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Simon Jacobs

Simon JacobsPartner, Seddons

LLB, 1986  

What made you choose Middlesex University?

When I came to apply to university, I still wasn't sure what I wanted to study. Once I decided on law, Middlesex stood out for three main reasons –, the reputation of Middlesex, the quality of the course and the location of the campus. Middlesex had a particularly good reputation as a Polytechnic for law.

The location of the university was very convenient and I liked that Middlesex had a very good 'education for all' attitude. It was the best choice considering I wanted to stay in London.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

The law lecturers made the course very stimulating and enjoyable. They were deeply committed and cared about their areas of law, as well as being extremely generous with their time. I remember being surprised at how much time they were willing to spend with students struggling with aspects of law that were both complex and alien.

As a student you just felt like everybody wanted you to succeed and were willing to put the time in to make sure that you did. It was a very good environment to learn in.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

I have many fond memories at Middlesex, but what I remember most is just the feeling of it being a really nice place to study.

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

The advice I would give to students considering any course at Middlesex is that if you are going to take on paying for a degree, you should fully commit yourself. Think very carefully about what you want to do and about how you are going to get there. Law, in particular, has become a very expensive and competitive career choice. There are now twice as many solicitors as when I first qualified, so make sure you get the most out of any course that you take.

I would also emphasise making use of all of your contacts and applying for as many vacation schemes as you can. Think about getting funding and consider applying to firms who offer sponsorship (this is available for law but also many other professions). Make sure you think about how you're going to use your degree, and don't just do it as a time filler.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you to get where you are professionally today?

A degree in law is a good entry point into a legal career, and it really made me want to pursue law further. The LLB was great in helping students get to grips with complex but vital legal areas that are crucial to understand which run throughout English law and are a basis for different practice areas.

Apart from the academic side of a law degree, there are a lot of interpersonal skills required for a career in law, which you can nurture while at university. It's a fantastic place to start making contacts and you should use those – they can stand you in good stead. There can be a lot of camaraderie working with a group of people over a long period of time, in my case 25 years, and you get to know many of them very well both professionally and sometimes socially.

What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?

My degree at Middlesex was what really fuelled my interest in law and made me want to be a solicitor.

The pros are that if you work hard, and if you get a bit lucky, you'll meet a lot of great people and do some amazing things. I have had the opportunity to travel the world and have met some household names. Outside of large and boutique law firms, Law is not always necessarily the most financially rewarding career to go into, but it can be extremely fulfilling and enriching.

The cons are that there is a lot of pressure within law and it can be very hard work. The regulatory side of being in a professional services firm can be hard work, and stressful at times.

How did you get your foot on the career ladder post university?

I found that the best way to get started to was to apply for training at firms that interested me. In my first few years I found out what I enjoyed and what I didn't. Initially after qualification I worked in a City firm (which I would recommend to anyone), and that helped me decide what sort of firm I wanted to work at. I was then lucky enough to be able to go back to the firm that had trained me originally and I've been here for the past 24 years. However a lot of it does come back to working hard and having a bit of luck.

What has been your defining career highlight to date?

It's difficult to pick just one highlight or case that has been the most interesting, each have their high points, be it the people, the case itself, the result, or a courtroom drama (nothing like you see in the media though). I've been lucky enough to travel a lot and meet some very interesting people in all walks of life, some of which have been real eye openers that I never thought I would have an opportunity to meet and still less advise. Sometimes it's more rewarding to have helped out someone genuinely in need although in a boutique firm there is less and less chance of doing so particularly as the business side of the profession has very much restricted the ability to do so (abolition of Legal Aid and so on). And it's always very satisfying when a client is genuinely grateful for what you have done.

What does the future hold for you?

We'll see! More of the same I hope. I get a huge buzz from law.

Law is constantly changing and my firm has grown enormously in the last 5 years and is going from strength to strength. I have very much enjoyed my career and I want that to continue.

What are the top three career tips you would give to current students and recent graduates?

  1. Combine the academic and the practical, and get involved in as much extra-curricular activity as you can that demonstrates the personal qualities you want to show to a future employer in your CV. 
  2. Plug every contact that you have. People that get in to the recruitment streams (vacations schemes etc) early and make an impression are the ones that do well.
  3. Good CVs are like gold dust. On average, when your CV is initially read you'll get a 30 second first glance, and if you don't make an impact in that then you might have missed your chance. Make an impact and be different, but make sure that you can back up any claims you make in your CV.

What one piece of advice would you give to the 17/18 year old you?

Everything you do defines what happens next. But I'm not convinced that, had I done anything differently, that things would have turned out differently. I would probably tell myself to get out and try as many different things as I could, and get as much information as I could on law and on possibilities for the future.

To be honest, some of my decisions might have been different, but I have no regrets at all.

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