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Ian McDonald


When Ian McDonald moved to London in 2011, he knew that he wanted to get back into education and began googling different options and asking friends and colleagues for opinions. He says: ‘Birkbeck was one of the first names that came up and when I realised that it was an evening university it seemed ideal, as I wanted to keep working during the day.

‘I had been working in journalism for some time but after moving into PR and communications at the legal NGO Liberty I was surrounded by lawyers all day and that inspired me and made me realise I wanted to study law.

‘I went to an open evening and spoke to some of the tutors to understand more about the academic reputation and background of Birkbeck’s Law school. That really helped me to make my decision to enrol, and I haven’t looked back.

‘I feel very lucky in that there is a huge overlap between my work and my study. We sometimes talk about cases in class that Liberty has acted in, and at work I have to read and make sense of judgments and complex legal ideas and put them into everyday language. The work and study definitely complement one another.

‘I’ve been constantly impressed by the quality of teaching and the knowledge of the academics. They are also a source of support and encouragement, often going above and beyond what’s required to offer advice with future career plans.

‘The location of the College is another benefit of studying at Birkbeck. You’re in the heart of the University of London. I spend a lot of time in the library and the facilities there are great, plus you have all the educational benefits of having parliament and the courts on your doorstep. I’ve done mini-pupillages at barristers’ chambers which are just down the road. And you have the libraries, museums and entertainment close by. If you want to study law, I can’t think of a better place to do it.

‘I can’t imagine that there are too many other campuses where you can meet so many people from so many different backgrounds, countries, cultures and ages. I’ve sat in seminars and thrashed out legal problems with 21 year olds and 80 year olds, which I think is amazing. I’ve joined the editorial board of the Birkbeck Law Review and I’ve met so many people through that.

‘I have signed up to the Birkbeck mentoring scheme and was teamed with an alumnus who is now a QC. We meet regularly and he invited me to spend a day in court with him and advises me.  I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it hadn’t been for Birkbeck. My ambition is to go to the Bar, so to have a mentor who is a QC is brilliant.

‘A lot of my friends don’t go to university and I was the first person in my family to go. I had convinced myself that it wasn’t necessary, and while many people do well without it, I now realise that you don’t know what it’s going to do for you until you take the plunge. I am twice the thinker I was, twice the writer I was, I am more confident, my public speaking has improved and I just know that I’m more employable and a more serious prospect for going on and building my career.

‘I have recently been informed that I have been accepted to read for the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) at the University of Oxford this September. It is Oxford's equivalent of a Master’s in Law, and is one of the most highly-regarded in the Common Law world.’

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'If you want to study law, I can’t think of a better place to do it.'