Former dental student

Watch this thread
LibraryGal
Badges: 5
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#1
Report Thread starter 3 months ago
#1
Hi all,

This is another "have I got a chance" threads but maybe with a couple of slight differences to the others I have seen. I hope that you will bear with me!

I am currently 43 years old and for some time now I have been researching entry into the legal profession. I will explain a little of my background to set the stage.

I recently spent five years studying on a BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) degree at a fairly prestigious Russell Group university but unfortunately suffered a number of setbacks in my final two years including almost losing a parent to sudden and severe illness midway through finals, and then being forced to care almost full-time for them alongside studying for the finals resit while driving around 100 miles a day back and forth from university. I had also been suffering quite badly with my mental health including severe stress-related anxiety at this time, requiring intervention and medication from NHS Occupational Health services and my own physicians. To cut a a long story short, as a result of this (and a somewhat ineffective and dismissive "support" framework from my university) I ended up failing finals again (on clinical vivas), was unceremoniously awarded a BSc degree from the university and told "thank you and goodnight". This as I am sure you can appreciate was devastating to myself and my family.

Prior to winning my place on the BDS course (which itself is incredibly competitive) at the age of 34 I had gained the entry qualification by way of a science-based QAA-approved Access Programme as an alternative to A-levels. I came first in my year and was the only student who achieved solid Distinction grades in all 26 assessments on the course (bar one early essay for which I gained a Merit grade) resulting in overall Distinction grades for every module, achieved the highest result in the end of year examination for my year's intake, and was given an award by my college for outstanding academic achievement. At this time in order to bolster my qualifications, I also sat a Biochemistry module at my local university (part of the Chemical Engineering BSc course there) for which I achieved a 1:1 grade.

In the three years since leaving university I have set up my own graphic design business doing predominantly freelance photographic repair work. This is more something that I entered out of necessity after leaving university and I have essentially been stuck doing it since. It is not what I want to do in the long term however!

I have always had an interest in the law and have in the past helped out a number of friends and family with minor legal-related issues that I have managed to assist them in resolving (drafting bankruptcy applications, debt resolution, parking appeals, Limitations Act-related "cease and desist" letters etc). I have also been told that I possess a degree of oratorial skill although whether this would translate into practical legal advocacy I am still to find out.

I was also subject to the very strict medico-legal protocols that apply to healthcare professionals while I was studying the BDS, and gained a deeper appreciation through colleagues and supervisors of how the extensive reach of the regulatory bodies governs the medical field. I was fortunate enough to have been taught by a practitioner who was also legally qualified and worked part-time with the Dental Defence Union. Ultimately if I am successful in my endeavour I think that medical malpractice is the field in which I would ultimately prefer to specialise in/focus upon such as regulatory, medical/professional negligence, incompetence and misconduct cases.

Herein lies a twist however: Because the BDS is a vocational course there is no set degree classification for it because the in-course assessments and exams were graded using a letter-based system rather than a percentage score. In my second year of the BDS I was part of a small number of people doing a piece of assessed group work (which the group narrowly failed) leading to a failure of an in-course element for that stage. For this I was forced to sit the end of year exams (which I passed) and then do the (harder!) resit exams and pass them again (which I did), which is utterly ridiculous I know. I have since received a breakdown from the university telling me that by their estimation, a score of 22 "points" overall would be classified as a 2:1 degree but because of the resit (for the exams I had already passed) I only have 21 points and thus they consider the degree to be equivalent to a 2:2. This is my main concern overall because this seemingly arbitrary classification fails to take into account that I had already passed the exams but was forced to sit them again.

To digress, what I have been looking at recently is a way that I can essentially "convert" the dental degree that I have into a QLD by doing one of the MA Law or LLM courses that are available and whether or not this would be sufficient to help me achieve my goal. I would very much like to represent people at trial or tribunal in the areas that I mentioned earlier and so I think that the Bar path might be the one for me or perhaps the SQE/solicitor route followed by a higher rights/advocacy qualification which might also allow me to advocate for clients should I be successful?

