Future Legal Mind 2019 winner Charley Anne Gordon

Student blog: How I became a Future Legal Mind

7 February 2020

Last year, University of Buckingham Law student Charley-Anne Gordon was named the winner of National Accident Helpline’s Future Legal Mind Award. Here, Charley-Anne – who is graduating with a First in her degree – talks about the experience and gives her tips for Law students entering the competition this year.

I first found out about the Future Legal Mind Award through my Law School. I wasn’t sure whether to enter, so I spoke to a member of the academic staff about it and they encouraged me to go for it!

The Law School have always been really supportive, there is a family feel to the University and the academic staff all know us really well, so I appreciated their advice and encouragement.

To enter, I had to submit an essay of no more than 650 words. The question asked us to talk about our ambitions, why we’d chosen the Law, and how having a legally-trained mind would benefit ourselves and society. I thought about the question and what I wanted to talk about in my response, then I built it out into the paragraphs I would write, and it flowed from there.

I wrote about my ambition to become a legal academic and how I wanted to show that the law is truly inclusive. As a wheelchair user, I am passionate about breaking down barriers and showing that I can pursue my career dreams.

When I heard that I had been named as one of 10 people on the competition shortlist, I was really pleased because that’s such a huge achievement in a nationwide competition. For the next stage, I had to record a short smartphone video of me talking about why I thought I should be named as the next Future Legal Mind.

My sister filmed it for me, and I found it nerve racking. Some people can be quite natural when they speak on camera and it just flows, but I needed a guide of what I was going to say to refer back to. So I put together some notes, and after a few practices it felt more natural. I’m a perfectionist, but there’s only so many times you can film a video! It was a good experience because it took me out of my comfort zone and, if I needed to do anything like that in future, I have that experience behind me now.

When I found out I had won Future Legal Mind, I Facetimed my Mum and cried – she thought there was something wrong at first!

For my prize, I received a £2,000 fund, which I am putting towards my PhD studies. I finished my degree in December 2019 and recently found out that I am graduating with a First! I also received an award for the best performance in final examinations and a merit prize for general academic achievement, so I am over the moon with my results and thankful to the Law School for all their help and support.

Now I’m putting together ideas for my PhD study, which I’m hoping to start in September. That involves looking at different topics which I’m interested in exploring and then preparing a research proposal for the one which I want to go ahead with.

As well as the money, for my prize I got to spend a winner’s day in London – firstly, visiting the Ministry of Justice, and then taking part in a mentoring session.

Visiting the Ministry of Justice was a great experience and I spent some time with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, who at the time was Paul Maynard MP. Paul has cerebral palsy, so I was very interested to hear if that affected his career at all. He was very upfront about this and said he didn’t want anyone to think of him as being different, which I can definitely relate to. We talked about the law around domestic abuse and coercive control, which is a topic I have an interest in and focused on for my dissertation. It was interesting to hear a politician’s view on it, as a change from looking at a legal perspective, so this showed me another viewpoint and I included it in my dissertation.

Afterwards, I met with Jonathan White and Adam Nabozny, who are both experienced lawyers. Jonathan looks after all of the legal issues for National Accident Helpline, and Adam is Managing Director of National Accident Law.

I found it really interesting to talk to them about what their lives are like in the corporate legal world, and it made me rethink what I thought I knew about corporate law. They gave me a lot of good advice and it was great to hear their stories.

Winning Future Legal Mind was a wonderful experience, everyone was really supportive, and I saw people from my hometown sharing the story from our local paper online, which meant a lot to me. It has been great for my personal development and is something I can talk about in applications for internships and jobs, which will help to set me apart from other applicants.

Future Legal Mind 2020 is open for entries from Law students and trainees until February 28th. To see the essay question and for further details, click here.