Studying your reflection

Our students are encouraged to reflect on their experiences in Student Law Office. We believe that reflection is what turns experience into learning, and we are keen to develop our students as ‘reflective practitioners’. In this blog post, Katie reflects on her experience of reflection so far. 


As with any career, personal development is a key aspect of the legal profession.  Reflection allows lawyers to analyse their experiences and improve their practice.  Whilst students in the Student Law Office may find the prospect of writing formal reflections daunting, the benefits of doing so greatly outweigh temporary fears.

Whether it be spontaneous or retrospective, reflection allows us as lawyers to identify our strengths and weaknesses.  Once we start looking at everything we do with a contextual and critical eye, soon we are able to question what went wrong, what went right, or what could have been done to obtain a better outcome.  Did I not plan enough?  Was I unprepared and caught off-guard?  Did I plan too much? Was I inflexible and not adapting to the client’s needs?

Talking to others

Reflection does not have to be a sole activity, especially at the start of your legal career.  Whilst it is important to be able to analyse your own experiences, it is also beneficial to bounce ideas off your peers.  Have they done something that you did not? Would you have approached something differently?  How was their outcome different to yours?  Reflection is all about learning from a variety of situations so you can deal with and adapt to unfamiliar scenarios in the future.  Consulting with others simply broadens that pool of experience.

Reflecting as a group can also stretch the boundaries of your own beliefs.  Alternative  opinions will challenge your own thinking and values.  It can introduce you to methods of practice that you had never considered before and also promote tolerance and empathy.  For example, speaking to a peer about different experiences could provide insight into a client’s behaviour.  Where you might have thought a client was acting unreasonably, a colleague may be able to help you consider their position from a different perspective.  This is especially important in a time of constant cultural change.

How does it benefit our careers?

Reflection is something we will be expected to do all through our legal careers. Starting early in the Student Law Office means we are able to develop these skills and step into a firm ahead of the game.  Not only that, but by nurturing our ability to reflect we are able to take so much more away from university.  There are countless opportunities for self-improvement during higher education that would go unnoticed if we did not take time to reflect on them.  Being reflective practitioners teaches persistence and hones our ability to think on our feet.  Over time we establish strategies of dealing with the unexpected, utilising our range of legal skills, and evaluating alternative methods to produce better results.  Reflection is an ongoing process; a constant mission for self-improvement.  Working in the Student Law Office facilitates our personal growth and ensures that we are the choice candidates when seeking legal employment.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

Katie HThis blog post was written by Katie Hutchinson, a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University.  After graduation, Katie hopes to secure a training contract in a commercial law firm and enjoys skiing, art and fashion in her spare time.


Inspiring Entrepreneurs #RiseWithUs

A number of SLO business & commercial students recently attended a fantastic event at the Business & IP Centre, Newcastle, called ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’ . It featured a live link-up to the British Library in London where a panel of business leaders answered questions from the audience and via twitter.

The event was lit up by four leading entrepreneurs in the creative industry. The theme of the event was ‘Rise With Us’. Each entrepreneur spoke for ten minutes. They told us their ground-breaking life stories, and how their successes were achieved with the right attitude and determination. Their words absolutely held me engrossed throughout the whole presentation.

Here are some of the top tips that I took from each of the speakers:

Kanya King- CEO and Founder of MOBO Awards:

Kanya King attributed her success to energy, determination, persistence and, on many occasions, resilience. Further, during the presentation she laid out some key attributes of being a good entrepreneur, such as:

1) Passion: if your heart isn’t in something, you won’t be successful. Passion gives you the confidence, creates excitement, energy and is contagious. When you are passionate you make people around you feel excited, and everybody wins. Nothing great is achieved without enthusiasm.

2) Prioritisation: we get side tracked juggling multiple tasks, and this could limit our effectiveness and productivity. The key is to focus on the primary activities.

3) Procrastination: this is the enemy of success. If you get stuck just remind yourself that you don’t always have to get it right, you just have to get going.

4) Persistence: this is critical for business, or possibly to any other life challenge. When you are running your own business or chasing your own career choices, there’s no instant gratification. The harder you work the luckier you get. When a mistake is made, take the lesson learnt, get back on your feet and use your enriched knowledge to create success.

5) People: Kanya spoke about valuing relationships, keeping in touch with important contacts, being persistent, and building a strong support system. Relationships are important to call upon in good and bad times. She said that it’s always better and wiser to work together with people, to support each other, to share tips and advice, as there is so much you can achieve when you have a team with the same vision.