My intention is to start applying now for any legal or advocacy-related voluntary experience that I can get while I am looking to apply to do the conversion course. I would ideally like to obtain a paid position within a legal environment but I know that many others are also looking for the same thing. I am optimistic but I am also realistic, and I realise that the Bar can be incredibly difficult to reach even for the best of candidates. The MA Law conversion course seems to offer the ability and flexibility to pursue either option without early commitment to one or the other although other people may have found it different? I should point out that I am under no illusions as to my chances of obtaining pupillage at any top sets, and indeed I think that I would even prefer the opportunity to practise at the provincial Bar should I be able to achieve pupillage at all.

With regard to courses, I am a little limited insofar as I would have to rely on a government PG loan to do the conversion course, and it is for this reason that I have been looking at the online/distance learning MA Law course offered by UoL. This will allow me to (hopefully!) continue to support myself with my photographic work while studying but also allow enough time to put in some seriously hard work to obtain a good grade on the course. To anbody who has done this course (or one like it) how doable is this and is a distinction on these Masters-level courses a realistic prospect?

The main questions/concerns that I have however really revolve around whether what happened at university will have a significantly deleterious effect on my chances on achieving pupillage should I try and make it to the Bar, and/or whether it would harm my chances should I choose the SQE route. I believe that I have a strong academic capability and I am tenacious in the extreme. I know that nothing in life worth having comes easily but I appreciate that one has to be realistic too.

I would appreciate any thoughts or advice from anybody who may be able to offer them and indeed from any others who might find themselves in a similar position! I have only really looked at the MA Law course from UoL so far and comments from anybody involved there would be particularly welcomed! I would also like to hear from any suggestions that people may have for other similar (preferably distance-learning) courses by different institutions and how they might compare?

Thank you for bearing with me and thank you in advance for any replies!

Emma
0
reply
Gmaster1980
Badges: 12
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#2
Report 3 months ago
#2
(Original post by LibraryGal)
Hi all,

This is another "have I got a chance" threads but maybe with a couple of slight differences to the others I have seen. I hope that you will bear with me!

I am currently 43 years old and for some time now I have been researching entry into the legal profession. I will explain a little of my background to set the stage.

I recently spent five years studying on a BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) degree at a fairly prestigious Russell Group university but unfortunately suffered a number of setbacks in my final two years including almost losing a parent to sudden and severe illness midway through finals, and then being forced to care almost full-time for them alongside studying for the finals resit while driving around 100 miles a day back and forth from university. I had also been suffering quite badly with my mental health including severe stress-related anxiety at this time, requiring intervention and medication from NHS Occupational Health services and my own physicians. To cut a a long story short, as a result of this (and a somewhat ineffective and dismissive "support" framework from my university) I ended up failing finals again (on clinical vivas), was unceremoniously awarded a BSc degree from the university and told "thank you and goodnight". This as I am sure you can appreciate was devastating to myself and my family.

Prior to winning my place on the BDS course (which itself is incredibly competitive) at the age of 34 I had gained the entry qualification by way of a science-based QAA-approved Access Programme as an alternative to A-levels. I came first in my year and was the only student who achieved solid Distinction grades in all 26 assessments on the course (bar one early essay for which I gained a Merit grade) resulting in overall Distinction grades for every module, achieved the highest result in the end of year examination for my year's intake, and was given an award by my college for outstanding academic achievement. At this time in order to bolster my qualifications, I also sat a Biochemistry module at my local university (part of the Chemical Engineering BSc course there) for which I achieved a 1:1 grade.

In the three years since leaving university I have set up my own graphic design business doing predominantly freelance photographic repair work. This is more something that I entered out of necessity after leaving university and I have essentially been stuck doing it since. It is not what I want to do in the long term however!

I have always had an interest in the law and have in the past helped out a number of friends and family with minor legal-related issues that I have managed to assist them in resolving (drafting bankruptcy applications, debt resolution, parking appeals, Limitations Act-related "cease and desist" letters etc). I have also been told that I possess a degree of oratorial skill although whether this would translate into practical legal advocacy I am still to find out.

I was also subject to the very strict medico-legal protocols that apply to healthcare professionals while I was studying the BDS, and gained a deeper appreciation through colleagues and supervisors of how the extensive reach of the regulatory bodies governs the medical field. I was fortunate enough to have been taught by a practitioner who was also legally qualified and worked part-time with the Dental Defence Union. Ultimately if I am successful in my endeavour I think that medical malpractice is the field in which I would ultimately prefer to specialise in/focus upon such as regulatory, medical/professional negligence, incompetence and misconduct cases.

