Sitting on the committee for the past 4 years, I have seen the same question come in time and time again. Will studying at the OU put me at a disadvantage?
My answer is No, it puts you at an advantage. I wrote an article on it and quoted my graduation ceremony which said we are not part-timers we are double-timers. Whilst brick uni students are propping up the bars, most OU students are at home with caring duties, looking after themselves and their disability, on mummy duties, work duties, whatever it is that made you study at the OU.
It is never truer than a woman who I am proud to call my friend, Laurie-Elizabeth. I met her for the first time on a zoom call as a news reporter for the OULS. Not knowing much about her or her life, over the next year I learnt of her struggles and power to get to where she was and admired her strength. At the time she was in her penultimate year at the OU.
The following year, she ran for Chair at the OULS elections. A bold move and one which I will admit I was sceptical at first. Jumping from News Reporter to Chair is a big leap.
Especially as the pandemic had just hit. Everything shut down. Mooting competitions not going ahead, and career events stopped. Most things the OULS stood for were currently on hold.
I had nothing to worry about. It was plain to see Laurie-Elizabeth was born to be a leader. She took the reins and ran. Within weeks we had our first event booked in online and zoom meetings set up with law firms booking them in, some two a week, giving our members something that actually whilst we thought temporary, has transported the OU to where it should be. Accessible to all.
We had members dialling into events from overseas something they had never been able to get involved with before. Mooting workshops and competitions ran online.
Over her year as chair, whilst studying in her final year at the OU, being a mummy to her little boy, coping with hidden disabilities, and working, she was attending scholarship interviews and Bar course interviews. It was at this time, I could see the determination in her eyes to go as far as she could.
Laurie-Elizabeth was awarded one of the most prestigious awards for the Bar the Baroness Hale of Richmond Scholarship. Laurie-Elizabeth went on to graduate the OU in July 2021 and commenced the BPC in September of 2021.
Laurie-Elizabeth has now been offered pupillage at 3 Paper Building, a legal 500 leading set.
In just a matter of a week, Laurie-Elizabeth will be called to the Bar of England and Wales. To think back to those three years ago when I met her, and she seemed quiet and reserved and where she is now, is such an achievement.
Reminiscing with Laurie over her time with the OU she said ‘In 2018, I was a single parent from a low socioeconomic background. I was the first in my family to go to university and I have a hidden disability. I tick lots of the ‘boxes’ that don’t encompass a typical law student.
I stand with my head held high. In 2022, I obtained a first-class law degree, and I was the OULS Chair 2020-2021. I obtained a ‘very competent’ from the Bar course, pupillage with a top set and I have the most prestigious scholarship award under my belt.’
Asking Laurie-Elizabeth what her advice to law students would be she replied ‘My words of wisdom are to find your ‘why’ (mine is my son, but it can be anything!) Your ‘why’ is what drives you every single day to get out of bed, to be better and to do more. Once you have figured out your ‘why’, it ignites a fire within you, it gives you passion and determination that no level of academia can ever teach you. Then work fiercely hard until you achieve what you set out to achieve. You’ll often find that once you start to succeed, your goals tend to grow with you.
Do you know how many people laughed at me when I first mentioned I wanted to be a barrister? A fair few. So, I stopped telling people my goals and instead, I showed them!’
I for one, can’t wait for the great things to come from Laurie-Elizabeth, she still has so far she can go. After all, she has come a long way already. From the Chair to the Bar!
Written By: Victoria-Jayne Scholes
OULS News Editor