Created with The University of Law

High-profile work, great networking and weekend seaside escapes: a case for the Bristol legal scene

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By The Careers Team on

The University of Law Campus Dean Zoe King highlights the benefits of the South West

Zoe King, Campus Dean of The University of Law’s Bristol and Exeter campuses has had the benefit of spending time in the South West’s legal scene as both a practicing solicitor and as a legal educator.

Ahead of her appearance at tomorrow’s in-person student event in Bristol, she sat down with Legal Cheek to discuss what life on campus is like, the kind of legal work on offer in the south west and her top application tips.

Can you tell me a little bit about your role as Campus Dean at ULaw Bristol?

ULaw Bristol offers undergraduate programmes in Law and postgraduate programmes for those converting to law or who wish to train as a barrister or solicitor.  ULaw has many campuses across England, so as the Bristol Campus Dean, I have responsibility for the overall student experience at our two campuses in the South-West (Exeter and Bristol).

What would you recommend to prospective students about living, studying and working in the South West?

Bristol is a fantastic city with a fantastic harbourside, free festivals and a friendly vibe.  You can easily escape to the seaside at weekends and there are loads of fantastic green spaces to explore around the city.  There is really good quality work and training in the South-West and there is a varied and innovative legal community.  Exeter is also a lovely city with a thriving legal community.

Are there any features of campus life at ULaw Bristol that you think students particularly enjoy?

ULaw’s Bristol campus is a city-centre campus which is very close to the Courts, Chambers and law firms and Temple Meads station. A recent remodelling of our café and informal study areas on campus have made it a much more flexible space for working and socialising and it is great to see the buzz on campus as students make use of that collaborative space.

What kinds of academic and pastoral support can students expect to have access to at ULaw Bristol?

Students have academic coaches and subject lecturers to support progress academically, as well as a range of more specialist pastoral support teams.  We have onsite careers, pro bono, wellbeing and library support as well as our friendly Student Information team.  Lecturers’ main focus is teaching and student support and having previously worked as lawyers, they are well placed to be able to support students in the early stages of their career.

Find out more about studying for the SQE at The University of Law

Having spent time in both private practice and legal education in the South West, how would you characterise the legal scene in Bristol, and how has it changed over time?

The legal scene offers really high-profile and innovative work. At ULaw Bristol we have had the benefit of fascinating talks given by people developing innovative legal tech, working on the legal aspects of driverless cars, renewable energy and on cases such as the defence of the Colston Four.  It just shows the huge variety of legal work there is.  There is also a very supportive and collaborative approach within the region, supported by the work of Devon and Somerset Law Society and the Bristol Law Society.  There are lots of events arranged by the Junior Lawyers Division and plenty of networking opportunities.  In terms of change, one of the changes in recent years which has impacted on lawyers’ daily lives is the fact that many firms have embraced hybrid working and refreshed workspaces to adapt to demand.

What is your advice for students who are trying to build up their commercial awareness in a targeted way in preparation for assessment centres?

Ellen Marsh, our ULaw Careers Manager for the South-West, recommends attending as many events as you can to build understanding of how law firms operate as a business, wider issues impacting the legal sector and issues facing clients in the sectors relevant to the law firm you are researching.  It is vital for an assessment day that you understand the difference between the law firm’s sectors and practice areas.  Be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the type of the client of that law firm and confidently be able to discuss the firm’s sector approach.

Also, I would say you should try to understand your role as a junior lawyer in making sure the law firm functions well as a business in terms of time recording, billing and providing excellent client service.

Given that the legal industry is becoming increasingly competitive, how can students strike a good balance between studying for degrees or professional courses and applying for training contracts?

Make the best use of the careers service wherever possible.  The careers team may offer practice interviews, CV reviews and information on potential employers.  If you are taking the time to research employers and fill out application forms, you are putting yourself in the best position possible if you also plan the time to review and use the careers resources available to you to finesse those applications.  Try to go to talks and events, particularly if there are potential employers in attendance.  Often the deadlines for applications are at quite busy times in the academic year, but you could make it easier for yourself if you take the time prior to the course start date to review your own CV and start compiling examples where you have demonstrated some key lawyer competencies.

Ellen Marsh also adds, you should always make targeted applications.  Choose law firms where you are able to understand their USP and confidently talk about this in your applications.  A good balance between applications and studying is vital.  For applications you should prioritise quality over quantity.  If you are dedicating too much time towards applications to the detriment of study, you may need to step back and refocus.  Passing your course is the absolute priority – there are many ways to pursue a career in law.

What is one piece of careers advice you think everyone should hear?

Law firms receive hundreds of applications.  Try to maximise your chances by applying to a range of selected law firms and go into the process with an open mind.

Zoe King will be speaking at ‘Secrets to Success Bristol — with Osborne Clarke, TLT, Ashfords and ULaw’ an in-person student event taking place TOMORROW. Apply now to attend.

Find out more about studying for the SQE at The University of Law

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