We recently caught up with Myfanwy Sequeira, a law graduate who now works at Brockbanks as a legal secretary.
Myfanwy kindly shared the path she took as a student, her 3 key pieces of advice for aspiring legal professionals, and an insight into life as a student and secretary.
Have you faced any challenges throughout your study?
I have faced multiple challenges during my studies.
Firstly, the fact that I was an international student had its disadvantages. I had to learn a new style of writing and learn how to critically analyse and evaluate everything I read. My tutors, however, were very supportive during the entire degree.
I achieved a 40% in my first assessment but I improved with the help of lecturers and mentors and achieved an 84% in my dissertation module.
Secondly, I faced problems due to cultural differences. As a girl of Indian ethnicity, the most difficult task was to balance cultural norms and ideas with English/British teaching and research. I had to re-evaluate who I was and what I wanted to be after analysing theories, norms, rules, and culture.
Thirdly, self-doubt. Sometimes when I couldn’t figure how a certain point can be argued with precedent, I doubted myself. It is at this time I was supported by people around me. My friends, family, mentors, and tutors reminded me that I was a strong woman who could push my limits.
Long chats about life and the profession especially, Carl Buckley, Dan Ritche, and Peter Emerton, always lifted my mood. I am grateful for the amount of time people have helped me overcome self-doubt.
In conclusion, yes, I have encountered challenges, everybody does. What is more important is the fact that you can overcome them and carry on.
Can you share classes you’ve taken and in what year of study?
My favourite subjects were Criminal law (Year 1), Criminal Evidence (year 2), and Human rights (year 3). I realised a year and a half into my degree that I want to help people, especially marginalized and outcasts of society. Therefore, I thought that these subjects were areas of law that directly affected especially marginalised people.
Further, I learned Contract law (year 1), citizen and state (year1), Tort law (year 1), business and employment (year 3), persuasive and courtroom skills (year 2), English legal institutions and systems (year 1), European Union law (year 2), Equity and Trust law (year 2), Land Law (year 2) and medical law (year 3). All these subjects challenged me intellectually.
I also wrote a 10,000 words dissertation that was a final year module that consisted of 40 credits. It is, to me, one of the best pieces of work I have written independently and I cannot thank all my supervisors enough for their support and guidance.
What path have you taken to study law?
I have completed a bachelor’s in law – LLB recently. I am looking forward to completing my BPC, getting a pupillage, and securing a tenancy in a chamber that aligns with my values and norms.
What did you do on an average day as a law student?
I was a very unusual law student. Apart from my work and university classes, I never had a schedule. However, I did have goals. I would make a to-do list and would aim to complete everything on the list by the end of the day.
However, since I have graduated, I have taken a role of a Legal Secretary at Brockbanks Solicitors. Therefore, I start my day at 5:30 and finish it at around 10:30. My job consists of assisting fee earners with drafting legal documents, researching various areas of law, carrying out general administrative work, and assisting clients with their queries.
What are your goals and plans for the future?
I have two major goals for my future. I want to become a barrister and complete my PhD in law.
Until two years ago, I didn’t know what a barrister was and therefore I cannot say I have always wanted to become a barrister. However, I have always wanted to make difference in a community or at least in one person’s life.
Through my legal profession as a barrister, I can help people and enjoy various aspects of my profession like oral advocacy. I can further use my life experience to look at the bigger picture in any matters I deal with and push myself to grow as a person.
In regards to my PhD, I want to further challenge myself intellectually through rigorous academic research. I believe this goal will help me grow intellectually and mold my personality through reading and research.
Furthermore, getting a PhD and becoming a barrister for a first-generation graduate from a low-income background is a huge achievement. I know for a fact that I can make history. So, I want to go for it.
3 tips you’d give to aspiring legal professionals?
- It’s okay not to know what you want. When I heard this phrase the first time, I was annoyed. I like to know what my next step will be and ambiguity doesn’t sit right with me in certain situations. However, now that I am a law graduate, I realise that it was okay I didn’t know about everything. It is one of the reasons we enroll in a university. As I previously mentioned, my first year was hideous. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I was, but I took the time to figure it out. Everyone has a different journey and it is okay if yours is a little slower than someone else’s.
- Keeping yourself motivated and having discipline are two of the uttermost important keys. Doing anything that you have not tried before is difficult, let alone a law degree. There were days during my law degree when I would wake up, look at the ceiling, and question myself; ‘why did I put myself through this?’. However, those were the moments that defined who you are and why I want to continue it. It is good to be motivated but when motivation does not work, discipline does.
- Be curious! A Law degree is all about solving problems. Think of yourself as a detective and find new ways to learn. I liked asking questions. I mean A LOT OF QUESTIONS. I was the annoying one who kept the tutors behind after every class. The equity Law module comes to mind at this point. I found Equity and trust the most difficult. I would, therefore, complete a two hours lecture, take a cup of coffee and head straight to the library to study the same subject. Don’t get me wrong, I was drained but I was curious. This curiosity helped me gain a subject excellent award in a subject I found extremely difficult. Funny enough, I work in the Probate and estate planning department at Brockbanks Solicitors which directly relates to my equity law and trust module.
What are your hopes for the future of the legal industry?
In one of my interviews, I was told not to become a barrister as it would hinder me from having a family. I was not given a choice; it was assumed I must have a family and that my life must revolve around my imaginary kids. I hear about similar things from my colleagues.
Therefore, I hope that one day the legal industry will treat a woman in the same way it treats a man, even in practice. I understand that women and men have roles defined by society. However, when a woman challenges that defined role, I hope she will be heard clearly with an open mind.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legal industry?
To be completely honest, my mum recommended I do law and become a lawyer. Her reasoning behind it was that I argued well and if I would not change that I better earn money for it.
During my degree, I came across various professions I could pursue; for example, Solicitors, Barristers, Solicitor advocates, Judges, Researcher. To explore them further, I undertook work experience at various organisations and decided that I will be more suited for the role of a Barrister.
I have always liked the element of oral advocacy during my degree and watching solicitor advocates and Barristers in court persuading the judge regarding their client’s point of view on the case helped me solidify my decision.