Student Profile: Savio Baptista, LLB Candidate, University of Strathclyde

savio-1-500x500

What is your name and country of origin?

My name is Savio Baptista and I am from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Tell us briefly about your educational background

First, I graduated from York University with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society in 2010. Later on, I graduated from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology with an Ontario College Diploma in Law Clerk in 2014.

What are you studying?

I am studying law in the LLB (Scots & English) (Graduate Entry) program at the University of Strathclyde.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Strathclyde?

While researching graduate-entry LLB programmes in the UK, I was captivated by the University of Strathclyde’s law school and its degree programmes. In particular, the Dual Qualifying Accelerated (Scots and English Law) programme stood out amongst other graduate-entry LLB programmes, since it allows an individual to gain an in-depth understanding of both English and Scottish legal systems.

How would you describe the University of Strathclyde?

At Strathclyde, students will greatly benefit from the quality of teaching. The manner in which lectures are delivered opens the door to deeper learning. I myself have consistently been challenged since I am required to be innovative, and think more critically as I go through my course work and assignments.

Have you been a member of any student clubs or societies within the University of Strathclyde?

During my first year as a law student, I served as an Editorial Board Member with the Strathclyde Student Law Review. In this position, I was required to read, critically analyze, and edit submitted articles and book reviews. In addition, I served as the Halls Vice Convener/President (Collegelands) for the University of Strathclyde Halls Committee. As a committee member, I took part in planning student events, and served as a liaison between the University of Strathclyde, University Of Strathclyde Students’ Association, Residence Services, and students living on residence.

Currently, I am the Editor-In-Chief of the Strathclyde Student Law Review. In this role, I am in charge of putting together the annual publication of the Strathclyde Student Law Review, and overseeing all duties and responsibilities of the Editorial Board Members.

What has been your experience living in Student Halls?

The staff members at Strathclyde were extremely helpful when I was applying for my student housing. From the beginning, my questions were always answered in a timely manner, and my interactions with staff members never left me with a feeling of uncertainty.

My advice to international students is to strongly consider living in Student Halls during the first year of study. First of all, it is a great way to meet people within your course and others who also attend the University of Strathclyde. The student accommodations also provide students with access to various facilities that they will need throughout the academic year.

What are you hoping to do post-graduation?

Following the completion of my law degree, I plan to pursue a career as a real estate lawyer. As a real estate lawyer, I would be expected to have a strong understanding of the law in areas, such as property law and contract law. Secondly, I will need to possess a range of skills in order to successfully handle the legal aspects of residential and commercial real estate transactions. Such knowledge and skills will be developed as I undertake courses in law school so that I will eventually be able to think like a lawyer.

What advice would you give to prospective students?

Applying to the UK for higher education is a lengthy process, and there are also various costs to consider. Based on my experience, I would strongly recommend getting in touch with a representative from Future Project. The Future Project team will work closely with you, and provide an in-depth understanding of the application process.

How did Future Project assist you during the application process?

The Future Project team was really helpful when I needed to apply for my student visa. I was provided with clear instructions on how to proceed with my Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number once I accepted my offer of admission from the University of Strathclyde.

Were you awarded any scholarships?

Yes, I was awarded Scotland’s Saltire Scholarship. This is a scholarship awarded by the Scottish Government for successfully demonstrating that Scotland is the ideal destination to pursue higher education.

How did you hear about the scholarship?

I learned about this scholarship opportunity through the University of Strathclyde and Future Project.

In what ways has this scholarship had a significant impact on your life?

As a Saltire Scholar, I received an invitation from the Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages to attend a reception welcoming all Saltire Scholarship recipients to Scotland.

This event took place at Edinburgh Castle. It was truly a night to remember since it was the first time I had visited Edinburgh, which is the capital of Scotland. As well, I got the opportunity to go on a private tour of the castle. These experiences would not have been possible without the Saltire Scholarship Programme.

Are international students permitted to work part-time in the UK?

If you wish to work part-time during your studies, then I would recommend applying for your National Insurance Number as soon as you arrive in the UK. In my experience, the process for obtaining the National Insurance Number was relatively quick.

I currently work as a Residential Accommodation Assistant at my residence. There are also numerous part-time job opportunities available on campus and within the Glasgow City Centre. However, it is important to keep in mind that your student visa will only permit you to work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during each school term.

80/20 Your University Life

I was reminded recently of an article by Mark Manson discussing the 80/20 principle. Although the article was mainly about its general application, the principle can and should be applied to the daily grind of university life.

So here it is.

In the early 20th century, the economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden were producing 80% of the peas. Applying his observation to economic output, Mr. Pareto began to notice that across industries, societies, and companies, 80% of the production frequently came from the 20% most productive section.

