I was born and raised in the tropical island of Sri Lanka. I came to the University of Leeds as an international student in 2008.
I have successfully secured a position with the renowned American NGO, the International Justice Mission (IJM). With the hindsight of eventually working for an International Non-Governmental Organization, I will be serving as the legal fellow for IJM’s Kolkata office where I will help their legal team to prosecute sex traffickers.
IJM works alongside national governments worldwide to provide victim relief for trafficked minors and focuses on perpetrator accountability. On the completion of my legal fellowship with IJM, I will be undertaking a Masters program in Public International Law in America next year.
My motivation to study at Leeds
I was encouraged to apply for my law degree at the University of Leeds because of three primary reasons; firstly it holds an excellent league ranking and world-renowned reputation as a well-established redbrick University in England.
Secondly, I was awarded a Scholarship by the law school, which helped ease the financial constrain on my family.
Finally, the University offered the perfect balance between a campus and city experience. The University itself is self-contained and has everything you need from a supermarket, nightclub to a beauty salon, if you needed anything else; the city is a convenient fifteen-minute walk away.
Moreover I was attracted to how student friendly and affordable the city of Leeds was compared to other major cities in England.
Leeds was one of the few Universities that offered an extensive pro-bono curriculum for its students, which helped greatly enhance my CV. I made sure I was actively engaging in all aspects of the law school in order to get the most of my time at the University.
I was selected for the accredited University of Leeds Innocence Project, which was an exciting program for anyone interested in criminal justice or for those wanting to hone their analytical skills.
The Innocence Project was aimed at corresponding with convicted persons who are looking to have their case reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It was our responsibility to assess whether the individual had a valid chance of having an appeal. I was also selected as a Pathway to Law Ambassador where I was required to arrange activities and work alongside underprivileged college students who were interested in a career in law.
Besides the pro-bono work I also held a variety of positions at the law school including being the International Student Representative for the Student Staff Forum, Law Faculty Representative for the Equality and Diversity Committee of the ESSL, Module Representative for Cyber-law and I was a member of the Learning and Teaching Committee.
I successfully managed to reach the semi-final round of the Law Society’s Mooting Competition and took part in both the Negotiating competition and the internal round of the Jessup’s International Law Moot.
Although building friendships with individuals in your course are important, I believe what’s probably equally as important is building a working relationship with your lecturers and mentors.
Some of the world-renowned personas at the law school cannot be understated. During my last year at University I was the Research Associate to the incumbent United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cambodia on Human Rights, Professor Surya Subedi, who is concurrently the International Law Lecturer at the School of Law. Helping Professor Subedi undertake legal research for his annual report to the UN has opened many windows of opportunities for me.
My personal tutor and lecturers at the law school were incredibly helpful and supportive throughout my stay in Leeds. They were easily accessible and quick to respond in the event that you needed feedback on any of your assignments. I found this to be vital, especially when exam pressure starts to build up it is essential that you have staff that are committed to helping you in a timely manner.
Even after having graduated I still keep in touch with a few of the staff at the law school and they have been exceptionally helpful in providing reference letters to aid me with my Masters applications.
The overall Leeds experience has helped me in a number of ways. Firstly it has helped me hone my analytical, communicative and interpersonal skills and having been placed in the top 20% of my year it has served me well academically.
Blackstone Legal Fellowship in Arizona
It has helped me build a relationship with a network of people within the school and from outside the school which has proven to be extremely useful. Since graduating last summer, I took part in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship in Arizona, which was a leadership program for law graduates committed to seeing social justice and legal reform take place.
Wilberforce Academy at Oxford University
This followed on from being selected for the Wilberforce Academy at Oxford University in 2010, which was a similar program. As a Blackstone intern, I had the exciting chance to go the European Parliament to conduct lobbying work to help an advocate gain signatories for an English case currently being heard at the European Court of Human Rights.
I was able to secure 21 signatories by members of the Parliament including the Vice-president. Moreover, as a part of the fellowship I was sent to London to intern at the Christian Legal Centre for four weeks where I helped with legal research and writing.
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, London
On the completion of my fellowship in August, I was selected to intern at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in London where I helped come up with advocacy strategies to stop the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting take place in a human rights violating country. Moreover I was also required to look into fundraising mechanisms to start a project against Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya.
Diaspora Parliamentarian: Youth Parliament, House of Lords
In September I successfully applied to be a Diaspora Parliamentarian for the Youth Parliament at the House of Lords where I debated alongside 200 delegates from around the world on the climate change agenda. This exciting opportunity was an unprecedented event because it was the first time House of Lords and House of Commons members watched a debate instead of taking part in it themselves.
As I worked for the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, I simultaneously worked part time with the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) where I was asked to write an article on Guyana’s blasphemy legislation.
Having come back to Sri Lanka last month, I am currently awaiting to be deployed to India to start working with the International Justice Mission until I commence my Master’s.
I would strongly encourage anyone who is career driven to take advantage of all the opportunities that the University of Leeds has to offer and to maintain the right balance between academic work and extra curricular work.
Get to know the staff and enjoy your course, law isn’t all boring and hard work as a lot of people say it is! The friends I have made over the past three years and the impact that the University has had on me was life changing. Leeds has played a massive role in helping catalyse what I want to achieve out of life and I have no doubt that it will play an equally significant role in yours.