Charlotte White is currently undertaking the part-time Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Dundee having obtained an LLB in Scots and English Law in 2016. Here she talks about why she chose the part-time Diploma and would encourage others to consider it as an option.
When I recommenced the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice this September, I was unsure about how I would feel. The rest of my class graduated in June and part of me felt left behind by my contemporaries; that by not completing the Diploma in a year that I had failed somehow.
However, by the end of my first induction day, I was once again certain that I had made the right choice. Completing the Diploma part-time is not something that is talked about much as an undergraduate, but it is definitely worth considering.
The financial benefit
There are many benefits of undertaking this course on a part time basis but one of the biggest ones is money. Like many, the tuition fees were something that neither my family nor I could pay for easily, even with SAAS’s contribution. Although I could have taken time out from studying and saved it, I was conscious that I wanted to keep progressing in my career. By splitting the cost in half and then once again into direct debits has made it far more manageable.
In addition, the SAAS living award was not enough to cover rent, bills and living costs on its own and with the intensity of the Diploma, I worried about fitting work in around classes.
As a part time student it has been easier to fit my work pattern around my studies. Last year, I spent three days a week in the office – this year it’s two, with some paid charity work on the side. Although I don’t qualify for a living award from SAAS, even pro rata (something that I am keen to see changed), the ability to work more around my classes has actually made money easier, even without the loan.
Time to build up more work experience…
When deciding whether to become a part time student, I looked at what I needed to improve in order to obtain a traineeship and my CV was severely lacking in work experience.
Again, as a part time student, I found it easier to remedy the situation as I had fewer deadlines and contact hours a week. At the time, as the majority of firms that I wanted to apply to were hiring two years in advance, there was no rush to complete the course and that diverse work experience would be vital to getting a traineeship.
… Plus more time for applications
Despite the next benefit not being something that I considered at the time, it is perhaps the most significant one: more time for applications.
Not only have I secured a contract with a firm that I believe is the perfect fit for me, I had a success rate of 50% for my applications. Looking back, I can see that this is attributable to the time that I could dedicate to them and to researching contemporary issues that candidates are expected to discuss at assessment days and interviews.
Whilst my contemporaries were constantly choosing between university deadlines and application ones, my competing deadlines were much more manageable. When I was offered internships and interviews I didn’t have to worry about how much work I was missing – I knew that it was an amount that I could complete in the evenings and still get a good night’s sleep before my next interview.
The race round-up
In summary, although doing the Diploma full time has its benefits, it may not be the route for everyone. My advice to any final year students would be to decide what your priorities are.
For me, the Diploma was always a means to an end and I would do anything to improve my chances of a successful traineeship application over a year travelling.
Taking the Diploma part time does not mean that you cannot handle the workload of your contemporaries, or even that your career isn’t your priority. To me, it means that I played the long game, I am the tortoise and whilst I may not have beaten the hares, I was certainly less stressed than them when deadlines came around.