Not surprisingly, his observation became known as the ‘Pareto Principle’ but is now commonly referred to as the 80/20 principle.

The 80/20 principle states that 80% of the output or results will come from 20% of the input or action.

Historically, the 80/20 principle has been very popular in sales and management. Examples of the applicability and accuracy of the 80/20 principle are numerous but I will not list them here. Of course, the ratio is approximate, but in terms of time management that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that managers have consistently found that 20% of their time creates 80% of their productivity, which is why the 80/20 principle is still widely taught to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

So how can this principle be applied to your life in university?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you currently spend 20% of your time on that results in producing 80% of your preparation and engagement in lectures and seminars?
  • What do you spend 20% of your time on while researching that results in producing 80% of what you write in your essays?
  • What do you spend 20% of your time on throughout the year that will result in 80% of your grade?

If these are not easy questions for you to answer, review your course handbooks to determine how you will be assessed and what is required to achieve the grades you aim for. Learning outcomes might not be exciting but they provide necessary information and should be read. Once you understand the requirements, the questions should be fairly easy to answer.

Now what?

Well, once you have answered those questions, start increasing the efficiencies in your student life to produce better results.Spend less time on the things that won’t ultimately produce results and use that time to round out your university experience.

Important Career Considerations

Every student who plans to become a lawyer should consider in advance which path is best suited to reach that goal. No path is easy and each has its own distinct benefits and challenges. As someone who studied law in the UK, I cannot stress enough how important it is to consider the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) requirements prior to making your decision. The NCA assesses legal education credentials obtained outside of Canada for individuals applying for admission to a law society in a Canadian common law jurisdiction.

The NCA is a standing committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. The mandate of the NCA is to help Canada’s law societies protect the public interest by assessing the legal education and professional experience of individuals who obtained their credentials outside of Canada.

Once a file is assessed, a UK law graduate is typically required to write between 4 and 8 exams. This is mostly dependent on whether the applicant has completed a 2 or 3-year law degree. Upon successful completion of these requirements, the NCA issues a Certificate of Qualification.

When I left for the UK I had every intention of returning home to begin the NCA journey to qualification. The additional exams didn’t put me off because I knew of many others who had studied abroad and successfully qualified as lawyers in Canada. However, when I arrived in the UK, I realized there were many more options than I had considered.

If you aspire to a career in international law, whether that might be at the International Criminal Court in Holland, with the United Nations at one of its four major office sites, or at Magic Circle firm in the City of London, a UK law degree is a great path to get there.

Although you may be aware of the International Criminal Court and the United Nations, you are likely unfamiliar with the Magic Circle. I know I was. The Magic Circle is an informal grouping of the leading law firms in the UK, which are amongst the largest and most influential in the world. It is an incredible accomplishment for any student to secure a Training Contract at a Magic Circle firm. In Canadian terms, think Bay Street but on a much larger scale.

Each year I was at Sussex, the respective Magic Circle firms would attend the Career Fair in an effort to recruit the top law students. Although competition is fierce for those positions, it is a unique opportunity and something that isn’t available in Canada.

The point I am trying to make is that Canadians who study law in the UK benefit from the history of the country as well as the size of its economy. Studying law in the UK presented me with incredible options I hadn’t ever considered. Keep this in mind when you make your decision of where to study. If you aim to return to Canada, the NCA won’t stop you from becoming a lawyer. Ultimately, whether abroad or in Canada, a law degree will almost never lead you to a dead end. It will develop your ability to work hard, think critically and write well. All of which are employable skills in high demand.

The most important advice I can give prospective students is to research the available options and plan accordingly.

– Sonny Grewal, LL.B (Hons)

Cars, Culture and Conversation

I have always had a car or at least access to a car in Canada.  So, I thought adjusting to public transportation in the UK might be a bit difficult. Unlike Canadians, who generally cannot wait for their 16th birthday, it is not unusual to meet adults in the UK who have never driven a car and have no intention of getting their license.

Although Canadians are gradually embracing public transport, especially in metropolitan centres, there is still a deep-rooted commitment to car ownership.  This is in large part due to our vast geographical region and the subsequent impracticality of providing public transportation.

The dense population and much smaller geographical footprint in the UK has allowed for a world-class public transportation system to develop. The combination of trains, subways and buses allowed me to travel, as a full time student/part time tourist, without inconvenience during my 3 years in the UK.  In addition to both accessibility and cost savings, I considered it a benefit to commute relatively stress free.

