straightforward to me. I also don’t know any other country that will let you practise law after just one year of academic study (I won’t count the LPC/ BPTC because… Well, we all know why).

(8)(3)

Anonymous

You enjoy law? Weirdo.

Anonymous

Enjoying dry legal textbooks and being tested by tutors who obsess over tort cases from the 1800s isn’t necessarily correlated with enjoying advising real life clients on their legal problems in a pragmatic way.

I hated law at university and every day there wished I’d done history. I even tried to change after first year but they wouldn’t let me unless I repeated a year. Glad I didn’t as if I’d switched I’d probably never have become a barrister.

I thoroughly enjoy advising my employment clients on the ins and outs of employment law. I genuinely enjoy reading the cases, something which I never would have thought age 18-21.

However, I still hate researching/advising on pernickety legal points in other areas of law, such as trusts. I loathe PI (but then who doesn’t) and find it difficult to motivate myself to read a single bit of law on it even though it is one of the easier areas. Life is easier when you are doing something you can truly enjoy and fully sign up to, I guess.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

The conversion course is funded. By your firm if you want to be a solicitor, and by an inn scholarship if you want to go to the bar.

(0)(7)

Anonymous

Correction*

[insert after by an inn scholarship if you want to go to the bar] “…if you happen to come from a select background which most Inn Scholarships are granted to, namely straight A students (most of whom attended private school) and Oxbridge graduates (ditto).

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Straight A students and Oxbridge graduates – so you mean the academic best. IQ is 50% genetic, so if there was not a class lilt at the top something would be wrong.

(0)(0)

Kronos

I didn’t even go to university. I fought in the Free Kurdistan militia and fed the seals at LA Zoo. Now I bill 5,000 pesos per Gregorian calendar month at the sixth-best media, PR and road traffic accident law practice in the southern hemisphere.

(16)(2)

Anonymous

Hi Alex

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Kurdistan is an awful joke. Makes me cringe

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Bit insensitive to say that males don’t suffer from imposter system too.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

The real story here is why a Birmingham University graduate was allowed anywhere near the Court of Appeal.

(78)(14)

Anonymous

Unless they’re in the dock of course

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Probably because she was the best candidate. Do you have evidence to the contrary? A judgment you can share with us demonstrating poor intellectual skills etc….?

(1)(18)

Anonymous

Lots of down voting but no justification for the unjustified attack yet….waiting…

(4)(0)

Anonymous

It is sad to see there are people this dull and witless out there.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Affirmative action hire.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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