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Alex Taylor LLB2016

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The study support at Southampton was fantastic. I was quickly offered a meeting with my personal tutor, who offered me invaluable advice regarding study and time management techniques. The guidance I received in that early meeting helped me settle in quickly and undoubtedly had a substantial positive impact on my performance throughout my degree.

Why did you choose to come and study at Southampton?

In 2011, I decided to attend an open day at the University of Southampton. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to read for a degree at a leading university, and I was aware of Southampton’s outstanding reputation across a wide range of academic disciplines. In addition, I was keen to attend a university situated a reasonable distance from home, yet close enough to return at short notice if necessary for family reasons. Fortunately, Southampton ticked this box as well.

I enjoyed the open day very much, and I left feeling certain that Southampton was the right university for me. I was particularly impressed by the relaxed nature of the campus, the quality of the study facilities available and the range of extracurricular activities on offer. I also heard extremely positive testimonials from current students, some of whom had already secured excellent graduate jobs.

What is it like studying here?

Southampton is a great place to study. My course had a heavy emphasis on independent work, and I liked to do all of mine in the library in order to maintain a clear boundary between study and leisure time. I therefore spent a lot of time on campus, but I never got tired of it. Highfield Campus is large and spread-out, with plenty of greenery and landscaping, so I never felt like I was stuck in the middle of a busy city. At the same time, there is always plenty happening around the Students’ Union building to provide entertainment during breaks, from weekly markets to student radio broadcasts and even a petting zoo during exam term! On the whole, the atmosphere around campus is extremely lively, and I think this is partly attributable to the fact that Southampton attracts students from a wide variety of countries and backgrounds.

The teaching in the Southampton Law Faculty is excellent. My programme was structured very well, and the first-year courses, particularly the unique ‘Legal System and Reasoning’ module, provided a strong foundation for more challenging topics further down the line. The lecturers are very enthusiastic about their subjects, and many are considered leaders in their respective fields. I found that if you take an interest in a particular subject, many will go above and beyond what they are required to do to help.

The study support at Southampton was fantastic. I was quickly offered a meeting with my personal tutor, who offered me invaluable advice regarding study and time management techniques. The guidance I received in that early meeting helped me settle in quickly and undoubtedly had a substantial positive impact on my performance throughout my degree.

Although I graduated in 2016, I am still in regular contact with two of my tutors, both of whom I now view primarily as friends. I have heard stories from students at other universities about teaching staff offering the bare minimum amount of contact time, but the same simply cannot be said about the tutors at Southampton. If you want learn, you will be supported every step of the way.

How do you rate study facilities at the University?

The study facilities at Southampton are very good, although I didn’t need to use as many of them as students from more practical courses might. I spent most of my working time in the Hartley Library, which is well equipped with plenty of study spaces, bookable meeting rooms, large desks, comfortable chairs, power points, Ethernet ports, and Eduroam Wi-Fi. A new work area has now been created in the Law School, and this will be very helpful for students who want to work in shorter gaps between classes. The University also has access to a wide variety of web resources that are totally invaluable for lawyers. Since these can be difficult to navigate, students are taught how to use the library’s legal research tools in first year, and further training sessions are offered by representatives of the leading legal research organisations such as Lexis and Westlaw. Unusually, and probably because Southampton is such an internationally-focused University, we also have access to a significant number of foreign legal resources, both online and in print. This is incredibly useful as it makes it easier to undertake comparative research - an increasingly vital skill for modern lawyers. My final year dissertation drew on sources from five jurisdictions, and I simply could not have written it without the facilities available at Southampton.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences) so far?

I particularly enjoyed the Christmas period in Southampton. Many students turn out for the switching on of the lights, and each year I went with a group of friends to drink mulled cider and watch the live music. Unfortunately for Southampton’s Law students, the Christmas holidays can involve a lot of essays and revision, so it was always nice to have a chance to do something festive at University before heading home.

Another highlight (believe it or not) was writing my dissertation. Most modules on the LLB course naturally adhere to quite a fixed syllabus, but the dissertation provides an opportunity to take control of your time and write whatever you want on any legal topic that piques your interest. In second year, I had spotted what I believed, and still believe, to be a serious problem with the law on recovery of bribes. I enjoyed developing my ideas on a weekly basis, meeting regularly for interesting discussions with my supervisor, and then eventually finding out that seasoned academics were engaged by my arguments.

A final highlight was winning five awards on graduation day. I had worked extremely hard throughout my degree, and I was pleased that Southampton recognises this formally. Several of my prizes carried work experience placements at top law firms, and these have been extremely useful for my career plans.

