Q&A with LLM Student, Morton Thornton

Student Morton Thornton, seated at deask

What attracted you to the University of Kent?
Kent Law School (KLS) is highly regarded in the national rankings, and its critical approach to studying law sounded very interesting. I also liked the Canterbury campus; it has great facilities, particularly with the Wigoder Law building and Moot Court, as well as a lot of green space, excellent views of the city, and the rabbits which can often be seen around campus.

Why did you choose to take a Master’s at Kent?
I had already completed my bachelor’s degree at Kent, so was familiar with the university and had a lot of connections here. But for my LLM by research, it was important to have a good relationship with a supervisor who understood my work, especially because it’s on a relatively niche topic. And then KLS scored second in the UK in the REF, which was an added bonus when doing a research degree.

Why did you choose to study Law?
When I first applied to Kent, I think I had this naïve idea of being a lawyer and fighting for justice without really understanding what any of that entailed. Once I started, I realised that there was a lot more to it and a lot more intricacies within the law, but these were also really interesting to learn about. I completed a joint honours with philosophy, so would always try to combine my studies in law with a more philosophical perspective, which eventually led me to do a research degree in legal philosophy. Law can be hard, but it’s such a broad subject that if you find the specific thing that interests you, you can really make the degree your own.

Has the course lived up to your expectations?
I don’t really know what my expectations were, but I have really enjoyed my time at Kent. The teaching staff have been excellent, even during the struggles with online learning. In my third year, there was such a wide variety of modules to choose from that I could personalise my degree to my specific interests. I also participated in the extra-curricular mooting, mediation, and negotiation modules. These were a great chance to push myself to do something different, learn valuable life skills, and boost my confidence.

Now doing my LLM by research, the postgraduate team have all been supportive and I regularly meet with my supervisors for very helpful discussions, as well as keeping in contact with other members of staff.

How much interaction have you had with your fellow students?
I see the other students in my year each week for our Research Methods seminar, and there are always other people in the PG common room and study room. Engaging in seminars is a great way to start discussions with other students and get to know them better. Societies are also a good way to meet other people from across different subject areas, but who have similar interests to you.

How would you describe your fellow students?
There’s such a range of people at Kent from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of interests, so I don’t think there’s an easy way to describe everyone. Such diverse perspectives creates a great environment for discussion and learning, as there will be so many different thoughts and opinions.

What do you think of the teaching?
The teaching at Kent is of a very high standard. The staff at KLS cover a wide range of research interests and expertise, so everyone will bring a slightly different perspective to every module they teach. All the teaching staff have been nice and are more than willing to meet students and talk through their work. This has been particularly helpful as a postgraduate researcher, both to have such a good relationship with my supervisor, but also to be able to discuss my work with other people and get new perspectives and fresh thoughts.

Have you had a favourite module?
I particularly enjoyed the Philosophy of Law module. Not only did this combine my interests in both philosophy and law, but I think it’s an important and often underappreciated subject. Rather than simply learning what the law is, this module engaged the class in thinking critically about different theories of the nature of law and how we study it. I enjoyed this module because it fits with my own interests (and inspired me to do a research master’s in that field), but also I think it’s important to have an appreciation for the theoretical basis of law in order to have a better understanding of legal practice.

What was the academic support like?
Academic support at Kent has been really good. As an undergraduate, you will be assigned an academic advisor and have regular meetings with them throughout the year to check on your progress and ask them for any support. But any members of staff, whether academic advisors or seminar leaders, will be more than happy to meet with students and discuss any issues, whether about modules, assessments, or future plans.

As a postgraduate, there is also a supportive research community. I have a good relationship with my supervisors and meet with them regularly, but also with other staff and across other departments. I often see and talk to other supportive research students in the postgraduate study room.

As well as academic support, there is also a big emphasis on mental and physical health support. Student Support and Wellbeing services at Kent have excellent facilities and frequently run wellbeing events on campus, and I know friends who have found these very helpful.

What do you think of the facilities at Kent?
There are excellent facilities at Kent, especially for studying law. The library is extensive and has a vast range of books available, both in person and online. Law students have access to a wide range of specialist legal databases to access case law, and training is provided on how to use these. And as a research student, any books or resources that the library doesn’t have, you can request for them to find and borrow a copy from another library.

The Wigoder law building features specialist law facilities, such as our Moot Court room (where all mooting and mock trial competitions are held), the Law Clinic, which offers free advice to Kent citizens, and where students can volunteer and get experience working on real cases. There’s also the KLS Community Hub, staffed by student volunteers to provide advice on law and particularly on mooting.

Other benefits for postgraduate researchers include the KLS PG Study Room an Common Room in Eliot Extension, and the general postgraduate study space in the Senate building.

Have you taken part in any extra-curricular activities?
I’m the president of the university’s Circus Society. There are many different student groups for almost any academic, cultural, sporting, performance, or special interest you might have (but obviously circus is the best), so there’ll be something for everyone. I joined the Circus Society in my first year and have been president for the last two years, and it has been a really fun way to meet other people with similar interests, and to learn some really cool new tricks that are always fun to show off. I went from being able to juggle just the basic three balls in my first year, to now having juggled fire and performed magic on stage at university events.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m not sure yet. A lot of people go into studying law with very clear career goals of becoming a solicitor or barrister. You hear a lot of success stories about students who got job offers from big firms – and if you want to do that then there is excellent career support to help you down that route. Hearing those stories can be intimidating when you’re not sure yourself about what you want to do, but you have to remember that a lot of people are in the same situation. Currently I’m doing my LLM by research and am considering staying on to do a PhD, but also it’s completely ok to get all the way to doing a master’s degree and still not know exactly what your future plans are.

What advice would you give to someone considering coming to Kent?
Take advantage of all the opportunities you get, and all the resources and people available to you. Talk to your teachers, ask for help, sign up for stuff, and get involved. Really make the most of your degree. And importantly, have fun!