What I loved about College was how everyone had chosen subjects that they wanted to study (and at that time, had chosen to go into higher education!) and this completely changed the atmosphere compared with school. You were able to find people with the same interests easily and the Refectory was a hub to relax and catch up with friends.

On our way round the College open evening, my dad joked that I “loved arguing”, so why not visit the Law stand! It was the teacher’s enthusiasm that really switched me on to the subject and the course didn’t disappoint. We visited the highest Criminal Court in England to see trials in action (including a murder trial!) and had a tour of Parliament. It really brought key topics to life.

In my first year, I was put forward by my teacher to attend a fully funded ‘Exploring Law’ Conference at Cambridge University – a whole weekend of lectures and activities designed to introduce what it’s like studying Law as a degree. Being the first in my family to go to university, this really broke down barriers for me and made it a realistic option.

Doing Law at A Level gave me the chance to figure out whether this was something I could take further as a career. I’m not sure I’d have gambled on doing a Law degree without knowing for sure that it was for me and it gave me a great foundation for my first year, which improved my confidence. Doing an EPQ was also a great way to learn how to communicate in a more formal style ahead of my degree – I chose to research and write about the death penalty in the USA.

What I loved about university was learning about all the different areas of law. People are most aware of criminal law, as it’s what we see in TV dramas, but there are so many specialisms. Family law emerged as an area of interest for me and it’s where I chose to specialise after gaining some hands-on experience during my two-year training contact after graduating. It spans everything from divorce and separations to nuptial agreements and cohabitation, child arrangements and domestic violence. It’s a great application of legal principles and I love using my problem-solving skills to help people in difficult situations move forward with their lives when a relationship has broken down.

I am proud to work at a top award-winning local firm, DMH Stallard, and a key career highlight was receiving Surrey Law Society’s Rising Star of the Year Award in 2022 for my contribution to the profession outside of my day job. I sit on several committees that aim to improve work/life balance and inclusivity in the legal profession, a subject close to my heart. I also spend time mentoring aspiring and junior solicitors who are just starting out in their career. It’s my hope that being open about my background and experiences might play a part in encouraging others to fulfil their dreams and become a lawyer.

One of the early challenges I faced was getting comfortable with networking. It’s not something that came easily to me, but it’s an important skill to develop. I started by going to events with a friend or colleague, staying close to them and just listening at first. As time went on, I found I could relax and I had more to say and ask. Now, it’s just a natural part of professional life and I actually enjoy it!

For anyone considering a career in Law, I’d say don’t worry if you don’t have “connections” through friends or family. If you’re willing to put yourself out there and knock on lots of doors, you can succeed. And also, you don’t have to do a particular mix of subjects to study for a Law degree, so study subjects that you enjoy – you’re more likely to do well and getting those good grades matters more than what you study.

Amber Matheson

Reigate College: 2011-2013

Higher Education: LLB Hons with Placement, University of Surrey; Master of Laws and Legal Practice Course, University of Law.

Currently: Solicitor, DMH Stallard

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