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To consider law lecturing

67 replies

ApplesOranges · 09/06/2017 08:53

I am a solicitor currently working in private practice part time, looking for a change. If I am honest, I do not enjoy giving advice (lack of confidence ; fear of getting it wrong), client demands etc.

Any university lecturers out there teaching the LLb who can comment on working hours, demands, best / worst parts of the job etc (I've avoided looking at tutoring on the legal practice course because it looks as though that course will be scrapped in the near future).

It would be a pay cut and an extra working day - do I take the plunge!


OP posts:
ApplesOranges · 09/06/2017 13:33

Thank you Mulled Wine - I will check if they have vacanices

OP posts:
corythatwas · 09/06/2017 13:42

Marking is also not the "tick for correct answer" marking you may remember from school. It is a teaching form in its own right: you will be expected to give detailed, focused, well expressed but sensitive feedback which will enable the student to work over his or her strengths and weaknesses. It's like an individual mini-essay for maybe 100 students, often twice per module. And then the department may well expect you to provide individual 1:1 feedback sessions to discuss the marks. As others have mentioned, there is usually no secretarial help so all the uploading of this data (which has to be kept and recorded) will have to be done by you.

There is also the fact that you will be the first port of call for students struggling with the workload for reasons of physical or (increasingly common) mental health problems- so you will have to become something of a counsellor.

And then there are the cases of plagiarism, which are very time-consuming.

And as universities are increasingly pushed for space, you may have to juggle these sensitive issues with the difficulty of obtaining privacy in a shared office.

As others have said, it's a great job. But you have to want to do it.

ApplesOranges · 09/06/2017 13:54

The "want" is definitely there. I would be good at supporting the students, I am confident of that following my experience with trainees etc.

The worry is that it would be too much of a change with 2 young children particularly in light of all the constant judgement etc. and I feel from what many of you are saying that I would be working a lot more than I am now (6 days on a 0.5 contract I think someone said) for an over 10k pay cut

OP posts:
corythatwas · 09/06/2017 14:03

I didn't necessarily say you would have to work 6 days on a 0.5 contract. Just that the work is very unpredictable. Like yesterday, when I had planned a full day of research and spent 4 hours supporting students with serious problems (whilst surreptitiously trying to eat a sandwich) because they needed that support now, and then another hour and a half responding to urgent emails.

I do have colleagues who have young children and are still doing ok, but they usually juggle with their other half about childcare and often have to make up for lost time by working at night or at weekends. I imagine you'd have to be quite tough.

It is also worth noting that the teaching is most time-consuming in the first few years and gets easier after that. After 20 years I do have subjects that I can pretty well walk into the lecture hall and talk about without preparation because I know what they need to learn and I know how it needs to be presented. But it won't be the case in the first few modules you do. And there are still new modules that I have to prepare for as meticulously as I did for those first ones.

K425 · 09/06/2017 14:14

Think about the area of law you practise, and see if you are able to teach in that area. I work in a business school and we have(ex) lawyers who lecture in employment law and business law.

Also, I agree with onlyjustme about income. You may be employed on a fee basis and that means submitting a fee claim and waiting for it to go through the claims system which, at least where I work, isn't speedy.

bojorojo · 09/06/2017 14:21

I think it is wise to remember that students in London are paying a huge amount for a GDL (£9000) the BPTC (£19,000) and the city firms are paying top dollar for the courses their trainee solicitors take. It is big business and high stakes for the students! It then is imperitive the lecturer really knows their stuff and can teach. The students need to do well to get jobs. Not many of us would want to part with so much money for a less than competent lecturer.

EssentialHummus · 09/06/2017 14:43

Not much to add, but FWIW I'll share my background. I went from the City (leading international firm and US "white shoe" firm) to working for myself from home. A big part of my decision was the fact that I suffer(/-ed) from anxiety and was on constant alert for a million-pound cock-up. (In hindsight, so are many people in City law, especially at the junior level.)

I now do a combination of things: advising small (mainly start-up) tech companies on the basics of establishing their legal presence, articles, shares etc; one day p/w at a local law clinic; running a small business helping people who want to train as lawyers with their CVs, applications, interviews etc; and running a second, similar business for more general clients. I also have money coming in from a rental property (just so you have the full picture).

When I saw that law was making my miserable or exacerbating my anxiety, I started one of these ^ from home, very slowly, on the weekends, just to see if it had legs. It grew enough to convince me to leave my job, taking an £80,000 pay cut (!). The others followed. It's still hard at times, but even the worst day is significantly better than the equivalent when I was working in the City though I have to provide my own biscuits and stationery now.

In your shoes, I'd try to identify what aspects of your work you actively enjoy, and imagine how you can expand those out - what would a full time role involving those aspects of your work look like? If you could write a job description for your ideal role, what would it be? I'm just not sure teaching will do it, based on what you've said about yourself.

You're very welcome to PM me if you want to chat through things.

NImbleJumper · 09/06/2017 15:55

I love love LOVE my job as a lecturer in humanities. It's all I ever wanted to do. I love young people (mostly), I love my subject, I love the atmosphere of a university

Me too - it's what I've wanted to do since I was 14 or so (girly swot from the off). But I have worked very very hard, and sacrificed a lot along the way ... And when I did my PhD, HE was considerably more benign (although with far fewer opportunities or mobility).

If you're not driven like that, then I don't think it would suit.

