Kent Law School alumnus James Mapley is living proof that you can be an exceptional athlete and excel academically – James was a Kent Sports Scholar of the Year during his studies, and he graduated in 2017 with a First Class Honours degree in Law (LLB). He’s now a Construction Solicitor at Irwin Mitchel LLP but he’s still a dedicated sportsman – most recently switching his focus from cycling to triathlon. We caught up with him to discover the secret to his success…!
What were the highlights of your time at Kent?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Kent Student Law Society. The events the society put on were excellent, both in developing an understanding of the legal profession and in building a professional network. I am still close friends with many of the members of the society, most of whom have now qualified as barristers or solicitors.
The Sports Scholar Scheme was also a highlight. The Scheme was the closest I have come to feeling like a professional athlete. I loved the testing in the sports hall, and relished the opportunity to measure myself against others.
My proudest moment whilst at university was being awarded Sports Scholar of the Year in my final year, alongside Jasmine Pomeroy. It was the culmination of three years of hard work and topped off my degree result too.
As a law student and dedicated cyclist, how did you balance your training requirements with the rigours of a law degree?
I tried to maintain a structure and routine to my week. Generally, I would train early most mornings before ‘Uni’ started. It was a great way to start the day and set me up to focus on my degree during the day. I think it is really important to understand what makes ‘you’ work most effectively each day. For me, I know that doing the exercise increases my productivity. The mental benefits of doing the exercise – however little – each day are profound and it helps to ensure I am as sharp as I can be, each working day.
Back in 2016, you were in the enviable position of being able to choose from one of three offers for a training contract from law firms. You attributed this in part to the empowering support you received from mentor Mike Potts as part of the Law School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme but how do you think your sporting excellence contributed to your early career success?
The skills I developed on the Scholar Scheme are entirely transferrable to the workplace. The qualities of drive, passion, commitment, loyalty, discipline adaptability, resilience, and an ability to manage under pressure were required throughout my time on the Scheme. On entering the ‘working-world’, these qualities transfer directly into the workplace. I was fortunate to have developed these qualities prior to entering the working world, which helped me differentiate myself.
Being a Sports Scholar was the first credential I listed on my CV for my legal applications for jobs. I think the award itself speaks volumes for the kind of person you are, your qualities including work ethic, drive and willingness to succeed. It is a great talking point and has frequently featured in interviews as being an area of interest. It’s an award which not many others have been awarded, and I take great pride that out of the group of talented sportsmen and sportswomen on the scheme, I was one of two people to be awarded scholar of the year.
You’re now a Construction Solicitor at Irwin Mitchel LLP – your work covers contentious and non-contentious matters, ranging from adjudications and pre-action dispute resolution to drafting the contract documents necessary for all sizes of building projects. Can you briefly describe a typical day/week?
I am fortunate that I rarely have two days which are the same. Our ‘non-contentious’ work is heavily contract based, and involves working with multiple construction professionals including Architects, Surveyors, Engineers and Building Contractors to document their respective roles and responsibilities for a given project. Often I will have several calls throughout the day, interspersed with periods of focused contract drafting. As often happens, we can be instructed on an Adjudication for a client which requires a rapid re-prioritisation exercise owing to the strict time-frames involved. Depending on the value and size of the dispute, we sometimes have to pull together other members of the team to ensure we meet any deadlines set by the Adjudicator. Both types of work are interesting and technically demanding, however I do have a slight preference to the contentious work as it brings out my competitive side. Throughout the week, we have regular team ‘check-ins’ which have become increasingly important as we all learn to work remotely along with training on the latest legal updates.
You won the Crono Squadra Della Versilia, a closed-road cycling time trial held in Pisa, Italy, in 2019 – are you still competing now?
The competitive desire remains strong for me. I am relishing the new challenge of long distance triathlon and ‘starting afresh’ with running and swimming. The training variety is really enjoyable, although I was surprised at how ‘different’ the swimming fitness is compared with running and cycling, when I first started. I am looking forward to competing in the Ironman 70.3 events next year and building up to a full distance Ironman in a couple of years time. It would nice not to be too reliant on the bike leg in the near future!
What words of encouragement do you have for incoming law students who also want to excel in their chosen sport?
You can be an exceptional athlete and excel in your law degree. It really boils down to desire and wanting to succeed. The attitude you adopt, either to your sport or degree will carry across to the other. The challenge of doing a degree as well means that your training becomes centred around quality over quantity. It will be surprising to many that you can actually achieve better results with less training time, purely by adopting a structure to your week. You will not perfect the balance immediately as it is unique to everyone, but once ‘it’ clicks, you’ll benefit enormously.
The Sports Scholarship Scheme at Kent is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants, as well as current students. Applications open again from 1 November 2021. Any sport will be considered for scholarship providing the standard that you are competing at is to a high enough level and you can be supported whilst at University. As a general guide, Kent considers county standard and above. See the online FAQ for more detail.