Future Legal Mind 2016 award offers chance to win £5,000 and work experience

The National Accident Helpline is offering the chance to win £5,000 and work experience with a law firm in its second Future Legal Mind competition.

The competition will see one law undergraduate or GDL student win £5,000 towards their studies and work experience at national law firm Simpson Millar.

To be in with a chance of the prize, entrants must submit a 1,000 word essay, with the winner published on Lawyer2B.com. Nine runners-up will win £250.

Students will be asked the following question: “Is the commoditisation of legal services inevitable and is a commercial approach more likely to compromise or enhance the quality of advice and service to consumers?”

The judging panel will comprise National Accident Helpline CEO Russell Atkinson, Lawyer 2B editor Richard Simmons, academic and Times law columnist Professor Gary Slapper, the director of Volume Legal Services at Simpson Millar Janet Tilley, and National Accident Helpline legal director Jonathan White.

The competition opens today. The final date on which entries will be accepted is 18 January 2016. 

2015 Future Legal Mind winner Amy Loughery, an undergraduate student at the University of York, said that “the awards have really kick-started everything” for her. “I’ve managed to acquire two part-time jobs through winning Future Legal Mind. It’s opened loads of doors for me and I’ve put the £5,000 aside to help fund my post-graduate study. It’s given me security.”

Russell Atkinson, CEO of National Accident Helpline and chair of the judging panel, said: “Future Legal Mind is a great opportunity for law students to gain an invaluable boost to their chances of breaking into the legal profession. National Accident Helpline believes that it is crucial to have a steady pipeline of the best talent entering the legal system to ensure that people continue to have access to justice.

Janet Tilley of Simpson Millar (incorporating Colemans-ctts, which provided the work experience placement for last year’s winners), said: “The quality of last year’s candidates was extraordinary and I look forward to seeing what this year will bring us. Our legal system is the jewel in the crown because of those working in the legal profession and this competition will ensure bright students are not prevented from enhancing the system due to financial hardship.” 

Full details of how to enter the competition can be found here.

Last year’s winner: Amy Loughery

Amy Loughery
”We have a system which purports to guarantee legal rights, but following LAPSO it is debatable as to what extent this is actually true.”

What have you been up to since winning the award, and what are your future plans?

Because of the doors the Future Legal Mind award has opened for me, I’ve had the chance to experience different law firms across the north of England. I went to Manchester to take up the work placement with Colemans-ctts which was part of the prize. It was such a positive experience, and through winning the award I also managed to get another placement at a firm in Hull.

I’ve also managed to acquire two part-time jobs through winning. I’m working on eBor Lex, the University of York’s student-led academic legal journal, which I’ve really enjoyed. I work with students to develop their essays and then we publish them.

I’ve also been working with the Widening Participation team at York to help students like me from non-traditional backgrounds to get into law school. It’s really inspiring and engaging. We go into underachieving state schools – those which have the fewest students going to university – and give inspirational speeches about university life in general.

We also go into sixth-form colleges and speak to students who are in the process of applying to law school, and try to mentor them and give them as much support as we can through the UCAS process. We’ve had students coming to York and we’ve given them academic taster sessions so they can see what it’s like to come to university. That’s been brilliant. I’ve enjoyed both roles and I don’t think I would have got either of them if I hadn’t won the award.

I’m now in my final year at the University of York, and I’ve decided that I’d like to go on to do a research Masters and a PhD.

What impact has winning the prize had on your finances?

I’ve put the £5,000 I won aside to help fund my postgraduate studies. It’s much harder to fund postgraduate study. It’s a case of applying for funding, and if you don’t get that funding, normally you’re left high and dry, but I have the Future Legal Mind money to fall back on, so even if I don’t get the funding for my Masters degree, I’m still in the position where I can go ahead and do it. It’s given me security.

I’ve known, too, that it was there if I needed to dip into it to help fund work placements. It’s removed the barriers that people from non-traditional backgrounds have when it comes to travelling to work placements and getting to events in London. I’m in a position now where I know I’ll be able to go and do my masters.

Tell us about your work placement at Colemans-ctts

It was really good. From the first day I was given lots of responsibility.  I was working in the legal processing centre contacting clients, emailing them and speaking to them on the telephone from the very first day. It was brilliant being given that level of responsibility rather than having to awkwardly watch someone. With shadowing, you can feel a little bit in the way sometimes, but from the word go, the message at Colemans was ‘Get stuck in’.

The whole programme was really well planned and structured. I worked my way up through the firm throughout the two weeks. I started in the legal processing centre with the paralegals and claims handlers and saw everything that they do and how they deal with the less complex cases, processing with a high turnover, but as the weeks progressed I was moved on to work with the solicitors. I was even taken down to Essex to attend a joint settlement meeting with a client in the serious personal injury department. It was really useful to see it from the other perspective and hear the client voice their concerns.

I’m still talking to people from the firm in Manchester. They’ve offered me part-time work as a paralegal next summer when I finish university to get some more experience, and I plan to take them up on that offer. I’d love to go back.

Do you have any advice for students considering entering for Future Legal Mind?

I’d say just go for it, even if you think you’ve got no chance. When I saw the information about the award I thought “Well, I’m not going to win, but I might as well have a go.” Not everyone will think that, lots of people will think “I’ve got no chance of winning,” and just not bother. You never know. I didn’t expect to win at all.

It’s opened loads of doors for me and put me in a really good position to be developing my career. Just have a go – and make sure you get your entry in early!