Barney takes the law into his own hands thanks to Birkbeck

Barney O’Connor was a GMB rep when he decided to enrol at Birkbeck, University of London. This gave him a head start for the LLB course, which accredited as a qualifying law degree by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board.

Barney O'Connor

Barney is now in his second year of the Law (LLB) course at Birkbeck after having a difficult time at school.

Barney explained:

School didn’t work for me, I never enjoyed it. I am dyslexic then in my twenties I’ve also been diagnosed with ASD, dyspraxia and ADHD. I‘m bright, I’m clever, I’m just ‘not academic’. This year I got my first 2:1 and I feel great.”

Being an adult learner at Birkbeck has worked well for Barney and he his personal experience and the support he has from the university has helped him succeed.

Barney said:

One of the benefits of doing this and being older is that if I’d gone at 18 and failed a module like I did last year, I would have dropped out. Now I’m older, I’ve realised that not everything goes well first time and you just learn to keep on trying. I was told I would never read for pleasure as a kid so nobody would have expected this.”

Birkbeck has worked with trade unions for a number of years now to promote higher learning for working people and offers a discount to trade unions members. This partnership resulted in Barney getting back into learning.

Barney explains:

I heard about Birkbeck through my trade union, GMB, because someone mentioned you could get a discount and then I found out that Birkbeck had a good Law School. I liked that Birkbeck looks at your background, what you’ve done in life, your work experience, trade union work. It just fit what I needed at the time, and it’s still working.”

The trade union discount helps to tell people what Birkbeck was, why it was set up and how it’s still connected to that. My interest in employment law got me here. Through being a trade union rep, I did training on health and safety and the law behind that but I’ve now had the chance to learn more about different areas of Law.

Barny’s experience at Birkbeck, and trade union learning, has helped him develop skills in an area that he wouldn’t have thought about when he left school, and he’d encourage fellow trade unionist to explore this option.

Barney said:

I get excited when I talk about Law. I’ve found something academic which I enjoy and that’s never happened before. It’s improved me all round, helped me to deal with lot of stuff from the past, school-wise. Not everyone does law for the same reasons but if you’re involved with the trade union and you have the trade union mindset then it’s a way of keeping that going.”

Further information about the trade union discount can be found here.

To find out more about the union learning project at Birkbeck and opportunities for trade union members, contact [email protected]