Solicitor alumni

Rachel Buckley, Banner Jones Solicitors

I chose to study law as I like problem solving and enjoy arguing! Studying law at Leicester exceeded my expectations - it was a small and friendly faculty (with some great characters on the teaching staff) and all the support and input whenever I needed it. It sounds like a cliché, but they were some of the best years of my life.

After graduation I studied at the Inns of Court School of Law in London, and then undertook pupillage and my first years in general practice at the Bar in Leicester. I went on to obtain dual qualification as a solicitor, and after cutting my teeth in a high street practice in Hinckley I chose to specialise in serious and complex crime, moving to work in Nottingham in 1996. 

I worked in defending some high-profile fraud cases involving large volumes of material. In the last few years I have concentrated on professional disciplinary work, helping medical (and other) professionals whose registrations and reputations are on the line when faced with allegations of misconduct inside or outside of work. I am now based at a firm in Derbyshire.

Whilst University is only the start, getting a good start is vital. It has never been tougher to get a foot on the ladder in any career, and I am grateful to Leicester Law School for the skills and experiences my time there provided that have guided me well so far.


Carlton Daniel, Senior Associate at Squire Sanders Hammonds (Law LLB, 1997-2000)

I came to the University of Leicester through the Clearing admissions process. Although I hadn't initially planned to study there, I was really pleased with my decision to take up a place at Leicester. I was on the Union Council, later was elected to the Steering Committee, and in my final year I was elected as the Chair of the Union.

I got involved with the Law Society, mooting and I also worked in the hall kitchens, as a university tour guide and in an off-licence. The Christian Union was a great source of support too. There were a fair few trips around the country with the Clubbing Society. It was great to get so immersed in student life - I made lifelong friends and thoroughly enjoyed my time as a student.

Since I had secured a training contract with Wragge & Co, they funded the Legal Practice Course, which I undertook at Nottingham Law School after I graduated from Leicester. I then worked for a charity in Mexico for six months, before starting with Wragge & Co in March 2002. I practise intellectual property law, with a focus on advertising and media law.

I left Wragge & Co in 2008 for my current firm, Squire Sanders Hammonds, to focus more closely on specialised advertising law advice. I have been listed in the Legal 500 and now Chambers & Partners as a leading adviser in this sector. I have lived and worked in London for eight years, and as a Senior Associate at a large international firm I'm looking forward to the next stage of my career.

The University of Leicester was an excellent springboard and foundation from which to launch my legal career. The quality of the research and teaching, combined with the vibrant student life, is second-to-none in my view.


Colin Ettinger, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors (Law LLB, 1972-1975)

I chose law because an older cousin had been studying it, and I discovered from him what an interesting subject it is. I had a fantastic time at the University of Leicester, I remember it really well. I also very much enjoyed the law course.

I qualified as a solicitor in 1978 on completion of my articles. I worked for a very large firm called Robin Thompson & Partners, now called Thompsons, who acted for trade unions. The vast majority of my work was doing personal injury cases for injured workers. I became a partner in 1978, and then moved on to set up the London office of Irwin Mitchell with two of my colleagues in 1995.

There were five of us at the time, and now we have a personal injury office of about 200 people. I head the personal injury team in London. Irwin Mitchell's personal injury department is regarded as one of the best in the country, and the department in London is similarly regarded.

I have been a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) since it began. I was their President in 2004, I am now a Senior Fellow - of which there are only 10 in the country.

I look back on my time at the University of Leicester with great affection. I also know that the education I received there provided me with an excellent grounding for my law career.


Julian Hawkhead, Managing Partner at Stowe Family Law (Law LLB, 1993-1996)

I am a Managing Partner at Stowe Family Law based in the firm's Leeds office, where I manage a team of specialist divorce and family law solicitors. My first appointment was as a trainee working at Grahame Stowe Bateson as part of Marilyn Stowe's team in Leeds. In the summer of 2000 I qualified as a family solicitor and later became part of the firm's specialist private client family law team, moving to what is now the head office in Harrogate. 

In 2007 I became a founding partner of Stowe Family Law LLP, helping to set up the firm which started out with a single office in Harrogate and later became the UK's largest specialist family law firm with eight offices across the country.

As well as overseeing the office, I advise clients throughout the country and across Europe on all matters of family law. I am a member of Resolution and a recognised specialist in complex financial and property matters. Furthermore, I have a wealth of experience in performing mediation (I am a member of the Family Mediators Association) and was highlighted in the Legal 500 for my pragmatic approach to cases, putting the clients' best interests first.

I take an approach that takes all factors into consideration, particularly when children are involved to try and ensure that the outcome best serves the needs of the child. I am a qualified collaborative lawyer and have received recognition from Chamber and Partners for my negotiating skills.

