My name is Adrian Needs. I am 34 years old and am currently an Employment Conciliator with ACAS in Bristol. I commenced my OU LLB in 2002 whilst serving in the Royal Air Force. Having reluctantly been forced (due to personal circumstances) to abandon my A-Levels some time ago, I had always promised myself I would return to studying when the time was right. In 2002 that time came. After observing a number of court trials during my time as a Military Police Officer I was stirred by the court advocacy I had seen, and decided to study Law with the aim of one day presenting a criminal case in court. I chose to study through the OU because the course had been designed in collaboration with the College of Law. I knew not only that I would be in safe hands but that I would also have the flexibility to develop myself professionally at the same time. I took advantage of a relatively quiet posting to the Shetland Islands so that I could spend some time getting to grips with my first pile of materials without some of the distractions of modern military life. I returned to the mainland UK 12 months later.
The highlights are without doubt those wonderful moments when all the hard work pays off and the end of year exams are successfully negotiated. However, each year has something different to offer in the way of achievement, whether it is overcoming the fear of your first exam in ages, bettering yourself the following year, aiming for an overall grade or merely passing after mastering a tricky subject. For me though there were many other highlights. As a member of the armed forces I was always in different parts of the country/world and it wasn’t until the fourth year that I was able to attend any tutorials. This is when things really turned around for me. Until then I had not met any students or even tutors and was often studying in isolation in remote parts of the UK or abroad. The highlight for me was therefore joining a group of students and bouncing ideas off them, understanding their points of view on certain subjects and putting forward my own. My grades also improved as a direct result so I would say with confidence that tutorials are the most beneficial aspects of the course if you can get there. Five years is a very big commitment however and of course a lot can happen in that time (which brings me on to my low points):
During 2004 I was employed on force protection duties in Basra. This involved a month of training in the UK before departing for a four month tour in Southern Iraq. I spent almost three months of that time in a tent with faulty air conditioning working sometimes 20 hour days in immense heat and under regular attack. Using the internet or phone meant queuing up for an hour or three after a shift only to find the lines were down again and trying to complete my assignments on time and to any reasonable standard was nearly impossible. However, a senior officer offered some assistance for a short period. I was able to work at the main terminal at Basra Airport in a relatively straight forward role, screening Iraqi civilians, carrying out customs duties and processing air passengers. This had its benefits in that periods between flights could be used to read and type up assignments on the computer. Despite my efforts I wasn’t able to get all my work done and when I returned to the UK for rest and recuperation I had to spend the whole three weeks of my leave tied to my computer. During this time I managed to get four months worth of work done in three weeks!
I would wholeheartedly recommend the course to anyone wishing to study law at degree level. The tutors were brilliant, very knowledgeable, and offered so much support over the telephone/internet or face to face at all times of the day or night and, in my case, wherever I was in the world. The learning materials are among the best I have seen and the students I met during the course were among some of the most deserved of admiration I have ever encountered; a full time job and young family was just the tip of the iceberg in some cases. It is not an easy ride but the rewards to those who, for whatever reason, are not able to study on a full-time basis are beyond compare.
Upon Graduating with first-class honours in Dec 2006 I started employment straight away as a trainee legal advisor at RAC. I had accumulated a wealth of life experience both before and during my five years of academic study. This gave me an advantage over and above my colleagues who had studied full time at their respective universities. I was quickly promoted within the organisation and I spent the next 18 months undertaking advisory work and some work experience, both in my personal time and in business time (with support from the RAC), within solicitors practices and barristers chambers. After spending time with both branches of the legal profession I quickly confirmed that I was more suited to a career at the Bar.
I applied to join an Inn of Court in 2009 and attended an interview in front of a panel of Barristers and Queens Counsel in London. To my complete astonishment I was awarded a Lord Denning scholarship to undertake the Bar Vocational Course. This provided me with a real boost; to have an independent panel of Barristers decide that I was worth investing in (£12,000) only confirmed that I had every chance to succeed in my chosen career.
I started my course in October 2009 (part-time) and at the same time I started my new job at ACAS. It has been difficult learning a new job alongside a very demanding course but my experience of studying part-time with the OU over five years has equipped me extremely well.
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
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