Mercedes Cooling 900x400 I Am BCU

Mercedes Cooling

Law with American Legal Studies - LLB (Hons)

Going to university was something Mercedes had always known she was going to do. However she didn’t expect to start working towards a career in law until a sudden change in circumstances. Now, she’s a Visiting Lecturer in the School of Law, while studying for her LLM in International Human Rights.

"Going to university is something I knew I was always going to do, having been educated at a private school where it’s ingrained in us that the next step to succeed in life after school is to go to a well-respected university or specialist college. 

I spent my whole childhood and teen years working towards studying music at a Conservatoire and that’s where I started my higher education journey. Unfortunately, circumstances changed and I had to transfer. I’d spent my whole life so far getting to one point and suddenly was unable to continue.

My A Levels weren’t the best because I didn’t focus on them knowing the highest grades weren’t needed for studying at a Conservatoire, instead I focused on practising my instrument.  

I knew I wouldn’t be able to reapply for places like Oxbridge or Russell Group unis where my friends from school were. I didn’t even know what subject I wanted to study.

My boyfriend told me that I was good at arguing and that I should consider looking into studying law. As I was already at BCU at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, I looked at what the School of Law offered and it seemed interesting, so I decided to call the School of Law directly and see if they would accept me onto the course. Amazingly, they accepted me, and so I transferred internally onto the LLB with American Legal Studies.

I thought that, having spent my whole life studying music, that I wouldn’t have any existing skills that would help me on my new course. Surprisingly, I discovered a lot more similarities than differences. As a musician, you need the ability to perform under pressure, just like a barrister: one performance, one court appearance. You have to perform as a barrister also and be able to translate the law in a way a jury can understand, just as you would translate the music to an audience as a musician. I suddenly felt a lot more confident, and started to believe that law was something I could also excel in.

I think the one thing I’m most proud of is the fact that I persisted. A big part of being a student is about keeping at it. There are always ups and downs, but you have the support of your tutors and your friends to keep you going. If you have the attitude to be successful, then you will be successful. Despite the fact I didn’t have an A Level in law, I was averaging pretty good grades throughout my first year, and was encouraged by my tutors to push myself even further; I ended up graduating with a first class degree, and one of the top in my year.

I’m also proud of taking all the opportunities that were given to me. It’s your prerogative to take them; nobody is going to hand them to you, and being a lawyer is just as much about your experience as it is your academic learning. I was president of our amazing Mooting Society, and went on an American Internship where I worked on actual death-row cases in the USA, and won awards for being so involved. I was even asked to give the speech to students during my graduation ceremony.

I’m now a visiting lecturer in the School of Law while I’m studying for my LLM in International Human Rights, where I’m working towards getting a distinction. During this journey, why not work as hard as you can and take on any opportunities to enrich yourself? In law especially, it’s important to focus on the experience as much as it is the grades in order to excel, and the School works above and beyond to help you get to where you want to be. I feel like I’ve graduated not only with all the academic requirements needed in law, but with a wealth of experience that is already helping me stand out in the industry."

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