Profile - Seamus Ryan, Tutor

Seamus RyanBecoming a tutor with the Institute of Legal Secretaries

I started teaching shortly after I finished law school. I found the experience terrifying but exciting. Fortunately, the butterflies went away quickly but the excitement of exchanging ideas with others never did. I was aware of a hands-on training course for legal secretaries when I was teaching the National Association of Paralegals course in the late 1990s. I found that with both courses the practical approach to legal study was very refreshing. In 2005 there was an opportunity to provide training for the Institute that I was very happy to take up.

My background and legal experience

I qualified as a solicitor in Nottingham and started practicing as a litigator in a top 100 firm. I mainly dealt with breaches of contract, land disputes and actions against public bodies. After a few years I wanted to get some experience with non-contentious work, so I moved to a smaller firm to work in their private client department. Areas of law and practice I find particularly interesting include legal costs, practice standards and provision of financial services.

I am a member of the Institute for Learning and a qualified lecturer. I have also worked as a law cost draftsman, which involved helping firms of solicitors claim their costs. Most recently, I became a Law Society–accredited Lexcel consultant. This allows me to go into firms of solicitors and consider how well they manage their business. (It is similar to the Investor in People award.)

How I get on with students

I thoroughly enjoy teaching adults and hearing about their experiences. Students on the Institute’s courses have always impressed me with their commitment, ability and enthusiasm for learning. When a student enjoys learning, it makes the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone.

The most challenging aspect of my work

Changes in the law go with the territory of being a lawyer, but I am still amazed at how many new laws there are since I first started studying. Some newspapers have reported that in criminal law alone, there has been a new criminal offence created nearly every day since 1997 (3605 new offences up to September 2008). This does not include the mass of new rules relating to every aspect of our lives or livelihoods. In areas like employment rights, taxation, and health & safety, to name but a few, there has been an explosion in new legislation. I choose a number of areas of law to keep up to date with, as I doubt it is humanly possible to be a good “general practitioner” of law now.

What I enjoy most about teaching

I most enjoy the creative side of making what could be a very dull subject come alive. The best teachers I had were those who could not only explain their subject but also make it into something that could be of practical use to the person in the street. Seeing someone use what they have been taught is a real pleasure.

My interests

I am a sailor at heart, but with a young family I do not get away very often. I have been working towards my yachtmaster’s qualification, and I plan to do an ocean crossing as part of my training. I expect it will be a few years before this happens. I may even have to wait until I retire, but I am very patient! While I am waiting, I am a passable canoeist, avid cyclist and adequate skier.