Raising the Bar

2 August 2018 12:12
Jan Lamping (left) at her son's graduation on campus 2018
Jan Lamping (left) at her son's graduation at Lancaster 2018

Lancaster's Law School has consistently been ranked as best in the North West. Here we profile two of our alumni at different stages in their successful legal careers.

Jan Lamping (Law, 1986, Furness) - Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor (DCCP) for North London

As Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for North London, Jan Lamping (née Plevey) is responsible for managing 10% of the UK Crown Prosecution Service’s magistrate caseload. It’s a job she might never have done had it not been for a chance encounter at Lancaster University three years after she had left.

Jan had graduated in Law in 1986 and was working as an articled clerk at a practice in Lancaster, when she was invited to attend a Lancaster University careers evening as a recent graduate. There she met Lancashire’s then Chief Prosecutor, John Bates, who opened up the prospect of a legal career area she had never thought about, in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and suggested she apply for a job.

“I left there feeling really excited,” remembers Jan. “I remember spending a lot of the evening talking to him about the work of the CPS. It was about crime, which I had really enjoyed studying as an undergraduate, but it was making the decision about whether or not to prosecute, which I thought sounded really interesting. I would not even have found out about it until a lot later, had it not been for that careers evening.”

Having joined the CPS in 1990 and qualified as a solicitor later the same year, she worked in Lancashire until 1999 before moving to Scarborough and working in Hull, Scarborough,York and Leeds until 2015. She appeared in court almost and was responsible for many high-profile cases. In 2003, she became a manager and worked her way to the position of temporary DCCP for the North East. In 2017 that position was made permanent and she was asked to move to London, before being appointed to her current post.

This career path is not one she could have envisioned as a first year, arriving from her home in Wiltshire. She had picked Lancaster because she was familiar with it from driving past on family holidays to the Lake District and had been captivated by the friendly atmosphere when called to an interview. She says: “I liked the fact that it was on a campus and I was drawn to the collegiate system.”

She cannot remember a moment of homesickness because being at Furness brought her an immediate circle of friends, many of whom she still sees regularly to this day. Law was not a subject she had studied before and Jan admits she found it tough, alongside the Politics and Social Administration she selected in her first year. She had no idea of what she would do after graduation, but enjoyed the criminal law modules, particularly those taught by Professor Peter Wallington, who was also her awe-inspiring personal tutor. She wrote her dissertation around the, then topical, subject of the law around surrogacy.

“Lancaster taught me to be able to work on my own,” says Jan. “It also helped me to build up self- confidence.”

The University Mooting Society, with which she travelled to argue points of law at northern universities, gave her skills and confidence she would later use in the courtroom. Alongside this she feels that the real sense of belonging she felt as an undergraduate - with a group of friends centred on Furness College, pubs in Galgate and Lancaster and The Sugar House - gave her a sense of security upon which she could later build her high-powered career.

After graduation she enjoyed 12 months as a management trainee with GEC in London, before deciding to use her law degree, initially to become a solicitor. Her love for Lancaster influenced her decision to return to the area to work as an articled clerk after doing her Law Society finals in Newcastle. Her younger son has also followed in his mother’s footsteps to study at Lancaster. Jan’s career has progressed in giant strides since she reluctantly attended that fateful Lancaster University careers evening. Although the work is challenging and keeps her in London away from her home in Scarborough, for four nights a week, she gains deep satisfaction from helping victims of traumatic crime through the criminal justice system.

Even today she feels that her time at Lancaster continues to have its impact on her professional life. She says: “The feeling of belonging to something greater that I felt for the first time at Lancaster has made me continue to seek to play an active part in the bigger community.”

Robert Lassey (History and French, 2013, Furness) - Barrister at Kenworthy's, Manchester

The chance of Robert Lassey making the leap from average ‘A’ level student to barrister looked on paper to be so slim (the need to win one of 350 training places against 10,000 other applicants) that he needed a level of self-belief, as well as an ability for sheer hard work, to make that dream actually happen.

Now a barrister at Kenworthy’s Chambers in Manchester, Robert acknowledges the debt he owes Lancaster for helping him build those qualities, during his four-year course studying History and French, which included a year abroad.

He says: “The most important things that I gained from my time as an undergraduate were confidence and self-belief. When you are being ruthlessly questioned by a judge in court or you have to hold your own in front of the jury in the face of strong opposition, that takes a remarkable amount of confidence.”

Born and raised in Ripponden, West Yorkshire, Robert candidly describes the teenager who arrived at Lancaster as a fresher in 2009 as ‘nondescript’ with no real idea of what he wanted to do. What he did know, however, was that he had been attracted to Lancaster by its national reputation for excellence, its collegiate structure and its prominent location in the north of England.

He remembers being invited to a flat party on his first evening and being captivated by his first taste of a world where like-minded people his own age gathered to share ideas and have a good time. The experience was liberating and he felt he truly belonged.

Academically, Robert found Lancaster rigorous. He discovered subjects he had never even considered previously, such as the interwar period from the Russian, Japanese and Chinese perspectives, taught by the Dr Alan Warburton, in a module which still sticks in his mind. “The tutors were always willing to stretch you academically, if you wanted to do it.,“ he points out. ”They would always go the extra mile with you.”

His third year abroad in a small rural village in South-East France near Lyons, with only one bus in and out a day, was initially daunting. But, he persevered, ultimately gaining a better command of the French language than some of his city-based contemporaries - which he attributes to the fact that he was forced to speak French as not many villagers spoke anything else. He recommends the experience to everyone as an opportunity to gain a fascinating insight into a different culture, its people, and their way of life.

Robert admits he worked hard - even more so when he realised at the end of his second year that he was heading for a 2:2 but wanted a 2:1. He still had no idea what he wanted to do with it, but was nonetheless fixated on obtaining a good degree - a goal which he says his lecturers never questioned, but always supported.

Alongside his studies Robert’s social life remained an important feature of life at Lancaster – particularly his membership of the Trampolining Club, which took him to competitions around the UK and Ireland. In his fourth year he became its President. He was also a member and eventually Social Secretary of the History Society.

“There was always something you could get involved in,” he enthuses. “If there was not a society covering your interest you could simply create your own.”

Graduation left Robert with the 2;1 for which he had sweated, but with still with little idea of what career to pursue with it. A couple of months of contemplation, research and list-making left him with two glaringly obvious options - becoming a barrister or academia. Ultimately, he chose the former because he felt it might open more doors into the latter.

He had developed oratory and acting skills - both essential to his proposed career path - during university vacations, as a member of the Halifax-based Workshop Youth Theatre charity from the age of 13. He’d been involved in many productions, often in leading roles. The charity remains a big part of his life today, and he has recently been appointed to the board of Governors.

The training process at times seemed neverending, but he progressed from the graduate law conversion course to the Bar Professional Training course - both of them in Leeds. He then faced the final crucial stage of obtaining a pupillage in chambers, knowing that 10,000 applicants from the UK’s top universities were going for around 350 places of which 75% were in London. Undeterred he beat the odds and was successful in obtaining 12-month Common Law pupillage in Manchester at Kenworthy's Chambers, where he has now accepted a ‘tenancy’ specialising in criminal and employment law.

He loves his work, even though it requires much late night and weekend work to understand his cases and to be ready to present them effectively in court, often in the face of aggressive cross examination. “That takes a tremendous amount of confidence and self- discipline,” he says. “My teachers at Lancaster played an incredible role in helping me develop that because they always had the time to explain anything that you not understand. Ultimately that is refreshing and inspiring and fosters self- belief.”

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