Writing from Westminster – Meeting with Baroness Patience Wheatcroft

I first learned about the ALMP from a friend who had benefitted from the programme the prior year. At the time I applied, I was currently in the process of seeking vacation schemes within the legal sector; subsequently, over the summer, I secured a training contract with a leading independent UK law firm, Burges Salmon, in Bristol. In a sense, I have begun my career already, but I now have much to learn if I am to make full use of the opportunities available to me. Baroness Wheatcroft, a graduate of Birmingham Law School, possesses a formidable breadth of experience I hope to draw upon over the coming year to this end.

Following our email correspondence, we arranged to meet at the House of Lords in mid-October. After a brisk commute through London, we began the day by meeting for tea in the Lords itself. A quiet stroll through the historic corridors of Westminster ensued, and soon I found myself sat by a window looking onto the Thames, ready to begin the process.

Lady Wheatcroft noted the various areas where I was doing well currently – securing a training contract and learning Mandarin – and highlighted areas for both improvement and consideration. Offering advice on the potential trajectories my career path might take if I continued with a career in law, she explained how my current skillset might be adapted to fit various goals within my professional development.

We discussed the current state of politics and policymaking, and I learned more about the various causes she was advocating for both within Parliament and without. Speaking out in certain areas had brought with it a deal of vocal reprisal from sections of the public; clearly, commitment to a cause came at a certain price. Soon, I sat within the Chamber and heard debate on a variety of current affairs, before we broke away to conclude our earlier conversation.

My day concluded bearing witness to a session on submitted amendments to the Investigatory Powers Bill, the subject of my dissertation. This was an invaluable experience, as it enabled me to assess the argumentation of the Opposition and view the process of Parliament in action. As the two hours passed, I considered the practical ramifications of the debating skills I had practiced over the last few years.  It struck me to see the relatively quiet debate on the scope and limits of bulk surveillance powers over ordinary citizens – it is an experience which I will remember ardently.

While the immediate path for my career seems certain, it is important to plan with flexibility for a world which is rapidly changing, both economically and politically. Baroness Wheatcroft is a person who chooses her words with great care, and whose advice carries a deal of considered weight. I am looking forward to our next meeting to continue our discussions.

Christopher Walker, 3rd Year LLB Law

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