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Meet James: 'The Road Less Travelled'

Admittedly, my first career choice was never law, and a legal journey was never my original route, I wanted to lecture. In pursuit of this purely academic endeavour, from my GCSEs onwards, at no time did I choose to study law, and instead wanted to go and become a lecturer in English Literature. However, my route to this point in 2014, about to commence my GCSEs wasn’t simple, and went on to be a winding road, as I shall explain.

I was born eight weeks early as a result of “not growing” the doctors said; along with my twin brother, at which time doctors diagnosed me with Meningitis. The meningitis left me with a scar inside my head which blocked off the route from the cerebral spinal fluid to move from my head to my body. This resulted into a condition known as Hydrocephalus, a condition characterised by excess fluid build-up in cavities called ventricles in the brain. Thereafter, I was fitted with a tiny mechanical machine to stop the build up of fluid, called a ‘shunt’. This is a rare condition with fewer than 20,000 cases per year in UK. Treatment is via invasive surgery can help manage the condition, however there is no known cure.

Fast forward to embarking on my GCSE’s and at this stage in my life I’d had easily over 15 brain surgeries in both Europe and the UK. Subsequently, I had a brain injury via an accident at school, in which I was hit with a cricket ball. This occurred in June 2016, incurring me to have further brain surgeries, after fluid built up on my brain yet again. I had memory loss from the moment the impact struck, and therefore did not seek immediate medical help and, to this day, I do not remember the event having taken place, but for the narratives from my friends and twin brother. Fast forward a few months, with relentless recovery, I was left with memory loss, and Nystagmus; a condition characterised by involuntary, eye movement, that resulted in me being left with reduced and limited vision.

I went back to school, a new school, in the following January and continued to sit my GCSE, passing them all. I then took five AS levels (because who doesn’t love added pressure?!) and 3 A2s; at which time, l came into contact with the legal industry. I was introduced to my head teacher’s husband who was a barrister. I found his job quite fascinating, and heard him talk at the school on a number of occasions, the seeds of law at this point were apparently sown. Despite this, I stuck by my path and went on to study English Literature at Exeter University struggling throughout with my newfound disabilities. During my second year I undertook three mini-pupillage with chambers’ in Exeter after a careers talk about being a barrister by the university. This cemented for me wanting to become a barrister. I had always enjoyed public speaking, and the life of barrister seemed appealing, the work load seemed a lot too, however I was already in the routine of spending hours reading books, and writing arguments in essays, albeit non-legal; aided my subsequent career choice; (and by all means being a lecturer would equally have incurred PLENTY of public speaking, research and reading) . In my third year I applied for my GDL, and subsequently graduated from Exeter with a 2:1.

Last year, in September 2019, I embarked on what would be the most academically strenuous year of my life, and what would turn out to be quite the year in many ways. Undertaking the core modules of Tort, Trusts, Contract, European Union Law, Public, Land Law, and of course… Criminal. This year was heavy, academically with many contact hours, whilst also commuting around 1hr each way a day into the city to attend my lectures (due to the need to live at home so that my parents could keep an eye on me.) At this point I started to get an idea of where I wanted to go, public law it was to be. I found public law fascinating, learning about the organs of power in the United Kingdom, with an already fervent interest in politics. Learning about EU and UK law from immigration to trade agreements and the make up of the European Court system, this fascinated me. At this point I applied for a three day mini-pupillage with a Human Rights and Immigration chambers in Nottingham, and attended every Friday on my day off from University, swiftly becoming a regular member of chambers, a part of the team it would seem.

At the very end of February this year however, disaster struck once more, after six years without brain surgery, the longest time of which I had gone, my shunt (as mentioned above) blocked again, and I was rushed to hospital in need of urgent medical treatment. I underwent brain surgery at the start of March 2020 and again in April after another blockage. I starting having seizures in hospital, probably due to the pressure build-up from fluid on my brain, of what is suspected epilepsy, and I am now on medication to control this. I went on to take my GDL exams in May (against what was probably a better judgement to defer), and some resits in August. After a summer of reflection I decided not to sit the bar course this September, and embarked on an LLM in Human Rights and International Politics to further my academic knowledge of the Public Law field, never wanting to settle, which brings me to the present day.

I will sit the bar course in the 2021-22 academic year, health permitting, and hope to go on to the Bar working in areas of International Public Law. What is the point in mentioning all that I have? My point is this: Everyones journey is different, however, it is sometimes wise to take the road less trodden as Robert Frost once said, take a step back, and appreciate what you have and if you have the passion, you’ll make it where you want to be. But, do it in your own way, and not as the stereotypical routes dictates. Don’t rush life, it will throw curveballs every now and again and it may seem like the end of the world. In my case, It may not have been a choice to take this road, the easy road. But with all I have experienced I have still more to see, even it takes a little longer to get to the final destination.

Twitter: james_Joseph98

Instagram: @james_jim_joseph

Linkedin: James Ekin

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

— The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

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