Jumaal Ahmed

Graduate Diploma in Law

I studied music for my undergraduate degree
And I was working in the music industry which led towards a professional interest in broadcasting and publishing and this is how I became interested in the law. Many people seem surprised when I explain this academic route but for me, there's a clear transition as a lot of the entertainment industry relies on protecting rights and there's only so far you can go in licensing, broadcasting and publishing without at least some legal knowledge. Completing the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) part time allowed me to engage in law and enjoy it; the flexibility of studying part time and working at the same time was key. I could spend two full days per week on the GDL and then three days working. I was working in London at the time, so I lived in Oxford and commuted to London for work.

The tutors were fantastic
We had a range of tutors from different backgrounds, and that's one thing that helped me excel. One tutor Marc had professional legal experience as a solicitor. Andrew, was a barrister and spent time practising at the California bar. Another, Mick, is a published and renowned legal author, scholar and academic along with many more high quality tutors from a range of different professional and social backgrounds. This diversity in tutors meant that we were taught law from multiple angles, opening our minds to different applications of the law and not being confined to just that of professional practice or legal theory but a rounded combination of both. When students study law, the general aim seems to be to qualify as a barrister, or solicitor, or go into academia, so the GDL tutors at Brookes have every aspect covered and provide invaluable guidance using their own personal experience from their respective past and current professions. I believe this combination of education and professional guidance gave me a huge advantage when I began legal practice. 

I was introduced to tort law
For the first time on the GDL and it sparked my interest. The range of modules that I studied expanded my understanding and interest beyond any expectation. By learning about tort, contract and property law,  I developed a real interest in the key areas that would eventually form my profession. After leaving Brookes, completing a master's degree in Professional Legal Practice and then gaining a solicitor training contract in a specialist dispute resolution firm - Spires Legal in Oxford, I now practice in Tort, Contract and Property Litigation; all subjects that I was introduced to by the tutors on the GDL who taught these subjects with such a passion that it invoked a lifelong interest not only for me but also for my fellow Brookes law alumni many of whom I keep in touch with and have themselves gone on to successful careers in law. 

I still recommend the GDL to people who say                                                                                                                    jumaal-on-campus-using-phoneYou no longer require a law degree to qualify as a solicitor anymore with the introduction of the SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination). I continue to recommend the GDL, because while there is now an option to skip a law degree such as the GDL or LLB, the foundation that you get from doing one, in my opinion, is irreplaceable. The foundations the GDL gave me have been the cornerstone of my professional development.  Having the core and inbuilt legal knowledge that I developed on the GDL is something I draw upon regularly in my daily work. While being a more junior legal practitioner your ability will often be viewed with scepticism by clients, so being able to give instant answers and draw upon a solid base of legal knowledge helps the client trust and believe in your ability from day one.  Having your client's trust and belief is vital when practising litigation as the courts will expect that you have explored all options before a matter has come to trial. Guiding your clients towards alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation is built on trust and the belief that your advice to engage in ADR, which often involves considerable compromise, is in their best interest.

Mediation is something that's encouraged
By the courts and in certain circumstances sanctions can be placed on parties who do not and/or refuse to engage in ADR . I have found in practice that a lot of the time issued proceedings end up going to court, so it's a great sense of personal achievement when an out-of-court settlement is found. However, often by the time things have escalated and the client has come to a specialist dispute resolution firm, such as Spire Legal it's often gone past that. 

I do a lot of advocacy in court. 
When I chose the solicitor route I had a preconception that solicitors don’t do a lot of advocacy and that acting and speaking in court is reserved for barristers. However, working in litigation I have found this not to be the case. I regularly appear in the Oxford County Court and occasionally attend hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London having acted as an advocate there. My day-to-day work is a mix of mostly office work involving advising clients, ADR, drafting and trial preparation and then once every couple of weeks attending court for a hearing. While my work is almost all civil, I have also defended clients at criminal trials.

Before I started, I thought being a litigation lawyer would mostly consist of advising legally and while knowing the law and advising on it is a big part of the job I have found that so much of it relates to connecting with your clients so they trust your advice and the most valuable role of a litigation lawyer is about taking on the strategic decisions for your clients and thereby minimising the stress involved in often complex and overwhelming disputes protecting the client's wellbeing and mental health in the process. The professional and educational foundations I developed on the GDL not only in relation to law but also the collaborative, communicational and presentational skills were vital in getting to this professional stage and continue to play a vital role in my continued professional development.