Kirsten Thornton law graduate

Kirsten Thornton

LLM Criminal Justice & Penal Change - Graduate

Kirsten currently works as a Constituency Assistant to a Member of the Scottish Parliament.

Tell us a bit about your background please…
I grew up in a small village near Stirling and became interested in politics when I started high school, which led me to be involved in the school debating society and then becoming an active member of a political party at the age of 15. Despite this, my ambition quickly became to pursue a career as a criminal defence lawyer, so I started my LLB in Scots Law at the University of Dundee at the end of my fifth year at school, and then went on to study the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice there too. I interned with a criminal defence firm throughout the year I spent studying for my Diploma, and while I’m sure I would have found a career in law interesting and fulfilling, that experience made me realise that it just didn’t seem like the right fit. I had kept up my political interest and activism throughout university, and I secured a job working for a Member of the Scottish Parliament shortly after graduating with my Diploma and have worked there ever since.

Why did you choose to study for the LLM Criminal Justice and Penal Change?
Although I changed my mind about pursuing a career in criminal law, I didn’t lose the interest I had in criminal justice. I also felt that with law, and the Diploma in particular, the courses are very career driven so I had never really had the opportunity to study and explore interests for the sole purpose of expanding my knowledge. After working for an MSP for over a year my political interest and knowledge had developed and I was keen to combine that with my interest in criminal justice. I started looking at masters courses and when I came across the LLM in Criminal Justice and Penal Change at Strathclyde it felt like the perfect fit, like it had been designed specifically for me!

What was the highlight of your time at Strathclyde?
I can’t possibly choose just one memory to be the highlight. From the interesting classes and fascinating guest lecturers, to the lively class discussions and the amazing people, I am so grateful to have had this experience.

What would be your advice for people considering taking this course?
Enjoy it! Enjoy every minute, because it flies by. It is such a different experience from studying at undergraduate level, and being around a small group of people who are passionate about the same things as you and who are there just to enjoy the learning experience is inspiring, so take advantage of that as much as you can. There are also plenty of opportunities for practical visits including to prisons and Children’s Hearings rooms, which provide a practical insight into the implementation of the areas you are studying. I would definitely recommend attending as many of these visits as possible as they add an extra element to the course and help build on your understanding.

What did you think of the support available?
I felt so supported during my time at Strathclyde, particularly by the course moderator and my dissertation supervisor. I continued to work full time while undertaking the course full time so I think I possibly relied on support from the university more than many. While obviously the support and flexibility from my boss was hugely valuable, the guidance and understanding from the university was a lifeline.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I intend to stay in my current job for the foreseeable future but it’s important to always be thinking of next steps, particularly when working in politics! I am keen to continue studying so hope to pursue a PhD at some point in the near future and eventually go on to work in an area where I can affect policy change.