22 November 2022

LLB Law - Naomi Newell

Naomi Newell completed her LLB Law at UEA in 2013 – she now works as a solicitor at Birketts, a national firm with an office in Norwich.

We spoke to Naomi about her time at UEA, the skills she learned, and her words of wisdom for future LLB students.

Let's start with a career overview

I graduated from the Law School in 2013 and went straight into my practical postgraduate course at BPP Law School in Cambridge – the Legal Practice Course (LPC). 

(This has now been replaced with the Solicitors Qualification Examination, or SQE.)

Just after graduating from my LPC in 2014, I started my training contract with a high-street practice in Norwich. I qualified in May 2016 and stayed at that firm for about two years before moving onto Birketts. They haven't got rid of me yet, so I've been there for just over four years now!

I specialise in property disputes, which covers landlord and tenant work (commercial, agricultural and residential) and then anything else to do with land law, such as covenants or rights of way. Basically, if there's a tussle involved, that's when I roll up my sleeves! I really enjoy it - transactional work wasn't for me.

What was it that drew you to UEA and the LLB there?

It was all a "happy accident" to be honest. After my A Levels, I started a French and Spanish degree at Southampton and for one reason or another it just didn't fit for me.

I knew that I liked Norwich as a city. I'd been here before and I felt that, even if I didn't like UEA, at least I would love living in Norwich.

It was a lucky coincidence that UEA turned out to be the right fit for me as well. It was only really when I moved into my UEA accommodation - Suffolk Terrace, one of the ziggurats - and there were 13 of us living together, that I just fell in love with it all. My flatmates were bonkers and brilliant, I fell in love with all the concrete, and it all just luckily fell into place.

 

Naomi Newell in Norwich streets

What made you decide to switch to Law?

A law degree is quite vocational. It's structured - you have to study set modules in order to qualify as a solicitor or barrister later on - so you know exactly what you're doing and why you're doing it.

For me, I think I needed that structure, which I felt had been lacking in my modern language studies. After finding languages weren't for me, I thought law would be a huge intellectual challenge.  If I had given myself a talking-to when choosing first time around, I might have gone straight into law from the outset, but I think it's fair to say I wasn't sure at 18 years old that I'd be up for the academic rigour!

As it turns out, interpretation is a huge part of my job, so it really helps that I have a good grasp of linguistics.

What skills have you learned on the LLB that you still use every day in your career?

Soft skills are critical. Not every client knows how the law works – and actually it can be even trickier the more sophisticated they are! 

There are certain phrases that I use in my job now, which I remember my seminar teachers using with us. We have to be able to relay complex matters in a constructive, succinct and easily-understandable way, which is what the teaching staff did with us on the LLB. Learning how to network effectively has been a key thing that has followed from my degree into my working life.

The LLB staff proactively set up events in conjunction with the student Law Society and they have amazing links with alumni or old colleagues who they're willing to put their students in touch with.

I didn't come from a family of lawyers, so I was very grateful for the opportunities to meet lawyers while at UEA. I try to pay that effort and kindness forward by mentoring students myself.

Did you do any other extracurriculars at UEA?

I was focussed on "all things law" so I threw myself into the Law Society and its activities.

The Society runs skills competitions like mooting (legal debating). I was the head of the mooting competition in my 2nd and 3rd years, and I arranged for us to have the final of our advanced moot at the Supreme Court. Lord Carnwath presided with his judicial assistant and we were in the Privy Council chamber for the moot. He was generous with his time and it was such an incredible experience for all of us.

I was (and still am) passionate about my voluntary work with the Norfolk Community Law Service. I was heavily involved as a student, administrating their advice clinics for domestic abuse, discrimination, employment law, and welfare benefits appeals, which taught me a huge amount about the rule of law, and law's critical place in our society. I joined the rota as a voluntary advisor when I was 1-year qualified and I'm also now a trustee of the NCLS.

I have the joy of working with UEA's Law students who keep our partnership with UEA alive, which I love!

Do you have any particular favourite memories of UEA?

When I think of UEA, I warmly think of sitting out in the square on a sunny evening with a pint and some friends, just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere.

Things like going for runs around the lake or sprawling out on the grass with my housemates. Pimp My Barrow was huge when I was at UEA and we always took part together as housemates, which we enjoyed each year. One year we dressed as Willy Wonka and his oompa-loompas! I remember working hard in the silent reading room, then working off steam at the LCR. I have incredibly warm memories of UEA.

What excites you the most about the job that you do today?

I still think it's an intellectual and academic challenge, which is simultaneously infuriating and exciting!

We'll never know everything about the law in our jobs but, even if we did, our clients have such varied and complex issues that it would still be different every day. It's hugely satisfying being in a job that can hardly get too samey!

I'm constantly learning about the world around us too, which helps us to give our clients good commercial advice. We need to tailor advice to our clients because a business client is going to need something completely different to a private individual, for instance. Clients are never the same as one another which makes for another humbling challenge.

Any words of advice for LLB students or people thinking about doing the LLB?

For people who are currently studying: it's a slog, but it's worth it!

You might also be thinking that you could never be, say, a land lawyer (land law IS hard!) but most of us in practice will agree that you should join the profession with an open mind, because practising law is very different to studying it.

Also, take the support that's available to you - honestly, the Law school staff want to help you so reach out and let them.

For people considering the LLB, I would say absolutely do it. It's challenging and it's exciting. I loved it. Just ask lots of questions - no question is too silly (everyone else is probably wondering the same thing anyway). There's no space or time to be self-conscious on a law degree, so jump in with both feet.

While at UEA, I would also encourage you to "do something different" too. University is the perfect time to try something random and fun, so whatever it is, give it a whirl and have fun.

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