Birkdale Collective endeavour to bring the best advice possible for students or those considering a career change and as a part of that, we would like to share with you viewpoints of those who have been very successful in their industries.
Offering unique insights into the difficult field of Law, Kevin Carpenter is vastly experienced in the area, particularly in his specialism of Sports Law. Kevin offers his advice to those who would like to follow in his footsteps as he speaks with Birkdale Collective…
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Kevin. Can you tell us about your education and how that put you on your career path?
I started off my secondary school career at a local comprehensive school in Sheffield, which was a difficult environment but I still managed to progress. I did well academically, but also threw myself fully into sport, music and drama. All of this led me in the upper sixth year to be made head of school.
From a relatively early stage in my secondary school career, I wanted to become a lawyer. This was for various reasons, including the intellectual challenge, the prestige, and it being seen as a lucrative career. I achieved the A-level grades necessary to get into my first choice course at university, which was to study Law with Business at the University of Birmingham. To combine the two areas of interest I thought I wanted to go into a career in corporate law, and having done a couple of vacation placements during my second year at university, I was made an offer for a training contract and I achieved the necessary classification before moving on to do the compulsory Legal Practice Course in London.
Can you tell us a bit about your career, where you have worked and the roles you have held?
My career to date in the legal sector has been unusual to say the least. Training in a large European corporate law firm, I soon realised it was not what I wanted to do, and I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the field of sports law, which I never knew existed to that point. I decided that a growing area of threat for sport was going to be match-fixing, especially through betting, which I then wrote an academic article about, and was subsequently picked up by the world football players’ union.
From that point I started to pick up bits of work in the sports sector but not sufficient to get me a job doing sports law full time after my training contract had come to an end. I had to take a job with a small regional law firm, before being headhunted to set-up the London sports law practise for a national firm. After two years into a longer term project, the firm decided to discontinue the department and I was made redundant. It was at that time I decided to establish my own regulated legal consultancy, despite not yet being 30 years of age.
I have grown further into my specialist areas within sports law, and have worked with a range different organisations all over world. Most recently I have been appointed the first-ever Head of Integrity for a major international Olympic federation.
What advice would you give yourself before you hit 30 about your career?
With any work experience you have, be it voluntary, employed or otherwise, always make a note of the main tasks you undertook as well as considering what transferable skills you gained doing that job. Also, be bold in the decisions you make about your career, but remember the grass isn’t always greener.
When choosing your next career steps each time can you explain how you felt when taking the next leap?
When taking the next step in your career you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel at least a little sense of worry, however this can be lessened by listing and fully evaluating the pros and cons of any new career opportunity before making any such decision.
In your experience what are the big challenges of the legal field?
In my opinion, there is a significant oversupply of lawyers in the market, particularly those fresh out of university, so competition is extremely fierce. In addition to that, the cost of even getting to the point of beginning your formal training is prohibitive for many, despite major recent efforts by regulators for people from all backgrounds (regardless of opportunity and means) to enter the profession.
What advice could you offer students now in terms of how they approach a career in law?
Make sure you have undertaken any type of work experience to get a true flavour of what it is to actually work as a lawyer on a day-to-day basis. It bears little resemblance to what you see on TV or in the movies. Nevertheless, it can be hugely rewarding if you find the right area.
To even get into the profession you need to make sure your CV and cover letter stands out for any legal role you are applying for. Good academic performance is simply not enough, and this brings me back to my earlier point about transferable skills. Whatever your interests outside of your studies, consider what skills you have learned through partaking in those interests, and really draw that out in your applications.
A final thing to remember is that you do not need to do a law degree to become a lawyer. In addition to the conversion course, which you can take having done an undergraduate degree in any other area, there are now other alternative routes into the profession, including the recently launched Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). So do ensure to do your research if you think a law degree may not be for you. I always say, do not do a degree just because of the perceived career path at the end of it. Do something you are passionate about. Many of the best lawyers I have worked with did not study law for their undergraduate degree, and are often better critical thinkers for it.
Thanks, Kevin, for your time. In addition to his role as Head of Integrity for a major Olympic federation, Kevin also acts as legal advisor to Birkdale Collective and can be found in our Meet the Team section by clicking here.