‘W360: Feel the fear, and do it anyway – You could be very glad you did !’ by Susan Desfontaines

Now, I’m going to be frank. When I was considering my optional module at the end of my degree I was concerned about W360 Justice in Action (the Open Justice module) because, as a relatively new addition to the Open University’s offering, it was a bit of an unknown quantity and the success of my overall degree grade rested on how well I could do in the last two 30 credit modules. I had a big interest in social justice, so it had real appeal, but I was particularly concerned about the team-working element and whether, despite my best efforts, this could negatively impact on my grades.

I was also the girl that started this degree not quite knowing where I wanted to go with it, but who had always said from the start “it definitely wont be criminal law.“ Ha! How wrong I was.

Once I embarked on W360 I decided to get fully out of my comfort zone and signed up to the Freedom Law Clinic project to participate in a criminal appeals case, the reasoning being that I would get the most out of the module by experiencing an area of law that “ I definitely wasn’t going to get into. “ I also taught A level Law at the local school, which I was able to add to my pro-bono experience portfolio.

At the law clinic I was assigned to a joint enterprise murder case and became increasingly engaged in what I was doing. It was challenging, and the workload every bit as demanding as I had been warned it would be, but I thoroughly enjoyed the practical application of the legal skills that I had developed over the course of my degree studies.

I also used the opportunity to improve on my team working skills, which, because of my need for control, had been of such concern to me. I was well supported by my assigned tutor, who dedicated time, effort and frank feedback into showing me a better way to work well within my team and deal with the frustration I felt when others did not apply the same work ethic I demanded of myself.

The experience has transformed the way I view myself as a person and a professional, it has ignited my interest in pro-bono’s relationship to justice and in criminal law itself. I also gained real insight into my own strengths and weaknesses.

As a result I will be starting with a local authority next month as their legal officer, prosecuting rogue landlord cases in the Magistrates’ Court and case managing and briefing advocates for cased to be dealt with at the Crown Court. I will be training on the job, before being assigned my own independent case load and be responsible for deciding if the cases and evidence collected meet the CPS tests.

It’s a role I never envisaged taking up at the start of my degree, it is invaluable experience as I start my legal career and it is in no small part a direct result of my W360 experience, from both my viewpoint and that of the interview panel who doubled the length of my allocated interview slot in order to discuss the experience!

W360 is challenging and by no means easy or comfortable, but if you engage in it wholeheartedly you may well be shocked with just how much it has to give back in terms of personal and career development.

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