June Sarpong -TV presenter and founder of Lipgloss Productions

June’s number one piece of advice is to believe in yourself because we are intuitive – before you start worrying about what other people think about you, worry about what you think about yourself. June told us to start thinking good things about ourselves, so that we start believing it. Secondly, June advised us to learn to control our thoughts, have a goal in mind, and just keep focused on that. It doesn’t matter what’s going on or if it seems farfetched, just keep your eye on that end goal and somehow it’ll workout. She said that you’ll meet the right people at the right times. Finally, June said:

“Don’t only be a taker. Be a giver”

She noted that there were a lot of takers in world but not many givers, but somehow the world catches up with taker and they might lose it all in the long run. Be a giver and it will come around to meet you again.

Yinka Ilori- Designer specialising in upcycling vintage furniture

Yinka believed that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve. You just have to work hard and make sure you tell your story how you want to tell it. He told us:

“Don’t let anyone else tell you how to tell your story…..In other words, be yourself”

Levi Roots -Reggae Reggae entrepreneur and MOBO nominated musician

Levi Roots strongly holds that, whether you start a business or have one already, you need a mentor– somebody who knows more than you, someone who you can rely on for advice. And once again, according to him, it is about being who you are- be yourself. Be authentically you, which makes you unique.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out” (Dr Seuss)

When I went to this event, I expected that it would be about business (and maybe a little about the law!). But the event was about much more than that. It was about learning something from those who have been there before. It was about giving life to a thought that you’ve left behind thinking it’s impossible to achieve or maybe even planning your future or working out how you can adopt the entrepreneurs’ advice in your own life endeavours. All of these things make this event an important one, and one which I will remember for some time.

This post wasmatheesha written by Matheesha De Alwis. Matheesha is a final year law student and part of a Business & Commercial firm within the Student Law Office at Northumbria Law School. On graduation, Matheesha hopes to secure a training contract with a commercial firm or a position as a paralegal, in order to build upon her experiences in the Student Law Office and to pursue her career goals.

Stay ahead of the game and think digital!

It is becoming ever more apparent that businesses need to keep up with the newest technology and IT systems available, in order to ensure work is completed in an efficient manner and to beat off fierce competition for work.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the event “Upload: LIVE” at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf, London. The event was hosted by Barclays Digital Eagles and Free Formers, who describe themselves as a ‘digital transformation company’ and run workshops all over the UK for all ages to help develop their digital skills.

The day was split into four interactive workshops:

  1. Social
  2. Code
  3. Lab
  4. Security

Here are some of the insights I gained from the day that I feel will be useful for anyone running a small business.


  • Personal brand

The social session gave key insight into developing a personal brand, and showed me how to link my various social media pages together in order to create a bigger picture of who I am and how I work. Emphasis was placed on using online platforms to showcase a more human and humorous side to oneself.

  • Networking

We also undertook a 5 minute networking activity, based on a game of bingo. Everyone had a card and tasks were written on each square. The aim was to chat to as many people as possible to find out who fulfilled the criteria in each square. For example, one of the squares read: “Find a person who has more than 500 twitter followers”. In those 5 minutes, I must have spoken to more than 30 people, and got their social media page information so we could remain in touch after the event. This simple group activity showed me the effectiveness of networking and how it is a skill all of its own. Indeed, it often appears that the most effective tool for a small business to attain new clients is through recommendation by other people.


  • Free resources for businesses

I was surprised to find just how many free resources there are online which teach coding, and that there are plenty of templates to give you a head start, which you can adopt and adapt for your own website for your business. If you have the time to devote to learning the skill of coding, this would be a fantastic way of saving money rather than paying a website designer.

  • Html coding

This was completely alien to me at the beginning, having never done any html scripting before. I managed to learn, in a very intense hour and a half, how to create a web page. I really took confidence from this session and it showed me that truly anyone can learn to code, and you should not underestimate your digital skills, as they can easily be shaped and developed with a little time, enthusiasm and persistence.


  • Creativity

I learned how to design and create an app, something I had never before imagined myself doing. The opportunity to be as creative as possible, and the challenge to come up with something a little obscure, brand new and perhaps controversial, was very inspiring for me.

  • Making an app for small businesses

This would be a fantastic step forward in putting your product out into people’s everyday lives. An app sits on your phone and once downloaded, the consumer will see the logo hundreds of times a day, and they can receive information instantaneously about updates to your product or services. Getting the image and brand of the business into the back of people’s minds is a great tool for marketing, as consumers are more likely to be a product or a service, from a company or individual who are familiar and comfortable in their minds.


  • Think like a hacker!

The security session was packed full of tips to keep safe on the internet. There were warnings of phishing emails and identity theft, and how to recognise a secure website where information is safely encrypted, compared to a fake and insecure page. We were advised to look for the https:// at the start of a web page to ensure it is secure, and to look out for the green padlock symbol just above the address box, as this too is a symbol of a secure site. In order to remain safe online, we must think like hackers and be aware just how public information is once we put it online, as well as being selective about the information we give out to people we do not know.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Upload:LIVE event and would highly recommend the Free Formers team. In a world of quickly moving digital technology, it is important to stay one step ahead of your competition and think digital!

