A successful mentoring partnership at Kent Law School helped aspiring barrister Meghan Daniels gain pupillage less than 18 months after graduating.
Meghan applied to the Law School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme during her studies at Kent and was partnered with barrister Jo Porter (Jo was based at Stour Chambers in Canterbury at the time but has since moved to 4 Paper Buildings in London). The one-year mentoring partnership with Jo helped Meghan gain experience and also helped affirm her desire to work in family practice at a regional firm. Her 12 month funded pupillage with the Family Team at Stour Chambers will begin in October, less than 18 months after she graduated with a degree in Law from Kent in July 2016.
After discovering an interest in family law during work experience at a family solicitors whilst still at school, Meghan developed her interest during her studies at Kent, in particular through a placement at Kent County Council’s social welfare department and through opportunities presented to her via her mentor.
Meghan said: ‘Jo, my mentor, was particularly forthcoming with allowing me to come along to court with her and being willing to discuss the cases with me afterwards and answering my many questions! On a number of occasions she would contact me to let me know that she had a particularly interesting case coming up if I was around and wanted to go along with her.
‘It was through Jo providing that experience and guidance that the mentoring scheme most contributed to my later gaining pupillage. I think the most important thing I needed to show at an interview was that my experiences had made me sure that family practice is what I am passionate about and that in addition, I know that I am well suited to it. Jo also kindly agreed to be a reference for me on all of my pupillage applications and proof read various parts for me.’
Meghan gained additional legal experience through a number of mini-pupillages and by marshalling for judges at local courts. She also took advantage of opportunities to develop practical legal skills at Kent Law School by completing extra curricular modules in Client Interviewing, Mediation, Mooting and Negotiation and by being an active member of the Kent Temple Law Society.
Since graduating Meghan has undertaken the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at City Law School and has completed qualifying sessions at Middle Temple. She has also been working on a number of pro bono projects: ‘I have been volunteering with the National Centre for Domestic Violence, drafting witness statements for clients so that they are able to gain protection from violent and abusive partners. Throughout my undergraduate degree I volunteered as an appropriate adult with the Young Lives Foundation. This meant that I attended custody suites across Kent providing support to juveniles and vulnerable adults. Both of these pro bono projects provided excellent talking points at interviews and I would encourage any aspiring barrister to make sure that they get involved with things they are passionate about – there are so many out there!’
Kent Law School Employability and Career Development Officer Jayne Instone, who coordinates the Mentoring Scheme, said Meghan should be justly proud of her success at gaining pupillage so soon after graduation: ‘In my view Meghan did everything right starting with reflecting on and knowing what she wanted: she had a clear vision about the area of law that she wished to practice in and, to this end, she was engaged in relevant volunteering even before coming to university; she ensured that she studied hard and achieved the best grades she could; she took advantage of all the opportunities available to her; and, crucially, she made the best use of her mentor.’
Meghan is keen to give back to the Mentoring Scheme in time by becoming a mentor herself but in the meantime, her top advice for other aspiring barristers is to gain experience of as many different aspects of the legal system as possible: ‘In order to do this, you also have to make sure that you are making use of every possible contact – do not be shy! My personal experience is that members of the Bar are willing to help students in any way that they can.’