To mark the launch of Future Legal Mind 2016, we caught up with our 2015 undergraduate winner Amy Loughery to hear about her placement with Colemans-ctts, her plans for the future and how winning the award has transformed her prospects.
Janet Tilley, Future Legal Mind judge (left); Amy Loughery, Future Legal Mind 2015 winner (right)
What have you been up to since winning the award, and what are your future plans?
Because of the doors the Future Legal Mind award has opened for me, I've had the chance to experience different law firms across the north of England. I went to Manchester to take up the work placement with Colemans-ctts which was part of the prize. It was such a positive experience, and through winning the award I also managed to get another placement at a firm in Hull.
I've also managed to acquire two part-time jobs through winning. I'm working on eBor Lex, the University of York's student-led academic legal journal, which I've really enjoyed. I work with students to develop their essays and then we publish them. I've also been working with the Widening Participation team at York to help students like me from non-traditional backgrounds to get into law school. It's really inspiring and engaging. We go into underachieving state schools - those which have the fewest students going to university - and give inspirational speeches about university life in general. We also go into sixth-form colleges and speak to students who are in the process of applying to law school, and try to mentor them and give them as much support as we can through the UCAS process. We've had students coming to York and we've given them academic taster sessions so they can see what it's like to come to university. That's been brilliant. I've enjoyed both roles and I don't think I would have got either of them if I hadn't won the award.
I'm now in my final year at the University of York, and I've decided that I'd like to go on to do a research Masters and a PhD.
What impact has winning the prize had on your finances?
I've put the £5,000 I won aside to help fund my postgraduate studies. It's much harder to fund postgraduate study. It's a case of applying for funding, and if you don't get that funding, normally you're left high and dry, but I have the Future Legal Mind money to fall back on, so even if I don't get the funding for my Masters degree, I'm still in the position where I can go ahead and do it. It's given me security.
I've known, too, that it was there if I needed to dip into it to help fund work placements. It's removed the barriers that people from non-traditional backgrounds have when it comes to travelling to work placements and getting to events in London. I'm in a position now where I know I'll be able to go and do my masters.
Tell us about your work placement at Colemans-ctts
It was really good. From the first day I was given lots of responsibility. I was working in the legal processing centre contacting clients, emailing them and speaking to them on the telephone from the very first day. It was brilliant being given that level of responsibility rather than having to awkwardly watch someone. With shadowing, you can feel a little bit in the way sometimes, but from the word go, the message at Colemans was ‘Get stuck in'.
The whole programme was really well planned and structured. I worked my way up through the firm throughout the two weeks. I started in the legal processing centre with the paralegals and claims handlers and saw everything that they do and how they deal with the less complex cases, processing with a high turnover, but as the weeks progressed I was moved on to work with the solicitors. I was even taken down to Essex to attend a joint settlement meeting with a client in the serious personal injury department. It was really useful to see it from the other perspective and hear the client voice their concerns.
I'm still talking to people from the firm in Manchester. They've offered me part-time work as a paralegal next summer when I finish university to get some more experience, and I plan to take them up on that offer. I'd love to go back.
Do you have any advice for students considering entering for Future Legal Mind?
I'd say just go for it, even if you think you've got no chance. When I saw the information about the award I thought "Well, I'm not going to win, but I might as well have a go." Not everyone will think that, lots of people will think "I've got no chance of winning," and just not bother. You never know. I didn't expect to win at all.
It's opened loads of doors for me and put me in a really good position to be developing my career. Just have a go - and make sure you get your entry in early!