Katharine Owen | Middlesex University London
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Katharine Owen

Katharine OwenDirector, Owen Business Services Ltd

LLM Employment Law (Distinction), 2013

What made you choose Middlesex University?

After extensive research and discussion with staff from the Law School I chose Middlesex University because it provided specialist training in my interest area, Employment Law, with seminars as opposed to distance learning.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

Already running my own small business, featuring a percentage of employment tribunal case management, I felt that a recognised qualification – in particular an LLM in Employment Law – would add credibility to me, as Director, and to the business. Recognising that we live in very difficult economic times, I also believed that the LLM would put me nearer the "top of the pile" should I decide to apply for jobs within corporations in the future. This belief was born out by discussions with a number of former colleagues and current clients.

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

Ensure that you do your research: do you want to study for an academic qualification, which will give you excellent knowledge of theory and practice? Or do you want to study to be a solicitor or barrister? Think through the long term study and financial commitments – the requirement for a Legal Practice Certificate, for example and the need to possibly gain a training contract, should you wish to practise.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

During my time at Middlesex, I was continuously impressed with the standard of teaching of the professors and lecturers and the positive effect this had on my studying. I found EU Issues difficult to come to grips with at first, but was surprised to find that I was capable of researching and understanding extremely complex, financial theories, resulting specifically in my presentation and long coursework on the New EU Supervisory Financial Architecture. I was pleased to be able to identify and research a completely new topic for my dissertation - Will the recent proposals for reform of UK Employment Law encourage employers to create jobs at the expense of undermining job security? The changes in UK Law were so recent that they were not yet reflected in the text books, which made the topic an excellent one through which to demonstrate my research skills.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

My Supervisor making the time to sit with me and discuss my dissertation, chapter by chapter. I should add that Middlesex made it possible for me to study by making reasonable adjustments – I had had a shoulder injury and operation just prior to starting and another operation just before undertaking my Dissertation. I was "temporarily disabled" for the majority of my time at Middlesex and the university – including the library staff – gave me excellent support to allow me to undertake my course.

Before you started your own business in 2009, Owen Business Services Ltd, you had held a variety of different roles. What inspired you to make the jump to starting your own business?

Having worked at a reasonably high level in support roles, whether these were as the equivalent of Assistant Registrar/Senior Lecturer at a renowned postgraduate college, as Executive Assistant to Presidents/Chief Executives and finally moving into the legal and quality assurance fields within a small company, I felt I was ready to "run my own show". This was at a difficult time, when the first credit crunch hit. With companies going into liquidation or being unable to retain many support staff, I identified a niche market. My business model was the provision of support to SMEs which could not justify the funding of, for example, a full time Office Manager, Compliance Officer (Legal), Events Officer, or indeed Translator. Very quickly, through word of mouth mainly, I began to gain clients.

What skills have been most valuable in your career so far and how have you developed these?

The most important skills and personal traits in my career have been integrity, professionalism, sheer attention to detail, ability to work quickly and to deadlines and, finally, to adapt to any situation – the latter particularly when contracting or when working within my own business. The ability to assess the culture of a business immediately is crucial.

The LLM has most certainly developed my legal research skills. In the future, there is a strong possibility that I will use these to research in depth material for books (on the creative side) which I wish to write.

What is the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?

It is extremely hard work – seven days a week and very long hours. It has a profound effect on your social life. You must be disciplined and focused and ensure that you get enough sleep – health is everything! That said, it is always rewarding to gain – and retain - new clients and, in my case, to be able to work across a range of areas. The LLM has indeed increased my employability – not necessarily in the area of Law – but in terms of perception. Perception and resulting delivery of a product are everything.

What have been the most effective ways of enhancing your professional profile?

With the extensive help of the employability service, I created a detailed LinkedIn profile. On a personal level, the achievement of a Distinction in a Master of Law has also added to my credibility. This is not just in the area of law, but in the areas of general business support and specific legal support, minuting meetings, events management and translation. Following the achievement of my LLM, I have gone on to study with the ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators).

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

Nothing is easy – be ready to work extremely hard, be flexible and adaptable, whilst holding clearly in focus your ultimate goal. My goal from the start at Middlesex was to achieve, whatever, a Distinction. I had family support in every respect. I knew that they would really be pleased should I get an LLM; a Merit would be marvellous, but it would be absolutely fantastic (the word used indeed by a legal professional with whom I had previously worked when I got my result) should I achieve a Distinction.

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