But you could try a few hourly paid sessional teaching gigs - maybe take leave without pay from your current job for 6 months, and test the waters? If you can afford it of course. I've never had any support other than myself, so I've always had to work full-time.

iveburntthetoast · 09/06/2017 18:41

I'm a lecturer in the humanities & also love my job, but it's very much as PPs have said. During the semester, 60 hour weeks are common. It eases off a bit during the summer, but still 40-45 hour weeks, which are focussed on getting research done. While I get 39 days annual leave pa, I've never taken all of it--there's just no way I would get any research out.

Also, academia can be very hostile to women with children (far less so than men!). It's improved a bit since I had my DD's, but there's still a perception that choosing to have DC's means you're not committed to your career.

I love my job & it's all I wanted to do, but it's hard work. You need to be truly passionate about your teaching/research to get through it all.

ApplesOranges · 10/06/2017 19:33

Thanks all. I think a career change to lecturing with 2 little ones is probably not wise at this stage in life from what you've all said

I am a hard worker and like to really commit to my job but to be honest I've been put off this option which I thought would suit my circumstances...I've also read about all the staff cuts here and there too.

OP posts:
Papafran · 10/06/2017 19:36

OP, if you want to DM me please do. I have plenty of experience/advice but don't really want to out myself on here.

happilyretiredlecturer · 16/01/2019 20:29

That scenario sounds familiar. It's very,very hard work and stressful. IMO it's not worth the pay cut. The hours LOOK attractive, but you will be working most evenings and weeknds just to keep your head above water for at least 3 years. Also you can be asked to teach a new subject at any time so the hard slogg starts all over again.

Socksey · 16/01/2019 20:35

Sorry.... OP.... I had to laugh at the extra holidays.... you may have 6 weeks contractually but you'll be lucky to have as many as 4....all time not spent in actual teaching will be spent in admin and chasing stuff up and writing new material .... the university admin think that 1 hour of contact equals one hour of prep and marking and any other admin.... be prepared for 70+ hour weeks... apart from that it's fine 🤔.... btw.... I'm looking for a way out...

Glovesick · 16/01/2019 21:06

What about doing an LPC elective as a guest lecturer to dip your toe in? I have been offered this opportunity but didn't take it (I am a city comm lit solicitor)

DarthLipgloss · 16/01/2019 21:17

I am a second career academic lecturing on healthcare professionals courses.
When students are in and I'm teaching I can teach 9-4 with only a short lunch break 3-4 days a week. I also have marking, planning, My PhD, other research, tutor groups, visiting students in the hospitals, open days , interviews meetings. It's less intense over the summer and Xmas.
You have to be able to engage a big group and keep them onside. I try to teach as creatively as possible, but some of my subject matter is a bit dry....
I get 6 weeks leave, we don't work to the school calendar.
I was in the NHS before, I originally took a 3k pay cut to go onto grade 8 lecturers salary...

happilyretiredlecturer · 20/01/2019 07:39

Teaching on an LL.B is hard work. People assume that lecturers have long holidays. They don't!. It is very difficult to take annual leave outside term time due to marking workloads. The academic year may start in mid-September but you will be marking referrals from late August onwards (having finished the summer marking in June and attending exam board and graduation in June/July). You probably won't be permitted to take any leave in term time. Working from home is possible, but only if your timetable allows. Expect long working days and working at weekends. You may e required to teach at weekends on part-time/distance learning courses. There may be marking schemes, but they will be minimal. You are expected to know your subject well enough to know what the answers are yourself. You can be asked to teach a new subject which is outside your area of expertise at any time. Preparing for seminars is incredibly hard work. You need to know your stuff! Students have very high expectations of what you should do for them New members of staff are usually given the subjects no-one else wants to teach. You are expected to be able to teach anything (e.g. crime, land, trusts, IP) and you could be teaching final year students who are anxious and demanding. You will probably be required to act as a pastoral tutor, dealing with students who have a variety of issues (the most common being stress, anxiety and/or depression). Dealing with stressed out students at assessment times is stressful, time-consuming and draining. The 'snowflake' generation are demanding of your time and energy. I wouldn't recommend it as a career. Most of my 'younger' colleagues were looking to change their career.

Hobsbawm · 20/01/2019 08:57

I'm at a Russell Group university and have a couple of friends who teach law.
They are not lecturers. They do not have PhDs. They tutor on specific courses, running seminars basically. Their contracts are casual, hourly rate ones. My understanding is that this is not uncommon. Ex-practitioners are used as tutors on some law courses, in the way that PhD students are. There is lots of flexibility on where work is done, with the tutors only having to be on campus for their tutorials.

However, it is very insecure work. Tutors are assigned to modules semester by semester, often. So the money earned isn't a regular salary and there is a risk of their being no work (although that's unlikely) or less work than a tutor needs. Work is often not full-time and it's pretty common for law tutors to have a second part-time job of some kind. Marking takes a very, very long time when you start out. There is also a lack of opportunity for progression and pay rises, unless you do a PhD.

The plus side is that it is relatively flexible. My friends are doing it precisely because they have young children and have flexibility on where and when they do planning and marking. That does mean that they are both prepared to pause their day at 3pm and then work in the evening, once the kids are in bed, if need be. Of course that's only possible if their contact teaching time isn't at 3-5pm! (Which it isn't for either of my friends, at least not every day). While they don't get long university holidays, they also get breaks from teaching time while the students are off. That time is usually truly full with marking though!

I also know someone who teaches at a non-Russell group university and it's not exactly the same there but not dissimilar. Perhaps more opportunities to progress.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

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