I find the diversity of law and the impact it has on society - and even worldwide affairs - to be very interesting. The reason I gravitated towards family law, however, was the opportunity to work with people on a one-on-one basis, and to help them at a very difficult time in their lives. I also enjoyed the programme LA Law (we are talking about the early 1990s) though I have to say the glamour of the profession is a myth!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Leicester. It was a fabulous campus and the Law School had great facilities, although we are talking about a time when some research was conducted using microfiche! The city is a great place. I have had the opportunity to return to the city and I can see that it has changed significantly in the last 20 years.

My advice for current students would be to study hard, but also try your utmost to find placements in the legal profession, whether in a solicitor's office or with a barrister on a mini-pupillage. The more experience you have of different areas of law, the easier it will be to work out what interests you the most.


Ed Nisbett, SNR Denton (Law with French LLB, 2006-2009)

I chose to study law because I was attracted to the intellectual challenge and the prestige of it. Studying law also offers a clear career path and opportunities for progression that some other degrees don't. 

I chose Law with French because I wanted to carry on studying a language. Being able to speak another language really helps you to connect with other people and gives you a greater understanding of that culture. Plus, the course gave me a chance to be a student for an extra year in France!

It was the open day that made me choose Leicester. The campus had a friendly and sociable feel to it. I remember it was a sunny day, which made a big difference when walking around the Oadby halls and their grounds. After visiting Leicester, it was easy for me to imagine living and studying there. I also reasoned that a city with two universities should be used to students, and I was affected by the large selection of pubs, clubs and kebab shops!

During my time at Leicester I was, at various times, President of the French Law Society (twice), the Law Society's Academic Rep on Union Council and on the Elections and Rules Committee of Union Council. I also played football for Stamford Hall, the Law Society and the French Law Society. 

Without a doubt I would not be where I am today without getting involved with these organisations. They gave me a wealth of experience to put on my CV and to talk about in job interviews. I got my name known around the Law School, which is never a bad thing, especially when it comes to asking for job references. Above all though, I had a lot of fun by fulfilling these roles and met a lot of good friends.

After graduating in 2009 I moved to London to complete my LPC at the College of Law in Moorgate. In September 2010 I started my training contract with SNR Denton (formerly Denton Wilde Sapte). I am in my second seat and currently am on secondment in Dubai.

My time at Leicester has helped me enormously. Obviously I needed to do the degree to become a solicitor (albeit still a trainee at the moment) but I gained so much more from my time there. There is so much to do and get involved with, either through the Law Society, other clubs and societies, halls or just generally with your friends. My time at Leicester gave me the opportunity to learn and develop many skills that not only attracted employers but also helped me develop as a person.

My final thought is that if I had not have studied Law with French at the University of Leicester, I would probably be unemployed - and certainly not a trainee solicitor - today. I can think of no higher praise than that.


Mark Warren, Allen & Overy (Law LLB, 2003-2007)

At this moment in time, I am about to embark on the first seat of my training contract at magic circle firm Allen & Overy in London, but the route I've taken to get here has been a little different from what you might normally hear, all thanks to the opportunities given to me by my law degree at the University of Leicester.

For me, Leicester was always my first choice destination, for several reasons. Firstly, the city itself is an excellent place where you can focus on studying hard and playing hard - it's very green and student-friendly. Secondly, the top-drawer reputation of the Law School and its academic staff, many of whom literally wrote the books on the courses you'll be studying, was impossible to ignore. The friendliness and expertise of the staff was invaluable to me and, in my opinion, they don't often enough get the credit they deserve.

The third big factor for me that a law degree at Leicester has over many other universities are the opportunities that it will open up to you. There are so many ways to get involved and do things you never thought you could - and I'm not just talking about the countless groups, clubs, societies, teams, competitions and various other social networks on offer.

I spent my third year, for example, at the University of Copenhagen on the Erasmus exchange programme, where I studied Masters-level courses in International Energy Law, Environmental Law, Human Rights Law and the Law of Armed Conflicts, among others, living with scores of international students and opening my eyes to a world of new possibilities. It was a time I still look back on fondly as the most enjoyable year of my life so far.

I was also lucky enough to be selected to represent the University at the International Student Conference on ‘Global Citizenship and International Security in the context of Climate Change’, at the University of Hiroshima, Japan. This was a two-week, all-expenses-paid student conference designed to coincide with the anniversary of the A-bomb that hit Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and another example of the great opportunities open to you with a law degree at Leicester.

Following graduation I went to live in Mexico for three years, having started learning Spanish during my final year at Leicester. I was able to find a job as an intern in the Environmental and Natural Resources department of a Mexico City commercial law firm.