Herein lies a twist however: Because the BDS is a vocational course there is no set degree classification for it because the in-course assessments and exams were graded using a letter-based system rather than a percentage score. In my second year of the BDS I was part of a small number of people doing a piece of assessed group work (which the group narrowly failed) leading to a failure of an in-course element for that stage. For this I was forced to sit the end of year exams (which I passed) and then do the (harder!) resit exams and pass them again (which I did), which is utterly ridiculous I know. I have since received a breakdown from the university telling me that by their estimation, a score of 22 "points" overall would be classified as a 2:1 degree but because of the resit (for the exams I had already passed) I only have 21 points and thus they consider the degree to be equivalent to a 2:2. This is my main concern overall because this seemingly arbitrary classification fails to take into account that I had already passed the exams but was forced to sit them again.

To digress, what I have been looking at recently is a way that I can essentially "convert" the dental degree that I have into a QLD by doing one of the MA Law or LLM courses that are available and whether or not this would be sufficient to help me achieve my goal. I would very much like to represent people at trial or tribunal in the areas that I mentioned earlier and so I think that the Bar path might be the one for me or perhaps the SQE/solicitor route followed by a higher rights/advocacy qualification which might also allow me to advocate for clients should I be successful?

My intention is to start applying now for any legal or advocacy-related voluntary experience that I can get while I am looking to apply to do the conversion course. I would ideally like to obtain a paid position within a legal environment but I know that many others are also looking for the same thing. I am optimistic but I am also realistic, and I realise that the Bar can be incredibly difficult to reach even for the best of candidates. The MA Law conversion course seems to offer the ability and flexibility to pursue either option without early commitment to one or the other although other people may have found it different? I should point out that I am under no illusions as to my chances of obtaining pupillage at any top sets, and indeed I think that I would even prefer the opportunity to practise at the provincial Bar should I be able to achieve pupillage at all.

With regard to courses, I am a little limited insofar as I would have to rely on a government PG loan to do the conversion course, and it is for this reason that I have been looking at the online/distance learning MA Law course offered by UoL. This will allow me to (hopefully!) continue to support myself with my photographic work while studying but also allow enough time to put in some seriously hard work to obtain a good grade on the course. To anbody who has done this course (or one like it) how doable is this and is a distinction on these Masters-level courses a realistic prospect?

The main questions/concerns that I have however really revolve around whether what happened at university will have a significantly deleterious effect on my chances on achieving pupillage should I try and make it to the Bar, and/or whether it would harm my chances should I choose the SQE route. I believe that I have a strong academic capability and I am tenacious in the extreme. I know that nothing in life worth having comes easily but I appreciate that one has to be realistic too.

I would appreciate any thoughts or advice from anybody who may be able to offer them and indeed from any others who might find themselves in a similar position! I have only really looked at the MA Law course from UoL so far and comments from anybody involved there would be particularly welcomed! I would also like to hear from any suggestions that people may have for other similar (preferably distance-learning) courses by different institutions and how they might compare?

Thank you for bearing with me and thank you in advance for any replies!

Emma
The amount of text you wrote here makes it really hard to understand what you actually want advice on. Brevity is an important skill your barristers and solicitors alike.
0
reply
Blayze
Badges: 8
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#3
Report 3 months ago
#3
So, if I am reading this correctly:

Age 34: QAA Access Prgoramme, Distinction, very high marks. Studied a module of Biochemistry, achieved a First (does this module give you any standalone, specific qualification?)
Age 40: Finished Bachelor of Dental Surgery course with a BSc, graded at a high 2:2 by the university (with mitigating circumstances)
Age 40: started freelance photography business, which continues to present day

So based on that, I am presuming you went straight from A Level equivalents into the BDS.

and you want to know:
1. Whether you have a realistic chance of becoming a barrister or solicitor
1a. Whether the SQE route would harm your chances
2. Whether an MA Law course will help make up for the disappointing results on the BDS, and
3. What other distance law courses there may be that would allow you to continue phographic work, or if there are any that would qualify for the Government postgraduate loan?

