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The highlight of my legal education: Q&A with Kristina MacPherson

Press release issued: 25 October 2018

As part of our Pro Bono Week series recent graduate Kristina MacPherson (LLB Law 2018) spoke to us about how her time working at the Law Clinic gave her experience in different areas of law, sharing her story of how volunteering helped her to prepare for the workplace even if not embarking on a traditional ‘law’ path, and reflecting on the insight she gained through the Law Clinic into how Pro Bono work makes a difference.

Why did you choose to study Law at Bristol?

I grew up in Canada and had decided at a young age I wanted to study law. At home, to obtain a law degree, you need to first complete a 4 year undergraduate degree and then go to Law School for 3 years - a total of 7 years of University. The obvious choice then, was for me to pursue education in the UK so I came here to study law.

After doing my research on universities I decided on Bristol - a Russell Group with a great reputation in a vibrant city. Looking back, I am very happy with my decision and if I had to do it again, I would do the same.

What has been a highlight for you during your time at the Law Clinic?

I got to work on a number of interesting cases during my time at the Clinic in areas such as criminal, family, contract, tort, benefits etc. A particular highlight for me was a case during my summer internship; the client was being investigated for benefit fraud and had she lost, would have owed approximately £35,000 and faced potential jail time of up to two years. The previous intern had done most of the preparatory work, but I represented her in the Benefits Tribunal before the judge. I was told the case was very unlikely to win based on the evidence (despite her innocence) but in the end, the judge ruled in our favour. That was a massive win - the client could not have been more thankful and the tearful celebrations and hugs remind you of the importance of pro-bono work. Had the client not had in consultancy and someone to help her through the process and ensure that her case was presented well before the judge, she would have faced a very different outcome.

What has been the most challenging aspect of working in the Law Clinic?

I think the emotional toll is the most difficult aspect. I found myself becoming emotionally invested in certain clients as they are often people who are just victims of unpredictable circumstance. The struggle then, is to remember that even if you don't secure the win you had hoped for, the client needed you in that situation and are better off for seeking your help. You can't win them all, but you will always make a difference.

How has the experience helped you in terms of preparing for the workplace?

My experience at the Law Clinic was the best experience I had in applying for different roles, despite having a number of other positions on my CV. Arguably, every company centres around working for a client and within that, managing their expectations and those of your surrounding team. This was a massive part of working in the Law Clinic - working with a partner to deliver a satisfactory result to the client is what the Clinic was all about. Having that experience to draw upon when interviewing, and eventually working, was invaluable. I was told it set me apart from other candidates because it was unique in that it was an authentic and representative experience.

Congratulations on your new job! How did you come to start working at Promontory, and what does the role involve?

Thank you! Despite obtaining my law degree, I ventured off the traditional path and am working for a financial services consultancy called Promontory. When I was on my job hunt I submitted my CV to a number of recruitment agencies (I cannot recommend this more - I had so many calls expressing interest and it practically takes the work out of job hunting). I was asked if I would be interested and after a couple of interviews, I started in September. I am thoroughly enjoying my role and have worked on projects for a variety of recognisable companies, mostly banks, in doing corporate governance reviews, board training and financial crime compliance, among others. I get to do something new every day and I absolutely love it. 
For anyone interested in more information about Promontory please feel free to email me.

What words of advice would you give a student starting out in the Law Clinic?

It was so valuable and was the highlight of my legal education, so really ensure to take advantage of the opportunity and learn from it. The team at the Clinic could not be more helpful and really are a wealth of knowledge with years of experience; they are an amazing resource and are there to not only help the clients, but you as well.

I think really just enjoy it, join the additional outreach programmes the Clinic offers, and learn from peers and principals - it is only going to make you more employable and give you the practical hands-on experience that is so rare among legal graduates.

Further information

Pro Bono Week is an annual occasion to recognise and celebrate the valuable voluntary contributions of lawyers giving free legal aid to those in need. Find out more about pro bono opportunities at the University of Bristol Law School:

The Law Clinic provides students with an opportunity to gain a real-life experience of law, offering free legal advice and support to members of the public under the supervision of Law School staff.

The Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC) offers through its Human Rights Law Clinic the unique opportunity for students to work with international, regional and national organisations engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights law. 

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