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On Behind the Scenes at BLS this week, Maria Vittoria Morandi charts her journey from believing she had to just memorise the law to confidentially commenting and engaging with the peculiarities of the English legal system

Maria Morandi, law student

My university education began in Italy, where I was born and raised. I completed a year of studies, but due to a number of uncertainties and reconsiderations, I took a u-turn and drastically changed the path I was striding on. That is when, in September 2018, I joined the Birmingham Law School. What back then I regarded as a leap of faith, I jumped into this new adventure with a mixture of thrill and excitement, and a wholehearted aspiration of becoming a solicitor. Looking back on it now, that aspiration could have not been vaguer and more abstract.

My first significant encounter with the concept of “law” came as part of a wider classroom discussion on justice. The purpose of a legal system was clear - to harmonise and regulate the activities within a society – but I overlooked the most important part; what is a legal system and how it works? The idea of law I grew up with was that of a gargantuan number of rules and protocols, all codified in big, heavy books. All, of course, had to be in accordance with our country’s constitution. That is why, when I first learnt about the common law it seemed all so distant and chaotic. Nonetheless, it sparked in me an ever-growing interest that culminated in pursuing a legal career in the United Kingdom.

Now in my final year, I can claim with ease that my university experience is characterized by growth, change and realization. From the very beginning, through Legal Skills and Methods, I was navigated through those differences between common law and civil law that I always overlooked. In Dr Julian Lonbay’s workshops, such foundations of the English legal system where accompanied by a quick comparison with neighbouring civil law jurisdictions. As I was understanding, I got gradually introduced to the peculiarities that make up the English common law, such as the infamous unwritten constitution. Today, all of this is the norm. Three years ago, it wasn’t.

Even my initial approach to legal writing was disastrous. Still in my state of mind of “study the law and memorize it,” I struggled to discuss it. I have written essays all of my life, but the idea of commenting the law seemed somewhat forbidden as I thought “who am I to comment on this?” I am grateful for the support and feedback received as I now have a passion for legal writing and a constant hunger for improvement.

I am also grateful that I have been challenged with different types of legal writing. In Employment Law, Paul McConnell taught us the module with a professional outlook. The first timing writing a letter of advice was challenging, but I will cherish this first opportunity when I land in the job market.

Despite the uncertain circumstances due to the pandemic, this academic year has been one full of opportunities. From being on the Women in Law society committee, to being a volunteer for the BLS Pro Bono Group, I found experiences that helped me grow outside the academic realm. With graduation looming around the corner, I am forever appreciative of the education received in the past three years.