How to make the most of your London law degree
City, University of London law student Christianah Babajide on the advantages of studying in the capital
Sitting down to interview Christianah Babajide feels little different to catching up with an old friend.
A regular face on the capital’s law events scene (Legal Cheek Careers events included), City, University of London student Babajide knows all too well the benefits that come with studying and living in the capital.
Hailing from the London-Essex borders, Babajide has always seen herself as a city girl; studying in “the hub of opportunities and professional networks” that is London was a no-brainer. After being wowed by its strong alumni (Tony Blair, Dominic Grieve, Margaret Thatcher), Babajide, whose stellar A-level grades gave her plenty of options, punted for City Law School and has since enjoyed two years of LLB study there.
City aims to get its graduates to play a part in current students’ journeys through the system. An International Women’s Day event at City saw Babajide come face-to-face with alumnus Charlotte Proudman, an outspoken family law barrister turned media figure. At the time of writing, Babajide is about to start a mini pupillage with Proudman at Goldsmiths Chambers. This is one of many lines in her CV gleaned from attending events the capital has to offer.
“Attending events puts me in the same room as important people, who I can then approach for work experience and other opportunities,” Babajide, who is City Law Soc’s publicity officer, explains. “I wouldn’t have half as much work experience on my CV had I not taken the first step: applying to attend the event.”
She (very humbly, I must add) boasts internships at Tuckers Solicitors, the Ministry of Justice, Edmonds Marshall McMahon and many more. She lists six completed mini-pupillages on her LinkedIn, as well as mentee roles at Norton Rose Fulbright, Edwin Coe and Gowling WLG. Though she is someone with no lawyers in her family, Babajide has now garnered 500+ LinkedIn connections, too.
The first step is just to be brave. She reflects:
At the beginning, I found approaching people very daunting. I just thought: ‘why would a lawyer want to speak to me?’ But early on I realised the benefit of listening, hearing lawyers’ experiences and advice. Once I’d built up a bit more confidence, I started asking: ‘do you mind if I shadow you?’ or ‘can I have your card?’
The thought will make some law students quiver, but it shouldn’t. “Why rule yourself out before you’ve even started?” asks Babajide. “Just put yourself out there, the worst they can say is no.”
This advice comes from someone who has experienced her own networking horror story. Babajide appears pained as she recalls a surprise introduction to a magic circle partner. “I was totally unprepared,” she cringes, “and was asked why I had an interest in the firm when, if I’m honest, I at that stage really didn’t.”
The odd slip up here and there does little to dull Babajide’s appreciation of the opportunities presented by studying in the Big Smoke. But she knows things would be harder if she didn’t have a family base here. For those moving down (or up) to London for university, she recommends savvy saving — using Uber instead of black cabs, and signing up for student cards, for example.
Even so, London life is not a viable option for everyone. Thankfully Babajide doesn’t believe it’s the only way to conquer the commercial awareness mountain. Utilising LinkedIn, picking up the phone and calling firms and chambers, and getting involved in firm mentoring schemes are great ways for non-London students to get in on the contact-building game.
So too is taking advantage of what your university has to offer. Babajide credits City’s careers service, her academic mentor and her fellow law students with helping ease her busy schedule. Still, her fast-paced lifestyle can at times be exhausting. In her words:
There have definitely been times when I’ve thought I’ve taken on too much. We have an annual law ball organised by the committee of which I’m a member, and it falls pretty close to exam period. There were moments when I wondered whether I should even attend because I just wanted to knuckle down with my revision, but what pulled me through was the knowledge the pictures are going to come out amazingly!
Hurtling towards the end of her law degree, Babajide is keeping her career options open. The legal profession is still very much a pull, as is journalism and publishing, in which she has also gained a grounding having had articles published in Legal Cheek and the excellent City-affiliated blog and careers site Lawbore. “Doing a law degree is very versatile,” Babajide knows, “and, like a strong contact base, can open a lot of doors.”
For her third and final year at City, Babajide plans to keeping attending events, while doing work experience and job applications, and seeing where it all takes her. Above all, she will follow her own advice:
Persevere. Take rejections lightly and move on.
About Legal Cheek Careers posts.