11 July 2019
Samantha reflects on her student journey, from being an undergraduate student studying Philosophy, to studying for her LLM in the Law School, and to her future working for the Law Commission.

Like most 17 year olds, when I was applying for university I had little idea of what kind of career I wanted. I had really enjoyed studying Philosophy at A Level – I loved the way that it taught you how to think, instead of what to think – so I decided to continue with that. It was definitely the right choice: the four years I spent at Edinburgh University studying Philosophy were challenging, but also stimulating and incredibly fun.

When it came to deciding what I was going to do next, it was a relatively easy choice. The aspects of philosophy which had interested me most were how our ideas about what is right and wrong and how societies should be governed were applied in the “real world”. So, essentially, law! I discovered I could do a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), a one year legal crash course which would give me a qualification equivalent to a law degree, and it seemed like the perfect next step.

Studying for the GDL was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have done to date. The workload was huge, the pace was nothing short of a gallop, and the exams came thick and fast. But it was also extremely interesting and confirmed that I had made the right choice by switching to law. In fact, at the end of the year I felt I wasn’t ready to stop studying. Because the GDL is such a short course it can only cover the bare essentials, which meant that the areas of law I knew would interest me the most – human rights law and environmental law – were missed. There was also no time in the course to discuss why the law was a certain way, or whether it should be changed. Wanting to study these more niche areas and undertake a more critical examination of the law drew me to the idea of studying an LLM.

I applied to Lancaster because it is the only university in the country that offers a specific MA/ LLM in Human Rights and the Environment. It is run jointly by the Law School and the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC), and the interdisciplinary nature of the programme really appealed to me. In the end, I didn’t take to the LEC courses as I had hoped, so I decided to switch to the straight Law LLM with a focus on human rights and environmental law. I’m extremely glad I did, as the range of human rights and environmental law modules offered by the Law School is brilliant, and I’ve loved every single one I’ve taken.

Overall, my time at Lancaster has been great and the Law School has played a huge part in that. It is full of fiercely intelligent, but also friendly, supportive and encouraging people, who have massively increased my confidence. I am now considering a PhD and pursuing a career in academia, something I never thought I was capable of before coming to Lancaster. The Law School has also given me access to great opportunities, like mooting in front of a District Judge with the Law Society, and working as a research assistant for the Head of School, Professor Alisdair Gillespie. For anyone considering studying law at Lancaster, you would be hard pushed to find a department that invests so strongly in its students elsewhere.

In terms of my future plans, I’m incredibly excited that come September I will be working as a Research Assistant in the Criminal Team at the Law Commission. They’re working on a number of really exciting and topical projects at the moment, like looking at how the law surrounding hate crime and offensive and abusive online communications should be reformed, and I’m delighted I’ll be able to play a small part in making criminal law in England and Wales fairer and more accessible.

After the Law Commission, whether I pursue a PhD and enter academia or go into practice, I know that everything I have learned and the connections and friendships I have made at Lancaster will stay with me, continuing to shape and inspire me.