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Law Student Tips Scales in her Favour

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A brave Liverpool Hope University student has discussed the challenges she’s overcome - and why they’re a driving force in her dream to become a barrister. 

Emily Freeman, from Widnes, Cheshire, is a third year Law student at Hope. And she’s also excelling academically. 

Earlier this month she was announced as one of just nine finalists, from hundreds of entries, in the ‘DICTUM Prize’, a research-based law competition organised by global legal intelligence firm vLex. 

But her impressive accomplishments have been hard won. 

emily freeman profile

Emily, 22, is a single mum. Before arriving at Hope she spent time living in a refuge and was also homeless at one point in time. When she took her A-Level exams, her tiny daughter slept at her feet in the examining room because she simply had no other childcare options.

Yet Emily says her experiences - particularly her interactions with the police - have given her a unique insight into the British legal system. 

And she’s hoping to use that knowledge as she sets her sights on a career as a criminal barrister. 

She explains: “What I’d say is this - you never know what people are going through, so be kind, always.

“My experiences mean that, even from a young age, I always knew I wanted to practice law. Law is something that’s been consistent in my life throughout, whether it has failed me or supported me. I understand it from both sides of the coin. 

“I’ve had to force myself, for example, to learn why police couldn’t act on certain reports, or what levels of evidence is required in a given situation. It became an obsession for me. It forced me to rationalise how the legal system really operates.

“And I can now use that first-hand knowledge to stand up for victims.”

Emily says her past includes instances of abuse. On top of her college responsibilities, she was also helping to look after her two brothers. And because Emily was driven to succeed, when she began struggling in her A-Levels - in Law, Psychology, English Literature and History - things began to unravel.

She explains: “I’d been absent from college a fair bit as, looking back, I was struggling with some mental health issues because of what I’d gone through. And when my grades started falling away, I actually ran away from home because I just couldn’t cope anymore.”

At this point, in 2016, she ‘sofa surfed’ with friends until Social Services intervened and she was taken to a domestic abuse refuge in Wavertree, Liverpool. She was just 17 years old. 

Emily tried to enroll at The City of Liverpool College. But having to deal with multiple local agencies - including the police - meant her attendance plummeted and she was forced to take another year out. What followed was twelve months of unthinkable difficulty, including two separate incidences of assault. 

Events conspired to the point where Emily ended up living on the streets in Widnes, hunkering down in local parks. She explains: “This was January 2017, just after New Year. It was freezing cold and I didn’t even have a sleeping bag.”

With the help of Halton Borough Council, she moved to a local hostel where she lived for six months. And it was during this time when she fell pregnant with her beloved daughter, Grace, to a long-term partner. 

emily freeman with grace

This was a real turning point in her life - the moment she knew she had to get her life back on track. She reveals: “I woke up one day and just thought, ‘What am I doing with my life’. I knew, there and then, that things had to change.”

After moving into social housing in Cheshire, she returned to Priestley College, Warrington, where she studied towards A Levels in Law and Citizenship as well as an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification), focusing on police investigations into rape.

But she adds: “I was pregnant, my boyfriend had left me, I’d enrolled in college and I had £200 to my name each month. It was incredibly difficult. I luckily had a brilliant support worker who looked out for me.

“I gave birth to Grace at the beginning of March of 2018. My EPQ was due to be handed in on the 27th March. And my exams began in June of that year. I didn’t have a laptop so I wrote my entire EPQ on a tablet, all the while using my leg to gently kick Grace’s swinger so she’d sleep. It was horrendous. But somehow I did it. 

“I even had to take Grace with me to my college exams. I remember everyone on the bus looking at me, thinking, ‘Who is this girl and why is she bringing her baby with her?’ Grace and I got put in a small room together and they handed me the exam paper. And Grace, now two months old, decided to poo up her back in the middle of the exam! It was all incredibly stressful.”

Despite all of this, Emily got through it. She got the grades she needed - including an impressive A in her EPQ. She then took a year out to spend time with Grace - who she describes as a ‘feisty red-head’ - before joining Hope in 2019. 

As well as her success in the prestigious DICTUM competition, she’s also in the process of helping to set up a charity - ‘BDA Bar’ - designed to encourage more people with disabilities, both visible and invisible, to join the Bar in order to make it more ‘representative’. 

And she also describes Hope as her ‘safe haven’. She reveals: “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. When you have so many things on your plate, it’s very difficult to get up each morning. There were times when I simply didn’t have any more effort to give. Trying to balance everything with childcare is really tough. 

“But it has somehow worked out for me. Every one of my assessments at Hope, bar one, has been given an A grade. 

“My tutors have also been incredibly supportive. Some have given up their free time to help me both academically and emotionally. I can’t thank them enough. 

“And I consider Hope my ‘safe place’. I’m just sad I can’t stay here forever.”

 

** Learn more about studying Law at Hope: 

https://www.hope.ac.uk/undergraduate/undergraduatecourses/llblaw/

 

** For support and advice, contact Hope’s Student Development and Well-Being Team: 

https://www.hope.ac.uk/gateway/students/studentdevelopmentandwell-being/







Published on 03/11/2021