6 December 2012
Pupillage hopeful Nicola Downey advises BPTC students to treat the course like a full time job.
Name: Nicola Downey
University: Nottingham Trent University
Law school: GDL from Nottingham Law School, BPTC from BPP Law School
A-levels: History, English Literature and Language and Psychology
Hobbies: I enjoy running and generally keeping fit, in the summer I climbed Kilimanjaro! Also I am a complete foodie; going out to restaurants with friends is one of my all time favourite things to do.
Why do you want to become a barrister and what area do you hope to specialise in eventually? Even though I studied History at undergrad level I always intended to go on and do the Bar. What drew me to the profession most was the fact that the work that a barrister does truly counts for something. It is more than sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day. The effort, dedication and passion you put into your work can change your client’s future.
What are your career plans? Do you have a pupillage lined up? I passed the BPTC with a very competent. I also have just secured my first job in the legal sector as a trainee costs lawyer. So far there is no pupillage lined up but I intend to keep on applying every year that I can until I get accepted into a chambers. Now having secured my BPTC qualification and gaining experience in the legal working world I feel this goal is a lot more achievable!
How are you funding the BPTC and how have you found managing your finances? I funded the BPTC through a young professional’s loan from the bank and working part time as a receptionist. It was a big struggle and I am worried about the payback of the loans which will start soon. If you were to ask me if I would do it all again though, I would say 100% yes.
What pitfalls did you encounter during your BPTC year? Time was sometimes an issue. Between classes, studying, dining nights at my Inn and work I had to be very organised to make sure that everything was completed on time. However treating the course like a full time job, 9-5 Monday to Friday was a good tactic that meant that I was able to commit to everything the course required and still had some free time.
What’s the biggest misconception of the legal profession? I think a lot of people think that the legal profession is only for those from an Oxbridge education and anyone who studied else where does not stand a chance. This is just not true. I went to a polytechnic university and still passed all my exams first time around achieving the second highest grade you can get. While being a strong academic is certainly needed, passion and hard work are attributes that will serve you just as well on the BPTC.
What tips would you offer someone who’s thinking about pursuing a career in law? Know why it is you are going into the profession and know what you hope to gain from pursuing a career in law. You will face a lot of rejection and so keeping true to why you started your career in law in the first place will go a long way in pulling you through the tougher times. Plus, the highlight of passing the BPTC with a Very Competent and getting my first legal job outweighed all the low points over the past two years, so keep on going, eventually the hard work honestly does pay off!