Dr Jill Marshall was one of the panelists who spoke about possible new futures in legal working at the 'New Narratives in Law' event hosted by Legal Cheek on 5 December. The event was aptly held at the Google Campus, which provides workspace and support to start ups and other independent workers in Shoreditch's Tech City. The panel discussed the links between law, social media and start ups and innovative models for training contracts and barristers’ chambers (for example, Accutrainee and ArtesianLaw).
Dr Marshall is a Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London and she trained and worked as a litigation solicitor at Herbert Smith and Freshfields before studying for a PhD and becoming an academic lawyer. Dr Marshall recommended that students who want to stay in law after graduating should gain a professional qualification as well as some experience. This allows for future diversification into commentating, consulting and other freelance work - something that is difficult to do as a lawyer with no experience. Being an academic involves a mixture of teaching, coaching and paperwork, but the emphasis is on research for publication in legal journals and books. It is difficult, but not impossible, to combine this with practice work before becoming a professor.
Speaking afterwards to Lauren Stone, third year LLB student at Queen Mary and editor of student-run paper The Advocate, Dr Marshall said:
“For anyone wanting to go into academic law at a good university, you do not need a solicitor or barrister qualification, but you do need high academic qualifications, good references, and usually a PhD. I recommend finding some legal research work as academics are often looking for intelligent and hard working students to help them (and they should pay) and try to do some freelance part-time tutoring. That way, you will find out if you enjoy it. You should also like writing and a good way in to having work published is by reviewing books for good legal journals."
When thinking about future legal careers Dr Marshall suggested that students look at psychology books to investigate their values and goals in life. She added "There is no point going into something you don’t value, find meaningless and that doesn’t suit your personality. Despite the economic gloom, there are potentially exciting times ahead now for budding young lawyers who can think imaginatively about new ways of living and working.”
When the audience members asked her afterwards about the position of women in the legal profession, Dr Marshall was told that 'What is really needed is to weed out the archaic conceptions of gender roles in society to allow effective equality of opportunity for all those entering the legal profession.'
She said: "Whilst many firms proclaim a commitment to equality, these students consider the distinct lack of female faces in the upper echelons of the legal professions suggests otherwise. Students told me that the use of buzzwords like ‘flexicurity’ creates illusory promises of equality of opportunity, as women working part-time are often overlooked for promotion to partner level. Perhaps the innovative models of delivering legal services discussed at the event will ensure more women can progress in the legal profession by establishing their own practices."
The Legal Cheek event was widely discussed on Twitter, you can follow some of the panel participants: