After suffering a personal trauma, Open University (OU) Law student Elizabeth Hill found solace in her studies and the inspiration for a new career. At 23, she’s now on a journey to becoming a barrister and is driven to pursue a career at the Bar so she can advocate for others.
On the back of winning the prestigious Lincoln’s Inn Neuberger Prize, Elizabeth shares her story so far:
“I did well in my GCSE and A Levels, which gave me a lot of options, but I had no idea which options to take! I started my university studies with primary teaching at a brick university, however, I soon realised the situation just didn’t suit me, so I moved into full-time work as a police officer.
I also began studying part-time with The Open University to pursue my passion for French. There wasn’t any career drive for that – just a personal interest. I enjoyed the subject, and it was the first time I had studied something academically for fun rather than because I ‘had’ to. It was during that time that I was assaulted – affecting both my personal and professional life.
“I couldn’t afford legal action, so I had to advocate and stand up for myself. At 20 years old that was very overwhelming. What I took from those experiences, positive and negative, was this fight for justice and the importance and power of advocating for yourself or others.”
Throughout the difficult year, Elizabeth says that continuing to study was the focus she needed and sparked her decision to pursue a career in Law:
“Studying was the thing that I always came back to, no matter what situation I was in. I kept submitting my assignments on time; I was still attending tutorials. It was the OU and my studies that centred me when everything else was up in the air.
“While I was going through that situation, I changed as a person and I had to mature very quickly. It helped me to realise my actual passion and in October 2020 I began studying Law full-time with the OU. I’ve had incredible support from my tutors, and I’ve already booked onto my modules for next year. I’m definitely in the right place.
“My decision to study Law accumulated from a series of difficult situations but this gave me the motivation and the drive to pursue a career at the Bar. The driving force for me in being a barrister is the opportunity to advocate for others.”
Elizabeth has already received industry recognition after being named one of the Lincoln’s Inn Neuberger Prize Winners 2021. She was put forward by her tutors at the OU and will receive funding and mentorship as she moves into her final year of study:
“I was very happy and immensely proud that I received recognition from OU academics. After so many changes and situations, it felt like justification that I’m now on the right path.
“Soon, I’ll start writing applications for scholarships for the Bar course and being an OU student has set me up really well for that process. It requires independence and self-motivation and as OU students we’re used to balancing studies with personal lives and jobs.
“Knowing that I’m an OU student and seeing Laurie-Elizabeth Ketley receiving the scholarship from the Gray’s Inn was a massive motivation to show that an OU student can receive a top scholarship in the industry. The only difference between OU students and others is the number of responsibilities the student typically must manage, and the self-determination required.
“My advice to other students considering studying with the OU is to go for it! There are so many benefits to distance learning that has definitely been reflected through this pandemic. The biggest things for me are being able to manage my own personal commitments and my mental health. My study commitments slot in really well with my work and other responsibilities and the lectures are at flexible times which has worked great for me.
“Studying distance learning with the OU has increased my independence and self-drive exponentially; it has put me in great stead for a future career in Law.”