Winning the prizes has undoubtedly helped me to stand out as they have been a talking point in every interview I have attended. Not only do awards show that a student has achieved highly in a particular field, but they also carry the endorsement of a sponsor and sometimes a valuable work placement. For example, as winner of the DLA Piper IT Law Prize, I spent an excellent week shadowing one of the firm's partners in London, and I undoubtedly gained experience that would have been unavailable during a standard vacation scheme.

How has your time at Southampton helped you to grow as a person?

Naturally, my academic ability improved considerably throughout my three years at Southampton. Thanks to the superb teaching, feedback and study support provided by the Law School, I was able to graduate as the top student in my year, despite starting late and with very little prior legal experience. However, I believe my time at Southampton helped me to develop more than just my substantive subject knowledge and technical legal skills.

I quickly learned how to manage my time in order to maximise efficiency and ensure a good work-life balance. By working strategically, I was able to keep whole weekends free, and I never once had to ‘pull an all-nighter’. As a result, I have developed confidence in my ability to succeed at demanding tasks whilst making room for other activities, and this will undoubtedly help me in my future career.

To perform well in summative essays and my dissertation, I was required to formulate original ideas and convey them persuasively. Simultaneously, mooting and participating actively in tutorials helped me to improve my oral communication and advocacy abilities. I also developed key interpersonal skills, such as teamwork and leadership, which were strengthened by group exercises.

Perhaps most importantly, my time at Southampton strengthened my independence substantially. By living away from home, managing my own finances, making new friends, and pushing myself academically, I believe I prepared myself well for the next stages in my life.

I've been awarded a full scholarship to read for an LLM at Cambridge in 2017-18. After that, I intend to train as a barrister and develop a civil practice focussing on commercial/chancery work. I am drawn to these areas for two main reasons. Firstly, I enjoyed and excelled in relevant subjects at university. For example, I was the top student in Equity & Trusts, Tort Law and IT Law, and I wrote my dissertation on Constructive Trusts, which I found extremely interesting. Secondly, these areas have been the focus of much of my work experience, in both law firms and chambers, and I found them very engaging in practice.

What are you enjoying most about your course?

I find it difficult to say what I enjoyed most about my course. Every module was unique, and I was able to choose from a diverse range of subjects in my final year. One thing I particularly enjoyed was studying quite niche areas of law in third year. For example, I took a unique module on the legal treatment of human biological materials, as well as Information Technology Law, a subject rarely offered at undergraduate level. In both cases, it was interesting to examine the application of traditional legal principles to highly specialist and rapidly developing fields.

I also enjoyed working closely with the academic staff at Southampton, particularly towards the end of my degree. Indeed, since graduating, I have continued to help one of my lecturers as a part-time research assistant.

Do you have the opportunity to study modules outside of your core subject area?

The ability to study a half-module from a different course was undoubtedly one of the best features of Southampton’s LLB programme. I chose to study a half-module in Tissue Engineering, which drew on themes from a range of STEM and non-STEM subjects (including Law). Not only did this allow me to learn a great deal about subject I would probably not have been able to study elsewhere, but I was also given the chance participate in a group project with students from other courses.

Did you stay in University accommodation?

I stayed in Glen Eyre Halls in first year, and it was excellent. My ‘category 2’ room was comfortable and spacious, the kitchen and bathroom facilities were modern, the communal areas were cleaned on a daily basis by friendly staff, and 24-hour security was provided. The flats were a good size too, with between five and six people sharing two bathrooms in each.

Glen Eyre’s layout made it easy to meet other people, and most flats had enough communal space for quite substantial gatherings. The JCR organised regular events like gaming nights, and members of the Christian Union offered to bring toasties to your room in exchange for theological discussion.

There were several other on-site facilities too, like computer rooms, work spaces and a fitness suite. I was also pleased to discover that I could practice music regularly without disturbing my flatmates, and it was even possible to book the on-site rehearsal room if I wanted to play a bit louder.

What is the city of Southampton like to live in?

Southampton is a great place to live as a student because it has something for everybody. If you enjoy nights out, there are clubs, bars and pubs all around the city, some of which have quite unique selling points. If you like to be outside, Southampton Common is a lovely location to walk, run, play sports, or just relax. For others, there are galleries, museums, cinemas and theatres. Everything you could might need to buy is available within walking distance of Highfield campus, and keener shoppers can visit the West Quay Shopping Centre or play hide and seek in IKEA. If you live in Halls, you won’t even need to pay for the bus! There are also good rail links between Southampton and other South Coast cities like Portsmouth, Chichester and Brighton, and it is very easy to visit the New Forest. If you decide to study Law, you are likely to feel grateful for the direct trains to London Waterloo at some point.

What one word sums up how you feel about your experiences so far at Southampton?

Rewarding (or rewarded).

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