A headshot of Chevan Ilangaratne, he is wearing a suit and smiling.

Chevan Ilangaratne

What motivated you to apply to study your chosen course?

I was motivated to apply for an LLB Law course for three reasons.

Firstly, having taken a keen interest in history and politics prior to university, I was naturally drawn to constitutional law, and how the bodies of rules, doctrines and practices govern the operation of political communities. I also took a keen interest in human rights and how the law can be used to challenge oppression and discriminatory practices perpetrated by the State, or actors of it.

Secondly, I enjoyed writing essays in my A-Level English Language and History courses and making persuasive arguments within them, hence the law was a subject I thought that would give me an opportunity to develop on a number of skills including that of critical thinking and analytical reasoning. I was not wrong about that.

Finally, having engaged in and enjoyed public speaking from a young age, I was very much determined to become a Barrister one day. Choosing law therefore as an undergraduate degree was an obvious choice.

Why did you choose to come to Leeds?

There were three main reasons why I chose to study at Leeds.

Firstly, I wanted to study at prestigious and leading academic institution. Leeds comprehensively fitted the bill in this regard given its strong reputation in research and academia more generally.  

Secondly, I was very keen to study at a campus university in order to experience a ‘community feel’. Being around motivated, determined and sometimes inspirational students, and lecturers alike, really brought about that sense that education was more than just textbooks and revision.

Thirdly, having grown up in East Yorkshire, the temptation of staying in this magnificent county and exploring a different part of it was all too tempting. Living in a vibrant and multi-cultural society like Leeds broadened my horizons, whilst not hitting my bank balance too detrimentally; on the latter, those who studied down South may not be able to say the same!

What aspects of the program or campus life had the most significant impact on you?

To my mind, there were three aspects of the Program that had the most significant impact on me.

Firstly, the range of interesting optional modules in my second and third year were deeply attractive. In particular, the human rights and international law modules very much allowed me to pursue my pre-existing interest in such subjects. Learning from the likes of Professor Anna Lawson, Professor Nick Taylor, Professor Paul Wragg and Dr Amrita Mukherjee really shaped my thinking about how the world operates, and how law can be used as a mechanism to challenge the status quo. It is no surprise that my first job post-graduation was in a human rights charity, based in Budapest Hungary – courtesy of a University of Leeds ‘Access to Justice’ Scholarship.

Secondly, beyond the aforementioned ‘Access to Justice’ Scholarship, I also secured and completed the University of Leeds ‘Pamela Walsh Peaker’ Scholarship during my undergraduate degree. This saw me undertake a funded summer internship in an employment law firm based in Leeds, which also did its own advocacy. Given I now specialise in employment law as a Barrister, the impact of such a Scholarship is patently clear.

Thirdly, the campus life at Leeds presented vast opportunities to be social and have fun in a safe environment (check out the great number of clubs and societies you can join)! As a result, I was able to meet some amazing people who I have stayed in touch with ever since, one of whom I attended the wedding of in Colombo, Sri Lanka last year!

Can you highlight any specific skills or knowledge gained from your studies that have been particularly valuable in your professional career?

My law degree has, without question, helped me with my current job of being a Barrister. The undergraduate law degree at Leeds helped me develop my ability to construct sound and logical arguments; indeed, I honed such skills, in particular, during the seminars led by many brilliant tutors where I was intellectually challenged and encouraged to develop my arguments to make them more convincing and persuasive.

Given, I regularly have to persuade a Court or Tribunal of my client’s case as a Barrister, the skills I learned during my law degree are of great assistance and value.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their academic journey at the School?

Your journey has only just begun, but take it from me, an undergraduate law degree can fly by. Make the most of this large and outward looking university and be enterprising as possible – as if you were starting up a new business looking for potential ventures or new clients.

Attend the networking events by law firms and Chambers hosted at the University; go to careers talks if possible; sign up to and participate in competitions like mooting and debating. Also, if you take a particular interest in an aspect of law, talk to the relevant lecturer about it when you can – who knows what it will lead to during university, and beyond. Adopting the mantra that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ is no bad thing. And remember, university means opportunity – so make the most of it.

Do also remember, though, hobbies and extra-curricular activities beyond the law are strongly advised – and plus, employers of the future may want to see evidence of this!