Case study

to help

Maya Neama is a forward planner with big ambitions. But one missed A-level grade knocked her confidence and disrupted her journey. Once at Derby, she was able to find herself again, emerging with a first-class honours degree and with her career goal to be a lawyer back on track. 

University was always going to be a destination for Maya – as she recalls: “Ever since I was about four and first knew what university was, everything I was doing was aimed at going there. It was everything to me.” 

But sometimes one A-level can make for a surprising hurdle to clear, as she discovered on results day: “It was a very tense day. I had basically messed up one of my A-levels.” 

Change of plan 

Not wanting to give up on her overall dream of becoming a lawyer, Maya started her online research for universities. She found that by applying to Derby, she could study a subject she was passionate about in our LLB (Hons) Law.  

Following some reassurance from her parents, she quickly decided it was the right choice. Maya remembers: The day hadn't started out as I had planned, but the feeling of getting a place at Derby – a university which offered everything I was looking for – was amazing.” 

Starting out 

Maya moved up from Croydon in South London into her new place at Darley Bank hall of residence – “It was the nicest accommodation I’d ever seen and I loved living there”. 

Maya was further reassured that she’d made the right choice by the people she met in Derby: “Everyone was really friendly and welcoming.” She also enjoyed the change of pace and neighbourly feel of living in Derby. “It’s a small city so you get to know a lot of people in the first few weeks – no one knew anyone in the big places – but in Derby, everyone knows everyone. I think the social life was really cool, going out and being with friends.” 

Her course was based in the city centre at One Friar Gate Square, giving her access to the mock court room, and the adjacent custody suite used by policing students for booking in and interviewing offenders.  

Law students practicing in the court room
A policing student holding up an evidence bag

And Maya can attest to how authentic these spaces were to learn in: “Having been in real courts now, it’s pretty similar. It was really immersive and puts you in that practical space and gives you an insight into what you could be getting yourself into when you leave university and enter the world of work.” 

Maya flourished on the course, and was able to expand into related areas that would develop and benefit her professionally.  

Law explored 

Maya became a regular face at the University’s Student Legal Advice Centre. The initiative gives law students the valuable real-world experience that can be difficult to achieve when new to the profession. 

Having already volunteered some time in her second year, working in the Centre became one of her modules in the third year. Maya credits the director of the Centre, Kay Howells, with coaching her and her fellow students on how to operate in the setting, where members of the public could seek advice from them. 

Maya says: “It was my first experience of speaking to real clients. It gave me such a head start coming into the real world.” The Centre included a Family Law Clinic which could see Maya advising clients on serious topics such as divorce and custody of children. She recalls: “It’s quite daunting at first knowing that you are dealing with real-life situations, but it was really good and a great learning opportunity. Supporting people in this way was probably the best part of my entire law experience.” 

Maya’s increase in confidence also led to her setting up a society through the Union of Students – an expansion of ‘Urban Lawyers North’ which originated in Manchester. “It helps underrepresented people doing their law degree.” The group offered a meeting platform for young lawyers to meet with experienced legal professionals to gain their insight.  

Out on top 

Maya didn’t look back after applying to Derby through Clearing: “Once I started university, I got my confidence back. I was able to do very well and achieved a first.” 

She is now working as a Criminal Law and Defence Paralegal, as well as studying for her Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which will qualify her as a lawyer in the next few years. She’s already mapping out options for the next years of her career beyond that, but for now, everything is going to plan. 

Maya leaves us with her advice for others who are considering Law at Derby: “It’s not as scary as you think it is and studying Law is so interesting. You can change so many people’s lives through a law degree – you might be there for someone’s worst moment in life, but you’re there to support them, which is a really cool thing.” 

Find out more about our Law courses