ILSPA Profile – Seamus Ryan, Tutor

Seamus Ryan started teaching after he finished law school, over 20 years ago. He specialises in legal training and is a qualified Solicitor, a member of the Institute for Learning and a Law Society accredited Lexcel consultant. Seamus is very popular with our Students due to his friendly and helpful teaching approach. Students often impress Seamus with their level of commitment and enthusiasm for learning.

Seamus has answered some questions about his background and told us about his experience with ILSPA:

How did you become a tutor with the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs?

I started teaching for the Institute in 2006. It does not feel like 10 years since I first came across the Institute, and it was actually in 1996 that I first heard about them. At that time I was teaching the National Association of Licensed Paralegals course. I recall thinking that the Diploma course looked really interesting and that it would be useful for the Legal Secretaries I was working with at the time. I had recommended that some of the Secretaries working at my firm take the course, and the feedback I got was that they had really enjoyed it. Being in full-time practice and teaching one evening class a week excluded me from also teaching the Diploma course, but I did make a mental note of the qualification. When I moved from the Midlands to the South West of the country, I made contact with the Institute and was very pleasantly surprised to see that the qualification had gone from strength to strength. I started teaching the Diploma course in 2006 in Bristol, Birmingham and London. Over the years it has been a genuine pleasure to see so many students benefit from the qualification. 

Tell us about your legal experience.

My first job in the legal sector was working as a Legal Assistant for the South Oxfordshire District Council. I had taken a year out from my law degree so that I could get some experience of legal work and to make sure that I was on the right career path. Looking back now, I was very lucky to have a supportive boss, because she gave me the chance to get some great experience. I was allowed to represent the Council in Court (a scary prospect at age 20), became involved in planning matters and was given several research projects to complete for the legal department. This grounding in the real legal world helped me with the rest of my Law degree and Legal Practice Course studies. 

When I completed my Legal Practice Course, the country was in recession and the opportunities to obtain training contracts were few and far between. For those who may not know, it is necessary to work as a Trainee Solicitor for two years before you can fully qualify as a Solicitor. I was lucky enough to find a job as a Law Cost Draftsman. At the time this was a seldom-heard-of quasi-legal role. It is like being an accountant and negotiator for Lawyers. I spent nearly three years arguing over Lawyers’ legal costs and developed a set of legal skills that I am still asked to use from time to time nearly 20 years later. 

Once I obtained a training contract with a large firm in Nottingham, I specialised in legal costs, general litigation and judicial review. After I had spent several years at this firm, first as a Trainee and then as an Associate Solicitor, I had the opportunity to join a smaller firm and develop the skills of a Wills and Probate Lawyer. 

Since 2005 I have run my own legal training and consultancy company. In addition to the work I do for the Institute, I get involved in online training for Legal Executives and CPD training for other Solicitors. I have been an examiner for CILEx and AQA A-level Law, and I am currently the subject expert for the A-level Law qualification in Wales. 

How do you get on with the students?

I have a friendly and approachable manner and a good sense of humour. I have always had a can-do attitude, and I try to impart this to my students. I find the maturity and high levels of motivation of students on the Diploma course chimes very well with my style of teaching. I try to use real examples and draw on students’ own experiences where I can to help bring the subject to life.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

With all the legal courses I teach, I have to sometimes stop myself from getting carried away. The law truly is a fascinating subject, and it can be difficult to resist the temptation to try to teach too much. The Diploma has a unique balance of outlining key legal principles and then applying these to the legal procedures a Secretary will come across in practice. I do usually warn classes before we start that they may need to remind me to stop for a break. Happily, these are usually classes where the students have also been carried away by the topic. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I have been involved in legal training for nearly 20 years. What started as a part-time job training Paralegals and Legal Executives has developed into a long-term career. It seems a very long time ago when I was that nervous new teacher worrying if I knew all the answers. The years of teaching experience mean that I now realise that if I cannot answer a question off the top of my head, I have the confidence to say so and answer the question later. I do not get the pre-teaching butterflies anymore, but I still get the buzz from seeing students grasp a difficult legal concept or principle. It does help to teach highly motivated and interested students, which the Diploma course usually attracts.

What are your interests?

In my spare time I enjoy skiing, cycling and sailing. I had a long break from sailing while my family was young, but now that my children have started growing up I have a bit more time for this hobby. This year I was lucky enough to be one of the crew for a boat that raced in the Volvo Cork race, and we managed to finish in the middle of a 120-strong fleet, which I was very happy with.