Details on booking a digital transformation course with Free Formers and more information on the company can be found here. Free online training guides and resources from Barclays Digital Eagles are also fantastic and can be found here.

This blog post was written by Juliet Gough. Juliet is an MLaw student working in a business and commercial firm at Northumbria Law School. On graduation she hopes to secure a training contract with a reputable commercial firm. She plans to undertake paralegal work in the meantime to broaden her experience and further develop the key skills she will use in practice.


The Legal Hunger Games

Second year of law school paved the way for a shift in my ideological view of both studying law academically and what it would be like to work in practice. This did not occur as a result of being subject to a year’s worth of EU law. Instead, it  actually stemmed from an article I stumbled across whilst studying jurisprudence (some would argue worse than EU).

When I say I had a change in view, well actually my expectations in first year were somewhat ambiguous.  My passion for law stemmed from good A-level results rather than a life long desire to enter the legal profession. That being said I was as intrigued and excited as any other first year starting out on what could be a major definitive element of their future.  Duncan Kennedy’s 1982 article Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy managed to encapsulate thoughts that were present in my mind yet I could not quite fathom.


The competitive nature surrounding the academic study of law is thrust upon you consistently throughout university. As you progress into second, third and fourth year the ever looming cloud that is the process of gaining a training contract gets bigger and bigger. The news of a fellow student gaining a training contract passes through the law library quicker than a forest fire. Are students happy for them? Jealous? Both?  I found myself feeling the same emotions, but why?

Duncan Kennedy suggests law schools generate a system of rank ordering between students based on grades and examination performance. This system is essential on an individual level in order to assess how well you are progressing. This is not the issue; rather the competitive edge surrounding this system is the issue. It differentiates students whilst stoking the fire of competitiveness. In a way this can be viewed as essential, the legal world after university is extremely competitive. It’s competitive when finding a job. It’s competitive finding clients. It’s competitive in providing the best legal advice andworking for the best firm.

Maybe a competitive learning environment is essential to produce the best lawyers. H owever it wasn’t something I believed to be as prominent as it is. Does this competitive environment prepare those at the lower end of the scale to settle for a future in a legal career dependant on those higher up in the hierarchy? Duncan Kennedy states that if students are willing to accept dependency they are accepting a role which suggests ‘it is more prudent to kiss the lash than to strike out on your own’.

Competitiveness is all well and good when you’re trying to acquire something; it gives you a fighting edge to acquire the best possible outcome. It can be defined as defeating or establishing superiority over others. This is quite an interesting aspect when you think about it, brilliant for achieving your personal goals, but establishing superiority over others does not prepare students or aid a student in developing his team working skills, or social skills for that matter. Skills that are predominantly important in many paths of life as well as the legal profession. This I see as an issue with the academic approach to studying law. However, competitiveness is a natural characteristic of mine.  Does this render my agreement with Duncan Kennedy invalid? Hopefully not. Eliminating competiveness from a learning environment would be more detrimental than advantageous, therefore a balance must be struck.

Clinical legal education: competitiveness through a new prism

Taking an active part in clinical legal education shifted my views on studying law once again. The practical approach to studying law through this method is the main reason why I chose to study at Northumbria University.  It manages to strike a balance between the significance of competiveness and the necessity of team work, both essential factors in any profession. You enter the Student Law Office with limited experience and you leave having learned some invaluable lessons.

The competitiveness stems from the knowledge that throughout the whole year you are being individually assessed. Hearing these words in your first firm meeting reiterate the need for the competitive shield law students carry around with them. But as the year progresses and you begin to work with your partner you slowly start to realise that the most effective way to achieve the most efficient work for your client is by working together. All of a sudden you’re communicating with others – supervisors, administrators and fellow students   – and you see how developing these skills are essential to achieving future success.

Competitiveness now begins to creep back into the picture but this time the individualistic nature of it has been replaced with a common notion. The competitiveness is now focussed on achieving the best possible outcome for your client rather than  achieving the best possible outcome for yourself. In a sense the nature of competition has been shifted. There isn’t a general feeling that the firms in the Student Law Office are trying to compete with each other. Rather, they are all working towards the same goal: providing a professional service to their clients. Clinical legal education offers an approach to learning which the academic approach cannot, and this I believe is a step forward in the study of law.

There is no doubt competitiveness is an essential characteristic and there is no way of avoiding it in the life of academic study but its application can be detrimental when it overrides other important characteristics. In my opinion it is the very nature of team work which gives those seeking it a competitive advantage.

This blog post was written by Matt Boxshall. Matt is currently an M Law student at Northumbria University and working in a business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. Whilst studying at Northumbria he has developed an interest in the way law is taught and the effects it has on students. On graduation he hopes to travel before securing a training contract which will allow him to further develop his interests in business and international law.

Matt B