I’m a firm believer that the degree you do should be about passion; interest; how can you get through 3 or 4 years and love it - not expedience. A degree that you have enjoyed, and been able to do well in, feels key to me.
What does a Classics degree entail? If I do not want to be a teacher, what jobs can I have after choosing a Classics degree?
Younger Classicists may not have met anyone who has had a successful career after a Classics BA, or perhaps they have, but they would never have guessed! This series is here to show them the different paths that life may take and inspire them to thread their own.
This week, I spoke with Katharine Swire, who studied Classics and then moved on to work as a lawyer after a Law conversion course and LPC.
NB: I ask relevant questions about the degree and also its routes into employment. And I will be honest, transcribing the answers even when they are not necessarily what I want to hear, up to the very last question — would you do it again?
"I became a pensions know-how lawyer in 2015, having been a client facing solicitor for over seven years before that.
As a PSL, I help keep both our lawyers and clients up to date with developments in the pensions world.
I have acted as a TPAS (The Pensions Advisory Service) adviser, providing advice and guidance to members of the public, and, beyond work, have been a trustee at The Latin Programme since December 2020."
What aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most?
I studied Classics and English, which included several ‘link’ papers allowing you to track the development of a form or genre from its origins to the modern day (e.g., Comedy, Epic, etc). Utterly fascinating.
Looking back, was your degree what you expected?
Yes, exactly as I expected - but it was a very small specialist course (12 people in the whole year) established by the the professor who still ran it and whose college I therefore wanted to go to (LMH, Oxford) - so it was clear to me what I was choosing from the start.
If you could go back and speak to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give her about choosing a degree?
Study what you love! Just taking law as an example career, a large proportion of lawyers come from non-law degree backgrounds, and plenty of law students go on not to choose to pursue working in the legal profession. I had no idea what I was going to end up working as - until after I'd started in work, in fact - and my degree would have allowed me to follow all sorts of routes.
What was your first job after finishing your degree?
Apart from all the various holiday jobs I took to help pay my debts, I spent a year in publishing. I loved books and words, and I thought it would be my dream.
And what other jobs have you had in your life, related or not to your degree?
I then became a lawyer after completing the law conversion course and LPC.
Do you consider that anything you learnt was useless?
In terms of my future career, technically, plenty! Which would be true of nearly all degrees (including law itself). But I’m a firm believer that the degree you do should be about passion; interest; how can you get through 3 or 4 years and love it - not expedience. A degree that you have enjoyed, and been able to do well in, feels key to me.
How does classics inform your work as a pensions solicitor?
I’m not entirely sure that it does. For the purposes of interview, of course, you can readily argue that classics gives you logic, rigour, analytical and critical thinking, communication skills etc. For me, perhaps the textual analysis comes up the most, and one of my favourite parts of the job remains the 'words': I love statutory interpretation and looking at cases on construction and interpretation.
Would you do it again?