It’s not often that the Gulbenkian is full on a Saturday morning, but we were very pleased to welcome our new Cohort 9 group and their parents/carers to the Pathways to Law launch event on 14th November. Professor Anne Davies, our Dean, gave an excellent welcome address to everyone, followed by an introduction to the programme and a chance for both students and their parents and carers to hear about the upcoming events in more detail. We also heard from four Pathways to Law students about their experiences, two who are in the second year of their programme and two who graduated from Pathways to Law in the summer and are now undergraduate students here at Oxford. Hearing from current and past Pathways to Law students helped our new cohort to get a proper sense of what is to come. They were also welcomed by wonderful ‘goodie bags’ supplied by our benefactors – including bags from Clifford Chance and notebooks and pens from Hogan Lovells.

Our next session split the group up – students came together for an ice-breaker activity to get to know each other a little better, heard all about the online platform IGGY, and had a chance to ask us more questions about the programme. Their parents and carers went back to the Gulbenkian for an exciting higher education quiz and then a more serious look at ‘supporting your child on the programme’. We expect students to grow over the course of the two years, and to develop their independence in advance of heading to university, and parents and carers have an important role to play in supporting this.

For the afternoon, Rebecca Williams gave an excellent introductory talk on ‘Pathways into Law’, introducing the concepts of studying law (or not!) and being a lawyer. Then Ed Peel gave a repeat of his ‘A Taste of Law in Practice’ lecture that was such a success at last year’s launch – who would have thought that asbestos and the law could be so engaging? This meant that at the end of a day full of information the students and their parents/carers left not only equipped for the next two years but full of enthusiasm for what might come after that, be it at university level or even further ahead.

Two weeks later and we were back in for their first event: ‘Introduction to Law’. In the morning we were lucky to have a talk on the English legal system and legal resources by Margaret Watson, the Bodleian Law Library’s Academic Services Librarian, followed by a self-guided visit to the Bodleian Law Library itself. In fact, visiting the library was such an exciting prospect and so well-received that we ran out of time for the courts quiz we had planned! Next up Rebecca Williams gave an in-depth talk on studying and practising law, to set the scene for the afternoon panels.

After lunch we had two panels addressing first ‘Pathways to studying law: Law at University’, followed by ‘Pathways to practising law: Working in the legal profession’. Our students quizzed undergraduate representatives from Oxford, Warwick, and Bristol, plus an Aberystwyth graduate now on the BCL here, asking questions on everything from the benefits of joint honours degrees and the manageability of reading lists to student society life and and campus versus city university experiences. This gave them a chance to hear what it is really like to be a law student, swiftly followed by the second panel covering the next stage in the game: what to do after studying. We are very grateful to the panel for giving up their time to speak, but we had such a lively (and overrunning) discussion that we hope they enjoyed it as much as we did! The panel were Raj Desai, barrister with Matrix Chambers; Peter Evans, legal advisor for BIS; Alex Harrison, Hogan Lovells solicitor; and Miriam Ezrachi, in-house counsel at Intel. This gave the students a chance to hear about a good range of careers, as one of the aims of the Pathways to Law programme is to educate students about the different careers the legal profession has to offer, as well as the routes into those careers.

Feedback from the day was consistently excellent, with the library visit and the professions panel getting the top marks. This shows how important it is for the students to experience such things first hand, and we hope that our next event (a visit to Weil, Gotshal & Manges in London) will build on these successful launch event and ‘Introduction to Law’ foundations!

Our Pathways to Law programme is part of the scheme set up by the Sutton Trust and the Legal Education Foundation, with support from major law firms. Our outreach work, and the Pathways to Law programme here at Oxford, is funded in part by a generous donation from Maitland Chambers.