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In early February, a group of fourteen Law students from the Magee campus undertook a professional experience visit to London, organised by Employability & Careers, hosted by Morgan Stanley and sponsored by Santander Universities.

The purpose of the visit was to raise the aspirations, confidence and motivation of the Law students via meeting and learning from staff at large global companies keen to stress the employment opportunities available with their firms, and visiting iconic London-based legal landmarks such as the Old Bailey and Supreme Court.  There was also a meeting and networking event with Ulster University alumni that have already successfully established their careers in London, and who are keen to give back and support our students.

First stop was at Morgan Stanley, located in Canary Wharf, where Ulster graduates, Caroline McLaughlin, and Ruairi O’Healai (EMEA COO)  shared their personal career journeys with the students, encouraging them to build and develop professional relationships via LinkedIn, undertake internships/ placements, and take any opportunity to engage with the professional community.

Later that day, Strabane-born James Stewart, a partner in leading UK and international law firm Penningtons Manches Cooper (PMC), welcomed our students to their London office to chair career journey presentations from several colleagues, and offer the students his personal support and advice on securing training contracts and paralegal opportunities to support their career progression.

While at PMC, Tim Kelleher (Partner, Shipping, International Trade and Maritime) provided advice for aspiring lawyers and a brief overview of PMC’s shipping practice, while Sarah Lee (Partner, Contentious Trusts and stand-up comedian) shared ‘My journey into the law – from Dublin to the City of London (via the Edinburgh Fringe)’. Becky Jeans from PMC’s HR department provided her top tips for training contract applications and a career in the law.

Ulster students enjoyed presentations on life as a trainee solicitor / route to law / current departments, followed by panel Q&A (this session was chaired by Hannah Hayward). The panel members included Gareth Jones (Trainee Solicitor, Family), William Azuh (Trainee Solicitor, Marine, Trade and Energy), Lyndsey Banthorpe (Associate, PI/Clinical Negligence) and Justine Porter (Trainee Solicitor, Commercial Dispute Resolution). Justine is also a member of the firm’s LGBT+ committee and spoke about the firm’s commitment to Diversity and Inclusion). The students really enjoyed networking with PMC trainees and other guests.

As a finale to their first day, DARO (Development and Alumni Relations Office) and Employability & Careers hosted a very successful networking event in The Porterhouse Bar, Covent Garden, with our London-based Ulster University Alumni, to establish links with mentors willing to support current students’ employability journey.

Day two started off with a visit to the Old Bailey, and then on to the Supreme Court, which helped to remove the mystery of these institutions by giving the students the opportunity to enjoy a tour of the courts and to meet with Ulster alumni working there. Lord Kerr of the UK Supreme Court, and Honorary Graduate of Ulster who previously served as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, met the students and participated in a Q&A, which resulted in some very interesting questions and opened debate on topics as diverse as Brexit, human rights and immigration.  The students were enthralled by the opportunity to converse with one of the foremost legal figures in the country.

The final stop of the two-day visit was to Fragomen when the team, led by Rajiv Naik and Kelly Hardman, another Ulster Law alumna, offered our Magee students an insight into life as a London immigration lawyer. Students participated in an interactive discussion with staff from different backgrounds and career journeys covering a range of roles and sharing details of a typical day in the life of a Paralegal / Trainee / Solicitor / Associate.  With Brexit being a hot topic of conversation and interest, the students were able to contribute to the debate and also take part in a quiz.

Professor Eugene McNamee, Head of School of Law, commented:

“I am delighted with this successful and inspirational visit by our students, and by the warm welcome and invaluable advice and encouragement which they received from so many quarters.   

“A degree in Law offers students the opportunity to progress to become solicitors and barristers, however it also speaks to a lot of other career pathways and law graduates can be found in all walks of life.  There is significant demand from the Private Sector, Professional Financial Services, Public Sector Organisations and Government Departments, not to mention that the transferable skills of logical thinking and analysis are at a premium in many diverse fields, and that within large legal and consulting firms – as this visit illustrated – there is a huge variety of possible career paths offering opportunities for personal development, specialisation, international experience and job satisfaction.

“My thanks to Moira McCarthy  Employability & Careers, Roisin McNamara and Marie Borthistle in DARO and to all the London employers and alumni, who gave so freely of their time to inspire and support our students, and to Caroline in Morgan Stanley who hosted the trip.

“And a very important thank you to our students who were fantastic ambassadors for Ulster University Law School.”