My Graduate Life: Ciara Ramsbottom

When I first got my CAO offer to study Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) in DCU back in 2016, I was disappointed and thought that I would never get over it – it wasn’t my first choice (or even my first three choices) so I felt I had let myself down. And now here I am, four years later with my First Class Honours BCL degree in the bag wondering how my 18 year old self could have ever thought that. Life has a funny way of working itself out and now I can’t imagine having completed my degree anywhere else.

My four years in DCU were filled with highs and lows but the highs absolutely outweigh the lows, tenfold. Like most, I found it difficult to find my place in first year, not really knowing how to make friends and being too shy to strike up conversations. For the second semester of first year, I don’t think I spoke that much to anyone bar my housemates. But then things changed and in second year I found my way, albeit a little later than everyone else. But that is ok, none of us are on the same time-zone when it comes to our path in life and I found my way right when I was supposed to.

DCU Bachelor of Civil Law degree student experience
Ciara participating in the National Moot Court Competition 2019.

When I was in third year, I completed a year-long clinical placement with a criminal law and human rights law firm in Dublin. It was hands down the best decision I ever made. I spent from June 2018 until September 2019 working full-time with the firm and then continued to work part-time with them until March 2020. My time there taught me so much about my career path, myself and helped to shape me into the best possible professional version of myself. So, tip number 1 – if you can do a work placement with your degree, DO IT!

Joining the Law Society in final year was one of the other best things I did during college. Being the Moot Court Convenor for the year was brilliant and allowed me to meet and help so many student who love mooting as much as me. It was also great to have on my CV! Tip number 2 – join a society in college but don’t wait until final year to do it. It will open more doors than you could imagine and will help you to make friends. Nothing bad will come from it!

If you want to develop your legal advocacy and research skills, take part in mooting in college. DCU have a mandatory moot module and I’m not being dramatic when I say that module changed the course of my life. I loved mooting in college and was so grateful to have won the DCU Grand Moot Final in 2018 with my team and then to have reached the final of the National Moot Court Competition in 2019 with my teammate. During these competitions, you will meet barristers, solicitors and possible have the chance to moot in front of Supreme Court judges and you will learn so much about yourself. It also looks great on your CV. Tip number 3 – start mooting ASAP!

On the back of gaining so much experience during my placement year, I was lucky enough to have been offered a training contract to become a solicitor with A&L Goodbody (ALG) beginning in 2022. While the work I did during my placement year was different to that done by ALG, the skills learned in any office environment are transferable and so I got my dream job. The applications for training contracts and summer internships are tough but don’t let them put you off.

DCU Bachelor of Civil Law degree student experience
Ciara participating in the National Moot Court Competition 2019

Tip number 4 – apply for everywhere and if you have a particular firm in mind, put your all into the application and you will reap the rewards. Maybe you won’t be selected for the summer internship the first time you apply and maybe not the second time either, but you will get it when the time is right for you. Apply for ‘LawStart Days’ with firms when you’re in first or second year – ALG do a great one and it will help your application stand out when it comes to applying for summer internships.

On the back of gaining so much experience during my placement year, I was lucky enough to have been offered a training contract to become a solicitor with A&L Goodbody (ALG) beginning in 2022. While the work I did during my placement year was different to that done by ALG, the skills learned in any office environment are transferable and so I got my dream job. The applications for training contracts and summer internships are tough but don’t let them put you off. Tip number 4 – apply for everywhere and if you have a particular firm in mind, put your all into the application and you will reap the rewards. Maybe you won’t be selected for the summer internship the first time you apply and maybe not the second time either, but you will get it when the time is right for you. Apply for ‘LawStart Days’ with firms when you’re in first or second year – ALG do a great one and it will help your application stand out when it comes to applying for summer internships.

Now that I have finished my degree, I have to sit eight FE-1s (Final Examination – First Part) which are the entrance exams into the Law Society before I can begin my training contract. They are gruelling. Similar to the Leaving Cert, arguably worse. So my first four will be in November (thanks to Covid, they had to be postponed from October and will now be done online) and my final four in March 2021. I had no idea what FE-1s were in first year so, important to note – a law degree alone does not qualify you to immediately start a career as either a solicitor or barrister. If you want to become a solicitor, you have to FE-1 exams and you must have a training contract with a firm so that you can complete your training. If you want to become a barrister, you must sit the King’s Inn’s entrance exams and then undertake a ‘Barrister-at-Law- degree.

Here is my final tip – for anyone considering doing a law degree, have a look at DCU’s BCL programme. The staff are one of a kind and you will be nurtured and assisted at every turn when you need it. Rest assured when I say that DCU are telling the truth when they tell you that they’re “big enough to count, small enough to care”.

Ciara Ramsbottom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s