Created with The University of Law

From nursing to medical negligence solicitor

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By The Careers Team on

ULaw campus manager, Anne Robertson, discusses her varied career and her experience of moving into law from a non-law background

Anne Robertson, lecturer and acting campus manager at The University of Law’s Newcastle campus, started off her career as a nurse, eventually making the move into law and qualifying into medical negligence.

Now working in legal education, she spoke to Legal Cheek Careers about what non-law graduates can bring to the table and her advice for those thinking of making the move.

What did you take from your career as a nurse into the legal profession, and what do you find is the most rewarding aspect of working in education?

There are so many transferable skills that you learn as a nurse. The ability to prioritise, stay calm under pressure and client/patient care are skills that have been essential in each of my careers.

The most rewarding aspect of legal education is the relationship I build with the students. I love seeing the students grow during their time with us and seeing them blossom into fully-fledged lawyers.

ULaw campus manager, Anne Robertson

You originally qualified into nursing, so you have lived experience of working in law as a non-law graduate. What unique challenges did you face in making the move into the legal industry?

If you are moving into law from a different career then you may be older than those you are working with. You may be managed by people who are younger than you, which can be difficult at first. Those managing you are more experienced in that field than you are. However, your experience should also be valued. I found this to be particularly the case when I first started working in medical negligence. My supervisor was younger than me but could help me with the practical aspects of running a case, whilst she would often consult me on the medical matters.

What, in your opinion, are the benefits of going into law as a non-law graduate? Do you think non-law graduates bring something extra to the table?

I would prefer to say that non-law graduates bring something different to the table, as I’ve known some exceptional lawyers who followed the traditional path into law. However, non-law graduates are able to bring a wider perspective to legal practice. They have also made a very conscious decision to follow that path, often with the sacrifice of the status and financial stability gained in their previous careers. They may be taking on additional debt which would have been unnecessary had they studied law at undergraduate level. I find this makes non-law students very committed to their studies. One student said to me recently, “there is now no Plan B”.

Find out more about studying for the SQE at ULaw

Why do you think non-law graduates make great lawyers?

I think that if they have worked in a different industry, non-law graduates bring a real-world perspective to their practice. Those who have worked in a corporate environment can easily understand the challenges faced by their corporate clients; if they have worked in a more social role, they may be able to relate to their lay clients more easily. In all cases, they have learnt what works for them in terms of prioritisation and workload.

You’ve been at The University of Law for just over three years now. How does it tailor its support and content to the non-law graduates on its postgraduate courses?

They have the support that is available to all ULaw students such as an academic coach, student journey advisor, study skills and wellbeing support.

In addition, we recognise that the main issue with students studying our postgraduate conversion courses is that they don’t have the benefit of three years in which to explore their career options and ease themselves into the course. As such, they are offered employability appointments within the first couple of weeks of their courses.  They engage with pro bono schemes as soon as possible. They are told about their options for when they finish the course (Bar Practice Course or SQE) and relevant timescales within the first couple of weeks of starting.

Is it beneficial for non-law graduates to take a conversion course before beginning their SQE studies? Is it necessary?

I would say that it is not just beneficial, but essential.

If the student wishes to become a barrister it is still a requirement of the Bar Standards Board that they complete a qualifying law degree or law conversion course.

If a student wishes to become a solicitor it is not technically necessary to study a conversion course. However, academically, the conversion course is set up to put students in the best possible position to proceed to the SQE1 which tests functional legal knowledge. Additionally, from an employability perspective, Legal Cheek conducted a survey in May 2024, and 89% of firms surveyed said that they will require their non-law graduates to complete a conversion course before undertaking the SQE.

What advice would you give to non-law graduates looking to make the move into the legal industry?

Do your research. Consider if you want to be a solicitor or a barrister as this may influence the choice of conversion course.

What area of law interests you? I remember that one of the best pieces of advice I received was from a clinical negligence lawyer when I was on a vacation scheme, who warned me not to pigeon-hole myself just because of my nursing background. So, I took every opportunity to try different areas. Although I did ultimately specialise in clinical negligence, by the time I did, I had a solid grounding in other areas of law, contentious and non-contentious.

More generally, remember you have a lot of skills to bring, but also a lot to learn.  It can be difficult to be managed by people a lot younger than you, but remember that they will have put in the time to deserve that position, so look at their experience rather than age.

Finally, remember that you have made the choice to pursue this path.  You are entering one of the most rewarding and diverse professions possible. It is intellectually challenging but so rewarding. Enjoy it!

Find out more about studying for the SQE at ULaw

Anne Robertson will be speaking at ‘Why non-law students make great lawyers — with Brabners, Mishcon de Reya, Reed Smith and ULaw’, a virtual student event taking place next Wednesday (29 May). Apply now to attend.

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