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Case Study

Matthew Ray

Matthew Ray credits supportive staff and the Student Law Clinic as just two of the reasons he has been able to progress both as a person and academically on his LLM Legal Practice course. Matthew has found the Clinic, in particular, to be highly rewarding.

I studied at the University of Sunderland because I attended Hartlepool Sixth Form College. The college was the campus for the foundation degree at the University. This allowed me to study my first two years in my hometown before moving to the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s campus for my second year on the LLB.

It was also extremely important to me to find a University which had a strong focus on the practical side of law. This set the University apart from other places which focused more on academic, theory-based assessments.

For me, the best aspect of the course has been the Sunderland Student Law Clinic. This has been a major part of my life for the last two years when I took the module in the final year of my undergraduate degree. Working on cases with real clients and being able to help them through challenging parts of their lives is extremely exciting, not to mention rewarding. After years of writing assignments, it is amazing to be putting the skills learnt into practice at the end of your degree and you really see how far you have come from the first year.

Although it is difficult to secure a training contract, I think the Law course at the University of Sunderland maximises the chances of being successful. I don’t think any other University has such a strong focus on the practical side of law which develops essential skills which firms look for. Moreover, the standard of lectures is outstanding, with several of the Law team being Solicitors who are, or have been, partners at Law firms. Due to the Law team’s ‘open-door’ policy, you get to work closely with these lecturers.

I think the best thing about the University of Sunderland is how much the Law team care about the students and how much time and effort they invest in their success. In my second year, when I began to look for training contracts, I sat with one of the lecturers who talked me through the commercial side of the law, such as how to make an immediate financial impact and other things that firms look out for. I have no doubt that this has helped me stand out in applications and I have used this in both covering letters and in interviews since then.

The University is excellent for support too, with mentors in all aspects of your studies, including interviews and CV/job applications. Moreover, as the Law department is so invested in each student’s success, if you are ever struggling emotionally or with the work, they help as much as they can.

My advice to prospective students would be to take every opportunity that comes to you. The University of Sunderland has so many opportunities to help you achieve your potential. However, some of these opportunities might be outside of your comfort zone and are not easy. I found this with the Sunderland Student Law Clinic – I struggled with public speaking but there were lots of opportunities to give presentations. I found these difficult at first, and a part of me wanted to avoid them. However, if I did this it would have been a big miss as I am now confident not only in public speaking but in everyday life. University is the place to try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Another example is advocacy, this was extremely challenging for myself on the LPC. However, it is important to remember you are surrounded by your friends who only want the best for you and this creates a safe, friendly space for you to try new things and develop your weaknesses.

I have not yet graduated as I need to complete and submit my dissertation in September 2018 but all being well I will graduate in November. I will, however, be starting my period of recognised training in September at Archers Law LLP in Stockton on Tees. This will lead me to qualify as a Solicitor in August 2020 following two years training. I will be completing six months in four different departments within this training. However, my focus is on commercial law such as company formations, mergers and contract law. I also have an interest in litigation, namely contentious probate and commercial litigation such as derivative claims which is the topic of my dissertation. Therefore, the departments I will work in during my training contract will be based on these interests as well as private client work (probate, Wills drafting, trusts etc).

I hope to continue to focus on personal progression throughout my career and always look for opportunities to improve the service I can provide clients. My future career aims are to develop as a Solicitor and hopefully be made a Partner at the firm. I also aim to become a District Judge part-time alongside practising as a Solicitor.

The main achievement that I am proud of during my studies is a settlement I achieved on a case along with another student in the Sunderland Student Law Clinic. We successfully settled a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for £40,000. This was an excellent result as based on the current leading case law, we estimated her claim was worth in the region of £20,000. Our client was struggling financially, and this allowed her to settle her debts. Over the course of the year, I built up an excellent professional relationship with my client and it was incredible to know I had made such a positive impact on her life through my hard work.

I have also helped several clients who were suffering from early stages of Dementia to complete Lasting Power of Attorneys. I found this work incredibly rewarding and is one of the highlights of my studies.

My experience has been instrumental in inspiring my career aspirations and it has been an incredible journey which I have thoroughly enjoyed."

Published 6 August 2018

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