I think you will probably struggle to show the academic acumen that some places will be looking for. Although I take your point about the poor mangement of the BDS, I don't think interviewers are likely going to have significant time for that (and for my part, the poor management of one module in the 2nd year of 5 year degree isn't going to cut much ice), although your mitigating circumstances may be considered more favourably.

Ultimately, that will be a matter that the various employers are going to have to weigh in the balance - it is a clinical degree and therefore failing it does not necessarily show you lack academic abaility, but it will put you on the back foot, which comapred with other candidates is likely to give you at least some disadvantage.

I'm guessing the BDS was your first degree, but an MA Law qualification is not going to leave it behind. It looks to be a 1 year qualification, and when assessing your academic profile people will still be looking at the BDS. Performing well on the MA may assist you somewhat, but it isn't going to wipe the slate clean.

You realistically are going to need signficantly more experience of both advocacy and proper legal work. What you've written here about this reads as if it were intended for an applicaiton, but I don't think those examples really do show enough interest or expereience to meet the requirement.

Furthermore, personally I would avoid pointing out that you've been giving people free legal advice when you have no connection to the law at all, as I'm not sure it will be seen as a positive. Helping out doesn't mean that you were actually right, although it would be fine to say that you have always been interested by those issues and have researched them.
1
reply
LibraryGal
Badges: 5
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#4
Report Thread starter 3 months ago
#4
Thank you to all who have replied, I do appreciate your time! I realise that I wrote a somewhat over-detailed missive but I wanted to clarify everything and give as much information as possible to aid those responding.

I appreciate your reply Blayze and I know from your other posts that you are a practising barrister yourself and yours is exactly the kind of response that I'm looking for. I realise that the MA is only a year (or two if I do it part-time) but my understanding is that it covers the seven principles of a QLD and also includes a dissertation, which is how I first found it. I could probably have worded the section mentioning where I have helped other people a little more carefully. I essentially just meant that I have helped people by writing letters for them regarding debt management and other minor issues rather than advising them what to do, the point being that I think I have good transferrable skills to legal writing.

I was looking at the MA as opposed to a PGDL really because the MA confers a Masters-level qualification in addition to the QLD elements and so if things did not go quite as I had hoped, I'd still have a qualification that other employers might find attractive as opposed to a GDL which has no real application outside the legal field. It seems that the MA is effectively a PGDL but with the Masters element, it means that it also attracts postgraduate funding making iot more accessible to graduates unable to self-fund the PGDL. In your opinion do you think that a solid performance on the MA coupled with the previous academic performance from before the BDS would demonstrate sufficient ability on balance to apply or would you not bother and look for something else?

As I said earlier I am the optimistic type but I am also the realistic type!
0
reply
legalhelp
Badges: 16
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#5
Report 3 months ago
#5
(Original post by Gmaster1980)
The amount of text you wrote here makes it really hard to understand what you actually want advice on. Brevity is an important skill your barristers and solicitors alike.
So is accurate writing…
0
reply
Crazy Jamie
Badges: 19
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#6
Report 3 months ago
#6
(Original post by Blayze)
So, if I am reading this correctly:

Age 34: QAA Access Prgoramme, Distinction, very high marks. Studied a module of Biochemistry, achieved a First (does this module give you any standalone, specific qualification?)
Age 40: Finished Bachelor of Dental Surgery course with a BSc, graded at a high 2:2 by the university (with mitigating circumstances)
Age 40: started freelance photography business, which continues to present day

So based on that, I am presuming you went straight from A Level equivalents into the BDS.

and you want to know:
1. Whether you have a realistic chance of becoming a barrister or solicitor
1a. Whether the SQE route would harm your chances
2. Whether an MA Law course will help make up for the disappointing results on the BDS, and
3. What other distance law courses there may be that would allow you to continue phographic work, or if there are any that would qualify for the Government postgraduate loan?

I think you will probably struggle to show the academic acumen that some places will be looking for. Although I take your point about the poor mangement of the BDS, I don't think interviewers are likely going to have significant time for that (and for my part, the poor management of one module in the 2nd year of 5 year degree isn't going to cut much ice), although your mitigating circumstances may be considered more favourably.