IMG_2231

My experience as a Torontonian, as it is with most car commuters, was to painstakingly rush from point A to point B. I am sure I am not alone in feeling as though it is a battle to race through that annoying part of the day. However, in my UK experience, public transportation created a totally different mindset as well as a sense of camaraderie. It allowed for “down time” after lectures, seminars and readings but also, at times, stimulating conversation with fellow students and even strangers.

You will find that this “social” attitude is not limited to public transportation.  Before urban planning was a taught degree, it was the result of necessity in the UK. While living in Brighton & Hove, most of my needs were within walking distance (green grocer, butcher shop, bakery, chemist, barber, restaurants, and coffee shops).  It was amazing how quickly the shopkeepers became familiar faces, which certainly provided a sense of community and belonging.

2733221_589d883d

Studying law in the UK was great but when I reflect on my 3 years, life in the UK was equally amazing! The seemingly insignificant differences are something I now miss and memories I will always cherish.

– Sonny Grewal, LL.B (Hons)

Canadian Legal 2014 Salary Guide

If you are considering law school in the UK or otherwise, you have likely considered whether the financial investment will ultimately be worth it. As the Robert Half® Legal 2014 Salary Guide indicates, the payoff is not immediate but it is significant: www.roberthalf.com/salary-guides

A career in law is one of lifelong learning. Your graduation from law school is not the end of the journey but rather, the end of the beginning. As you develop your skills and grow your professional network you will be rewarded with increasing compensation.

Take a longer view of your career earning potential and don’t be discouraged if your first job doesn’t look like ‘Suits’ or ‘The Good Wife’.

– Shawn Lestage, LL.B (Hons)

Barriers to entry: is law school in the UK less difficult than in Canada?

In my opinion, the answer to the above question is plainly no. However, I didn’t attend a Canadian law school so I will acknowledge at the outset that my opinion is likely biased.

More importantly, I think the question fails to appreciate significant philosophical and methodological differences between the two education systems.

Canadian law schools have notoriously high admission standards and successful applicants are justifiably proud of their accomplishment. Several factors contribute to such rigorous standards. A non-exhaustive list might include:

  1. Required post-secondary education (undergraduate degree largely preferred);
  2. The LSAT exam; and
  3. Limited first year seats (approximately 7400 applicants for 2400 seats).

Competition is fierce and in some respects this is a positive thing for the Canadian legal industry. I have heard anecdotally from friends at Canadian law schools that the attrition rate is close to nil. This could be interpreted to mean that once admitted to law school graduation is a near certainty. In other words, getting in is the hard part. However, I have not found any data to support that claim. As well, a low attrition rate makes sense in the light of such accomplished students attending Canadian law schools. The fact is, demand is high and supply is low, and subsequently the students in Canadian law schools are the ones who planned ahead and outperformed their peers at that stage. The reward for planning ahead is that some of the barriers are overcome at an earlier stage in the process. Having said that, barriers to admission do not equate to a more difficult or better education.

And thankfully, for those who weren’t so proactive, myself included, that isn’t the end of the story.

The UK legal system has its own barriers; however, most are not at the admission to law school stage. In large part, this is the result of having 131 law schools for prospective students. To put this in more meaningful terms, there are nearly 4 law schools in the UK for every 1 in Canada (adjusted for population). As a result, it is certainly less of an achievement to gain admission. Instead greater emphasis, at least in terms of legal employability, is placed on degree classification. This is not to say that results in Canadian law schools are not important. They most certainly are.

Each year, approximately 30,000 students in the UK embark on a law degree despite there being only about 4,500 training contracts and 500 pupilages (akin to Articles in Canada) available. To have a realistic expectation of becoming a lawyer in the UK, a student should and basically must aim to graduate in the top 15 per cent of his or her class. Even more competitive is a career in the City, where a student should aim for the top 5 per cent of his or her class.

Returning to the initial question, is law school in the UK less difficult than in Canada? Again I would say no. As you may or may not be aware, the common law was developed in Great Britain after the Norman Conquest. To date, the UK legal system remains one of the most influential in the world. The Canadian legal system is largely derived from that legal tradition. Although Canada has developed marked differences, both procedurally and substantively, a legal education in the UK will equip students with the necessary skills to become a successful lawyer in any common law jurisdiction. Besides myself, there are UK law graduates throughout the legal world who can attest to that fact.

The real difference, in my view, is when and where students encounter the barriers. In the UK, the barriers to a legal career begin, in large part, during the final year of law school.

What does this all mean for Canadians who pursue a legal education in the UK with the plan of returning home?

I have two short answers to that question.

First, it means they should prepare to work hard and to expect challenges in law school and after. Canadian students should set their goals early, devise a realistic plan and work diligently to achieve it.

