Northern Ireland news

A-levels: Don't rush or pick university for the sake of it

Kelly Ann McAteer

CHOOSING a career in a profession they know little about can be ominous for teenagers. Advice from peers can help. Here Kelly Ann McAteer, a trainee solicitor in BLM's Belfast office shares her experience.

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Q: Having received your results what made you want to pursue law?

A: There are no subject requirements, unlike other degrees. Essentially, anyone who meets Ucas criteria will be accepted. My class at university was full of people with diverse educational backgrounds and many people I met studied anything from three sciences to three languages at A-level. I chose law over other disciplines as I felt it was sought-after and which looks great on your CV regardless of what jobs you apply for.

Q: What is the most challenging element of a legal degree?

The amount of research and independent reading you do. At school, you are taught a subject and examined on it, exactly how you are taught it so learning stays within the realms of the textbook. Unlike school, no one will ever check to see that you have done your homework, but you will reap the benefits of doing the work as you go at exam time. Law does not have a huge amount of teaching hours and requires independent study. You spend around 8-10 hours per week in lectures and tutorials and are expected to spend around 30 hours per week of self-study, preparation for lectures/tutorials, research, assignments etc.

Q: What does a `day in the life' look like?

No two days are the same. Today I am attending a liability dispute hearing in Downpatrick County Court. I could be there most of the day. Yesterday, I spent my entire day in the office drafting advices to insurance companies on new files, drafting court applications and dealing with discovery on a large matter where we act for the insurance company who have refused to indemnity their policyholder due to a fundamental breach of contract of their policy of insurance.

Q: What advice would you have for any students deciding on what their next stage will be?

A: If you do not get the results you hoped for, do not rush into something you aren't sure you want to do. Take your time and think about what your next step will be. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. Do not choose any degree from the clearing system or second choice which you weren't really fussed on because all your friends are going to university this year - they will still be there next year. If you are not passionate about what you are studying, university can be much tougher than it needs to be.

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