Studying Law – it’s not all about the money, money, money

Ellen Allde, Lawyers Without Borders, SOAS Law

A recent survey ranked SOAS second amongst UK universities for the earning potential of their Law graduates, outstripping Oxford, Cambridge, and UCL.

Chambers Student matched 2,500 trainee lawyers’ university backgrounds to their earnings and discovered that the average annual earnings of a SOAS-educated lawyer were £80,973.  The survey also illustrated that international students studying Law in the UK were especially attractive to global firms.

But, studying Law at SOAS is not all about the size of the salary you can hope to achieve.

Students join the School of Law at SOAS for a wide variety of reasons.

Ellen Allde, is studying BA Law and International Relations at SOAS and talks about her pro bono work with Lawyers Without Borders.

Ellen Allde, Lawyers Without Borders

Can you describe the work of Lawyers Without Borders?

“The SOAS Student Division of Lawyers Without Borders is a student society which operates under the banner of Lawyers Without Borders. We are autonomous from the head office, but advance their central mission in promoting global pro bono and access to the judicial process. Under my presidency we had three concerns: intercollegiate activities, innovation in human rights and the changing nature of human rights.

“We started the year reaching out to some of the other LWOB student divisions across the University of London and invited them along to a pub quiz. As we had preexisting relations with other universities, we were keen to organise some fun intercollegiate events. In March, we sent an incredible team of SOAS students to the annual Rule of Law Innovation Challenge held at King’s. Comprised of students from 1st year to LLM, the SOAS team completed a comic book on gender-based violence in Kenya.

“Alongside our theme, ‘Re-contextualising human rights in a changing world’, we prioritised discussions on the way human rights permeates conversations outside the traditional narrative. We prepared a newsletter for Human Rights Day, highlighting some of the important issues in human rights that each individual committee member was monitoring. We held a panel discussion with the Executive-Director of International Senior Lawyers Project and a legal and policy officer from Fair Trials. The evening focused on the ways in which having access to the law, whether regarding property, contract and criminal law, was itself an expression of human rights. Finally, we hosted a film screening and panel alongside Solidarity with Refugees and Displaced People, discussing how a documentary was used as court material showcasing the conditions children faced in the Calais camp.”

What was it that got you interested in studying Law?

“I decided to apply into the combined programme for International Relations and Law at SOAS as I had an early ambition to go into human rights law.

I saw law as a pivotal element in both understanding the policies and protections which exist, and how to advocate in the face of human rights violations.

“I was always politically active growing up, but I felt it was important to understand the structural challenges that the law creates in political situations, as well as its power as a pathway to bring about change. I had previously participated in debate and public speaking, but hoped for the direction that a law programme would bring.”

What have you most enjoyed about the SOAS course?

“I have loved the way in which the SOAS law programme creates space for students to question the law and to apply it globally.

The core modules are presented in a critical fashion, with our professors drawing in their unique expertise into teaching property, public, contract and tort law.

“In Property 1, we had the opportunity to present and write on the proprietary interests in a space of our choice. I was able to explore my interest in the proprietary interests of a refugee camp while a friend drew from their interest in art law. Secondly, Legal Systems of Asia and Africa was a pivotal moment in my legal studies, enabling us to truly apply our legal studies outside the English legal system as well as explore critical legal theory. The critical attitude of the SOAS course meant students could feel as though they were at the forefront of legal thought.”

What does being Pro-bono Director involve?

“The Pro-bono Director within the Law Society will always be an important voice in the team promoting pro bono legal services and the non-corporate sector. The extensive cuts to legal aid in the UK and the struggling justice system were a central motivating element to my term. Thus, I hoped to highlight the work done by a variety of organisations through Newsletters, pro bono emails and an opportunities spreadsheet. Many of these organisations depend on the volunteering and assistance of students to provide people with legal and non-legal services.

“We were incredibly grateful to some of the organisations which joined us for events throughout the year to again speak on the importance of pro bono work and provide advice on how to get started.

As Pro-bono Director, it was my job to both reach out to these organisations and find creative ways of connecting them to students.

“First, the Law Society organised an incredibly exciting Speed-Networking event which gave students the opportunity to talk one-on-one to professionals from across the legal career. In February, we hosted the CEO of Free Representation Unit to speak on the incredible function the organisation fulfils in training law students to take up cases at the Employment and Social Security Tribunal. At our second annual “A Career in Human Rights Law” event, we welcomed back Redress who were joined by Liberty.

“While I truly enjoyed this role, I came to understand a deepening pattern within the pro bono and public services sector. So many people depend on the services of these organisations, and these organisations depend on the assistance of students and volunteers, yet there remains a gap in ensuring students have the financial means to provide that assistance. There are some programmes out there for students to fund these internships or volunteering opportunities. However, I hope that in the future we can do more to support students partaking in pro bono activities in their spare time.”

What do you hope to do after graduation?

“True to my original intentions upon joining SOAS, I aspire to continue into Human Rights Law with an LLM. I would like to gain further work experience with non-governmental organisations before entering the BPTC programme. I see this as a natural trajectory, particularly following the exposure I have had with the legal policy reform undertaken by organisations such as Redress, Liberty and Fair Trials.”

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