Second, Canadians should be proud of the education they receive in the UK and the results they earn. It is a privilege to learn from leaders in their respective academic fields and students should seize the opportunity to bring home what they learn.

– Sonny Grewal, LL.B (Hons)

Get connected to receive updates of new posts.

Highlights of UK Living

Going to law school in the UK was a fantastic academic experience and worth it for that reason alone. However, living in England and having the opportunity to travel throughout Europe provided a cultural education that I wouldn’t trade!

I was able to travel to 16 countries during my 3 years in the UK. Don’t worry; I won’t bore you with pictures from all my travels. I will share 2 personal highlights. The second isn’t exactly cultural but golf fans will appreciate it.

Along with 2 other Canadian students, Sonny and I co-founded the University of Sussex Canadian Student Law Society. In our respective roles we planned and led a Remembrance Day trip to Dieppe, France, which has since become an annual trip for the Canadians studying law at Sussex.

On August 19, 1942, during WWII, in the Battle of Dieppe, 907 Canadian soldiers lost their lives. This is still the largest number of Canadian soldiers lost in a single day. Dieppe has not forgotten the sacrifice made by so many Canadians on that day and it was a very moving experience to visit the museum and the memorials in their honour.

The Dieppe marina.

IMG_0095

One of the memorials in honour of the Canadians who fought in Dieppe.

IMG_0647

For those of you who love golf the way I do, you will understand what it means to attend a major championship. I was able to attend Sunday of The 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, Kent. For me, this was a cultural event that I wouldn’t normally have had the opportunity to attend had I not decided to attend Sussex Law School.

The ticket I still keep.

IMG_0429_2

2011 Champion – Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland.

clarketout

I can confidently endorse a law degree in the UK on the merit of the education alone but it would be wrong, in my view, to discount the life changing opportunity to live in the UK and travel throughout Europe.

Thanks for reading!

– Shawn Lestage, LL.B (Hons)

Seminars 101

You are likely aware by now, that depending on the course, seminars are held on a bi-weekly rotation. Typically, a reading list consisting of case law and journal articles as well as a few questions will be assigned. Seminars provide an opportunity for students to discuss the nuances of a particular topic, which correlates with the lecture schedule, in a small group setting. Whereas lectures tend to be held in an auditorium, seminars allow for a more interactive learning experience

Seminars are a vital part of the learning cycle. Initially, in lectures, you will be presented an overview of the topic; legal reasoning and concepts are introduced along with key judgments. As you prepare for a seminar you will gain a deeper understanding of the “live issues” associated with that area of the law. Completing the cycle is the actual seminar. This is where, through small group interaction, you will reinforce what you have learned, clarify any areas you have misinterpreted and fill in any voids you may have over looked.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared for seminars. Many common law legal concepts are layered and are introduced over a series of seminars. Being unprepared for a seminar may hinder your learning, as you will lack the foundation upon which future concepts are built. Additionally, most seminars employ the Socratic method of teaching where the Tutor will ask questions designed to stimulate conversation and draw out what you have learned in preparation.

Arriving prepared will make seminars much more pleasurable and engaging and also be an immeasurable benefit come revision time.

Edict tip – Be respectful of your peers. In other words, don’t consider a seminar as your personal tutoring session. Some discussions are best left for one on one time with your Tutor. This is especially true if you find that you are the only one who doesn’t grasp a particular concept.

Revision tip – Frequently, due to time constraints, only certain questions are discussed at length in a seminar. Start an exam topic sheet for each course and make notes about the areas that were given attention during each seminar. In my experience these are the topics most likely to show up on your exam.

– Sonny Grewal, LL.B (Hons)

Get to know your Academic Advisor

When you begin law school, you will be assigned an Academic Advisor who is typically a member of the faculty and should be considered an invaluable resource throughout your studies. I highly recommend that you meet with your Academic Advisor early and often. Some of the benefits of fostering this relationship include:

  1. Gaining clarity as to what is expected in course work and on examinations;
  2. Research guidance to improve the quality of your submitted work; and
  3. Explanation of your marks on assessed work and suggested areas for future improvement.

You will also find that during the application process, whether for a legal position or further education, you will need academic references. An Academic Advisor who has first hand knowledge of your work ethic, writing and research skills and can speak to your personality is going to provide a much more persuasive reference. Avoid generic references by knowing and impressing your Academic Advisor.

It may seem intimidating at first but your Academic Advisor is there for your betterment. I cannot stress enough that you need to make use of this resource, as the insight and encouragement you will receive will produce measurable results.

Much of the learning in law school comes from interaction with faculty outside of lectures and seminars. Don’t miss out on the opportunity!

– Sonny Grewal, LL.B (Hons)