Case study

LLB Law graduate — Gian Luigi Di Franco

After dealing with legal matters in his job as a claims adjuster Gian Luigi decided that the legal profession was for him, so he embarked on an LLB (Hons) Law at the University of Essex Online

Why did you choose to study law?

I discovered an interest in law during my career in insurance. Working as a claims adjuster and latterly as a manager, I would have daily contact with the legal profession dealing with interesting legal issues. As I became more experienced, I found the legal issues of greater interest and felt a career as a legal professional was a good fit for me.

Why did you choose this particular course and institution?

I was working full time and could not afford to stop, so I looked at part-time courses. The institutions local to me did not offer part-time law degrees, so I looked at online/distance learning options. At the time, there weren’t that many options to study law online. I looked at the Open University but that course would take six years to complete and that was not compatible with my self-set goal, which was to qualify as a solicitor within ten years.

I found the University of Essex Online and I was delighted to see a four-year, part time, exclusively online course. The course was a Qualifying Law Degree, which meant if I passed the course, I could take the next steps to achieve my goals.

Tell us about the course and what it involved.

As a qualifying law degree, the course included all of the core topics. 15 credit modules lasted nine weeks and 30 credit modules were 18 weeks long. The modules were broken down into 9/18 weekly units, which included reading lists and recorded lectures. There were also weekly live Q&A sessions with the module tutor over Zoom. It was a good way to break down the workload for each module and track your progress through the virtual learning environment.

What did you enjoy about the course?

I enjoyed (most of) the topics covered, they were interesting and kept me engaged. The tutors were all very helpful. The virtual learning environment was also a good feature, it was user friendly, enabled students to track their progress and had department forums for students to post messages and ask questions about the course.

What were the challenges?

Being online, there was limited opportunity to interact with other students so learning felt somewhat isolated. However, through weekly live sessions, forums and some assignments which required group work, we were able to interact and learn from each other.

A law degree is not easy and the volume of reading required to complete a module was vast. Many hours of reading were required to complete assignments and this was a challenge to fit in around full-time work.

In an attempt to shorten the course, I was able to double up on modules but this doubled an already demanding workload. However, with planning and commitment, it was possible to complete these modules and it was worth it to keep the motivation up.

How was the course assessed?

Fortunately, we had no exams. The course was assessed through assessed discussion forums and assignments.

What is your role now?

Since completing my law degree in 2020, I have been lucky enough to make an internal move into my company’s legal department. Shortly after I was offered a training contract and qualified as a solicitor in 2022. In addition, I was also appointed as a company secretary, a voluntary position, to an association that represents a sector of the insurance market. The completion of my law degree was a significant factor in being offered this position.

What three qualities are important for a career in law?

  • Preparation - legal professionals are expected to know the law and give correct advice that is in the best interests of the client. One cannot guess how to do this and preparation is key for any interaction with a client.
  • Commitment - in such a demanding role it is important to commit time and effort to the projects you take on.
  • Enthusiasm - people should love what they do and legal professionals should be no exception. Lawyers should find enjoyment in the work that they do because it will make them better.

What are your career ambitions and how has the course helped you to achieve these?

My ambition was to qualify as a solicitor within ten years and it took me six and a half (four years at the University of Essex Online, with an unavoidable six-month interruption, a six-month break and an 18 month Legal Practice Course and training contract). My next ambition is to reach a senior position doing work that I enjoy and hopefully making a positive difference along the way.

What advice would you give to others who want to study law?

I would advise those wishing to study law to find the right institution that suits them and their needs. The course is tough but rewarding and students who feel able to commit to a demanding programme should go for it; a law degree can open many more doors than just the legal profession.

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