My name is Allison Hochhalter, and I am a 26-year-old from Chicago. I have just finished the PGDL with BPP University this past April and am awaiting results.
I was first introduced to the law by my aunt who is an attorney specialising in tortious appeals. When I was sixteen, she invited me to watch her a medical negligence case before the Illinois Supreme Court. I remember being captivated by the strategic decisions she made in her argumentation despite not fully understanding the legal concepts at play at the time. From this time, I always have envisioned myself ending up working in the law; however, in the United States, it is only possible to qualify as an attorney through a postgraduate credential. For this reason, I chose to study business for my Bachelors degree at the University of Minnesota. This decision was for two reasons: first, I could concentrate on finance and international business to hone analytical and problem-solving skills and to understand other cultures more fully and, second, to eventually fund my further legal education.
I was fortunate to study abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain. While in Spain, I was able to take my first law module on Legal Theory and, more impactfully, lived with a Spanish divorce attorney. While living with her, she had a client attempting to separate from a politically and financially powerful partner. It was inspiring to watch how lawyers are able to support the communities who most need it.
My interest in the intersections of law and social justice began while I was taking an anthropology class during my final year of university. For the class, we had to volunteer with a local community group and conduct an ethnographical study simultaneously about the effectiveness of the organisation at achieving their goals. I had chosen to partner with a local group focusing on helping victims of police brutality through individual advocacy case work and data-driven lobbying of the Minneapolis City Council regarding their policies on law enforcement. From this experience, I observed how the law and its enforcement could both protect and fail citizens. After this experience, I became interested in the human rights element of the law.
After graduating, I then spent four years working in finance for Microsoft across five teams in three countries. While I was based in London for my final role there, my aunt invited me to attend an exchange among the American and British Inns to learn more about the legal system here. Over the week of the event, we visited three of the Inns and met numerous barristers. It was during this event, I decided to train in law here in the United Kingdom.
Despite the obvious challenges doing the PGDL during a global pandemic has had, I have no regrets in choosing to change careers. Throughout my course, I found myself feeling excited about the material and what the future would hold. Interestingly, I have found that the greatest thing the PGDL course has given me is somewhat similar to what I learned during my finance degree and that is a way to structure problem-solving.
I will conclude with advice I often have to return to on my legal journey: everyone has a different path and the ways in which our paths differ should be celebrated. There is not one set of experiences and skills that make a great lawyer. The key trait to have instead is authenticity. Each of the lawyers I have been inspired by, from my aunt to my host mom in Spain to barristers in the United Kingdom, have attained success by thoroughly owning their authentic selves.
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