Monifa Walters-Thompson


There was a lot of careers support from the School, which had its own dedicated staff.

Why did you choose to study law at degree level?

I’ve wanted to be a barrister since I was 12. The way I remember it, one of my childhood friends, someone I really looked up to, decided she wanted to be a barrister and I copied her.

As time went on, I discovered that I really enjoyed debating – I was president of the debating society at Kent and at my sixth form, alongside debating at high school. I also worked with a children’s charity, looking after disabled children in one-to-one sessions.

As my debating developed alongside my interest in caring for vulnerable people, my ‘copy-cat’ aspiration fit with my personality, interests and career goals. I realised that law, and family law in particular, was the path I wanted to follow.

When it came to choosing a university course I considered studying Classics, English or Law but Law was really the only degree I wanted to study.

Which areas of your studies did you find particularly inspiring or interesting?

I hadn’t studied law before I came to Kent so I didn’t know what Tort or Negligence were: I really enjoyed the way that the Tort module was taught. The Critical Introduction to Law module exposed me to lots things I wouldn’t have accessed otherwise.

Later on, I really enjoyed the opportunity of doing two dissertations, including the Law Dissertation module.

That really benefitted me, because I’m better at written work than I am at exams. The best advice I ever received was from a Kent graduate who advised me to plan my way to getting a First, so opting to do two dissertations was one of the things I did towards that.

The other piece of advice he gave me was to take a ‘wild’ module from another school. I did that with Classics and enjoyed the change of focus for a quarter of my final year. It really rounded out my experience at Kent, and is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

What practical experience did you gain at Kent?

I did the Kent Law Clinic module and mooting as a graded option for my property law exam. Both of those gave me an insight into being on my feet.

Kent Law Clinic involved a lot of practical client-facing work – having conferences and taking notes – and that prepared me well for having direct access clients. It also gave me employment law experience, which due to my commitment to family law, I wouldn’t have accessed otherwise. I actually represented a client in a County Court through this module, so it gave me my first real experience speaking in court.

Mooting was really interesting. I got to work with another student and compete. It is not exactly like being on your feet but it is probably as close as it gets pre-qualification.

What careers support did you receive?

There was a lot of support from the School, which had its own dedicated careers support staff. They organised networking meetings in London; a mentoring programme and a competition with a mini-pupillage attached.

All of these things were useful. I’m the first person in my family to go into the legal profession and I hadn’t grown up around barristers or had much access to specific career development.

The School helped to foster those connections with the legal profession. Thanks to that, I was able to do a mini-pupillage with a Kent Law School graduate (who’s now a senior junior family barrister) and I went on to work for her a few years later. That was brilliant.

What else did you do at Kent?

I was president of the debating society and that was an amazing experience. We did inter-varsity competitions and travelled to different universities across the country, we did Oxford Women’s, European and world competitions. We went to lots of different places as a society, met people from different universities and got involved in that community.

I also did rowing. It was exciting to push my comfort zone and do something I wouldn’t normally have access to.

What type of work do you do now?

I’m a self-employed family barrister at Garden Court Chambers in London. The work that I do is both public and private law. 

Public law is generally when the state makes applications to take children into their care. Private law is anything from parents disagreeing about how much time they spend with their children to contested divorces and finance cases. 

As a junior, I’m building my practice but have represented all parties in care proceedings, numerous private law and injunction matters and even a foreign contested divorce case.

What does being self-employed involve?

I’ve been a tenant at Garden Court Chambers since April 2018. I work for myself but under the umbrella of chambers. Cases come into chambers itself or directly to me through the clerks. The clerks in chambers then organise your diary which tells you where you need to be on what day.

In one week, I could be in Oxford, Milton Keynes and Coventry, and others I could be in courts across London. I even come back to Canterbury sometimes. There’s flexibility in where you can work: from home or at chambers.  

Being a self-employed barrister means you do not get a regular salary. Often payment is delayed so at the beginning cash flow is quite slow.

Your time off is not necessarily at evenings and weekends, because you’ve got a case to prepare for the next day and attendance notes to write. Work is not predictable, and you may end up with hours free in the afternoon, then needing to work all night for a late instruction the next day!

As long as you can structure your life around all of this, and that’s the life you want to live, then it works quite well.

You’re now a mentor to current Kent Law School students. How does that work?

I usually email my mentee as it’s quite hard to pin me down for a telephone call. I’m always happy to meet for a coffee. 

I will go through the mentee’s job applications and CVs and I recently gave my mentee a mini-pupillage so she followed me for a week. 

Mentoring is as broad or narrow as you make it – both as a mentor and as a mentee. If you both put in the effort then you can both get a lot out of it.

How do the skills and knowledge you gained at Kent help you now?

Having two dissertations in my final year got me into setting my own deadlines and planning my work. That means I can get work done and drive things forward no matter what the time constraints or the environment. Working as a barrister is quite fluid so if you don’t have rules for yourself about how you work then you’re going to fall behind.

I did the Family Law module at Kent, which is directly applicable to what I’m doing now. The way the module was taught was very good – it focused on issues which are coming up now such as surrogacy and same-sex couples.

Then, there’s so much that you learn in the background that you don’t know you are learning about life while you are at university. I couldn’t put my finger on each of those skills or all of that knowledge but I know it has contributed to where I am now, and I am very happy with that.

What advice would you give to someone about to start a law degree at Kent?

Work hard, do your best and try and get yourself into good routines so you’re getting everything done and still enjoying yourself. You have a lot of time in your first year so you should be able to meet all of your deadlines – if you’re not then get support because it’s going to get harder. Everything kicks up a notch in second and then again in your third year.

Definitely join a society – anything where you get to interact with people from different universities. That’s really important. Take the experience for all it has to offer. There are so many things at university that are hard to get outside, so make the most of it.

What are your plans for the next few years?

I’ve been a tenant at Garden Court Chambers since April 2018. When you’re a tenant, your clerks have a discussion with you about what sort of cases you want to be doing and the type of practice you want to make. 

My plans are to stay here at chambers, building my practice and getting an even spread of work in the areas that I’m interested in. I’m going to build, improve and learn.