Leaving for university was a pretty big step in my life, as it is for most people I think. I was moving abroad and living away from my parents for the first time, to a country I had been to only once and to study something I essentially knew nothing about. I hadn’t been given much advice before I started, apart from: “Stay on top of your readings and always take a paracetamol before you go to bed after a night out”. So needless to say that within the first two weeks of law school I was emailing my personal tutor asking if it was normal to feel so stressed, overwhelmed and behind on work.
Overall, first year was definitely a learning process. Most of the time I felt out of place. From the start, every other law student I talked to seemed to already have an idea of what they were aiming for after their degree, and most of them were set on applying for vacation schemes for big corporate law firms. At that point, I didn’t even know what a vacation scheme was or what it meant to get a 2:1. As I talked to people from my course and made an attempt to inform myself on future career paths it was immediately clear that going down that route was not at all what I was aiming for. I was always more interested in public international law subjects. And that became clearer as I progressed through the years.
Second year was a blur. From the get go I was set on being the most organised person I could be and decided to start thinking about what I wanted to work towards. I set up an appointment with the careers officer. I told her about how stressful I was finding the course and she answered that it might be good to reconsider my choice of degree if I’m not interested in having a stressful job. I came out of the meeting feeling very conflicted. Was I actually doing the right thing with my life and was I making a huge mistake by completely dismissing the possibility of a commercial law career? I decided to give it a go and apply for a vacation scheme with a big law firm. As I was applying half-heartedly and hating the process, my conviction that this wasn’t the track for me was only strengthened.
However, as that door was closing, simultaneously, another was opening. Before I even applied for university I knew the international law area would interest me more than any other areas. The International Law module was an obvious choice and furthered interests I already had but the module that truly had an impact on how I saw my future career develop was Environmental Law. For a number of reasons, I just thought going down the path of Environmental Law was a real possibility. I soon came to understand that this would require continuing onto a master’s degree after I graduate. This also made me realise that my law degree would allow me to go into other fields than just legal and somehow that just felt like the biggest relief.
My year abroad was probably what most people say about years abroad. Discovering a new country and new culture was obviously a massive part of the experience, but it also turned out to provide me with a very plausible master option for my master’s degree. Without having planned it, the university I went to (Utrecht University in the Netherlands) proposes a master’s program in Public International Law with the possibility to specialise in Environmental Law and Law of the Seas. Suddenly, my future options became a lot more concrete.
We’ve now arrived at the present day. Fourth year me feels like she’s pretty set on which path she wants to go down but clearly, it did take time. Overall, I’ve really learnt to put into perspective that feeling of being helplessly lost. Also, I came to realise that it’s not the end of the world either, quite the opposite in fact. Maybe it’s a good thing to have to take a bit longer to realise where you want to go. And if you’re in that situation, here’s the good news:
CLAW is here to help. My first-year-self was too short-sighted to see that other people were in the exact same situation. We’ve decided to remedy the lack of attention on the multitude of possible paths to take after your law degree. So keep an eye out for us, we’ve got so much planned for you.