With the benefit of hindsight, I've no doubt that if it weren't for me making the most of the opportunities presented to me during my Leicester law degree, I wouldn't be in this position now, and I wouldn't have had the incredible experiences that I've been fortunate to enjoy. I also have no doubt that, because of those experiences, I'll be able to handle anything that the world of corporate law throws my way in the future. 

My advice is just to take advantage of all the opportunities that are thrown at you at Leicester and don't look back.


Philip Henson, Bargate Murray (Law LLB, 1997-2000)

The reason I chose to study law at Leicester (apart from the excellent reputation of the Law School) is that from the moment that I set foot on the campus on an open day I found everyone to be incredibly friendly and welcoming.

Outside my studies I used to enjoy presenting shows on the student radio station (LUSH FM), and writing the occasional music review for the student newspaper (Ripple), which has helped my professional career as I am now often asked to appear as an employment law expert on BBC News 24 and Sky News. I have also written several articles in the national and legal press, including for the Guardian, the Employment Law Journal and the Solicitors Journal (where I blogged on employment law). I also write my own employment law blog.

I found that top-tier law firms (and other professional organisations, such as accountancy and consultancy firms) were always delighted to be invited to our careers fairs and student balls as Leicester was (and still is) known as a friendly place to visit - and as everyone knows that Law Society parties are the best on campus! I was involved with the student Law Society, serving as both Vice President and President.

The vibrant and helpful Law Society, and the excellent legal careers service encouraged me to apply for vacation placements and training contracts with commercial law firms in London, and that arduous process did not put me off! I am now a partner, and the head of employment law, at commercial law firm Bargate Murray in London.

The partners are innovators in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and all members of Bargate Murray continue to further the vision of the partners not only to provide excellent legal services to our clients but to also contribute to, and help, the wider community. Part of our CSR focus involves supporting academic institutions and students, and Bargate Murray was delighted to sponsor the Leicester Law School moot team, who competed at the Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot.

Looking back, I appreciate how the academic staff supplied students with diverse reading lists extending to legal theory, philosophy, sociology and legal anthropology; enabling students to develop their own interests and to help us to understand the law in its social, cultural and political context. I was recently very honoured to be invited back to Leicester to present a guest lecture (on the University of Leicester Employment Law LLM programme) discussing the thought-provoking subject of religion and beliefs in the work place.


Nigel Pullen (Law LLB, 1980-1983)

I chose to study Law at Leicester in part because a number of older pupils from the Royal Latin School in Buckingham had read Law at Leicester and were very complimentary about the course, and the Law School was held in high regard by the profession. 

Four of us from the RLS went to Leicester together, one changed his course, three of us graduated in 1977 with law degrees and two of us went on to practice law. I left Leicester to go to the College of Law in Chester, followed by two years of articles with a firm in London.

I was admitted in 1980 and started my first job as an assistant solicitor with a firm in Exeter. I did two years there before deciding to return to London for more commercial law experience with a city practice.

In 1984 I moved to Cornwall, where I'd kept a base, and joined a small practice with a promise of a great future. That didn't happen. In September 1985 I had to make a decision - go back to Exeter, or try and set up my own practice in a part of the country I really loved. In October 1985 I opened an office in Perranporth and boasted one client! 26 years later, the practice is a very successful business with a second office in Truro.

My time at Leicester seemed to pass very quickly. I'm sure much has changed over the years, but I am aware that the faculty's standards remain high and it continues to enjoy a good reputation for producing quality graduates.


Femi Ogunshakin, Director at Loftus Stowe Ltd

The course at Leicester provided me with the opportunity to meet other like-minded professionals. Most (if not all) of the lecturers were practising lawyers, i.e. barristers and solicitors as well as academics, and this made for some very interesting debates during tutorials as differing students (and lecturers) gave way to the enthusiasm of their respective positions.

The course was challenging but extremely rewarding, and although I was pleased when the course was over and proud to have graduated, I miss the friendships I formed over the duration of the course.

A year after graduating from Leicester, I left a job at a bank, and having successfully obtained a training contract, I qualified as a solicitor and have gone on to work as both an employment lawyer and a tax lawyer in Birmingham and more recently closer to home in South Yorkshire.

Leicester was the first academic institution I attended in which I got more than I bargained for! I honestly set out to broaden my horizons in terms of the relationship between the law, the tax system and employees. What I ended up with was a great education, but I also made a number of extremely beneficial relationships, most of whom I remain in touch with. 

I think it would be fair to say that Leicester deserves all the recent accolades bestowed upon it by current and former students. In my view, there are a great number of universities in the UK, but there is only one Leicester Law School!