Ultimately, that will be a matter that the various employers are going to have to weigh in the balance - it is a clinical degree and therefore failing it does not necessarily show you lack academic abaility, but it will put you on the back foot, which comapred with other candidates is likely to give you at least some disadvantage.

I'm guessing the BDS was your first degree, but an MA Law qualification is not going to leave it behind. It looks to be a 1 year qualification, and when assessing your academic profile people will still be looking at the BDS. Performing well on the MA may assist you somewhat, but it isn't going to wipe the slate clean.

You realistically are going to need signficantly more experience of both advocacy and proper legal work. What you've written here about this reads as if it were intended for an applicaiton, but I don't think those examples really do show enough interest or expereience to meet the requirement.

Furthermore, personally I would avoid pointing out that you've been giving people free legal advice when you have no connection to the law at all, as I'm not sure it will be seen as a positive. Helping out doesn't mean that you were actually right, although it would be fine to say that you have always been interested by those issues and have researched them.
I agree with all of this, and these concerns are all entirely valid. The BDS does leave you fighting an uphill battle, and the best anyone can say as regards to whether a good performance on a subsequent postgraduate course can make up for that is 'maybe'. It won't be enough for many chambers. It may be good enough for some.

However, a further problem as I see it is what is going to make you stand out in an application. As things stand, there is a notable flaw in your academic record. You don't have legal work experience, which most people in your position do not have, but what do you have? Without wanting to be overly blunt, saying that you have an interest in the law, have helped out friends and family with legal problems, and have been told you are a good orator is the stuff of bad pupillage applications. What tangible, transferable skills do you have? I'll be reading a lot of applications during this current pupillage round from applicants with 2:1s, with a decent enough overall academic record, some relevant work experience, and maybe an award or two, and most of them won't stand out enough to get an interview. Why makes you stand out over them, let alone the ones who will actually get interviews?

I don't intend to knock you down here. You've been through some tough times and I have a great deal of sympathy with that. But as I am sure you recognise, following up your recent experiences by pursuing a goal that will take a lot of time and money is not the way to improve your situation if that goal is unrealistic. I'm very much exploring here how it would be realistic, because I'm struggling to see it. I can't see anything that you've written that would give you a realistic shot at this, whilst you've written several things that I see on bad applications. That doesn't mean this is hopeless. It means you don't know what is needed to become a good candidate. That can be fixed because through experience you can gain that insight (as all good candidates do), but the question will then remain as to whether you do have the transferable skills and experience to compensate for the shortfalls in your application and make yourself stand out enough to get interviews. On the basis of that post, my view is that you haven't demonstrated that, and you absolutely must before you embark on this new career path. Being direct, you've been a working age adult for 25 years. If you're going to stand out as a candidate in a career change to the law, I think there's got to be something in those 25 years that you can bring to the table to compensate for the weaknesses in your application and set you apart. If there isn't, that's fine. It's not a judgment on you. But if there isn't, I think being realistic this ambition has to stop here.
1
reply
Gmaster1980
Badges: 12
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#7
Report 3 months ago
#7
(Original post by legalhelp)
So is accurate writing…
My sincerest apologies for slapping together a response on my phone while at work. If only we could all be perfect like you.
0
reply
legalhelp
Badges: 16
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#8
Report 3 months ago
#8
(Original post by Gmaster1980)
My sincerest apologies for slapping together a response on my phone while at work. If only we could all be perfect like you.
I never said I was. But if you’re going to take unnecessary opportunities to patronise someone on a public forum, then it’s probably best to make sure there’s no flies on you before doing so.
0
reply
Gmaster1980
Badges: 12
Rep:
? You'll earn badges for being active around the site. Rep gems come when your posts are rated by other community members.
#9
Report 3 months ago
#9
(Original post by legalhelp)
I never said I was. But if you’re going to take unnecessary opportunities to patronise someone on a public forum, then it’s probably best to make sure there’s no flies on you before doing so.
Yes yes, typos caused by autocorrect are equivalent to a meandering essay thats the 10th "chance me" thread of the week. Get off your high horse lol.
Last edited by Gmaster1980; 3 months ago
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Have you done work experience at school/college?

Yes (156)
41.82%
Not yet, but I will soon (69)
18.5%
No (148)
39.68%

Watched Threads

View All
Latest
My Feed