Teaching Key Life Skills to Children: Empowering Students through Legal Education, with Founder of Little Lawyers, Fiona Mills: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?


Ludo Millar 1:25
Hello, and welcome to the 108th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Yep, I know that sounds impressive, I hope it sounds impressive. It’s something that we’re very proud of here at Qualified Tutor. If you don’t know already, if you’ve never listened to this podcast, my name is Ludo Millar, the host of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Welcome back to regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to the Qualified Tutor Podcast. And of course, a huge welcome to today’s guest, Fiona Mills. Welcome, Fiona.

Fiona Mills 2:51
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Ludo Millar 2:53
I’m so excited for today’s conversation because as you know, Fiona, this is a subject that’s pretty close to my heart. And I will explain what I mean by that, dear listeners, in just a second. But as a brief introduction to Fiona, Fiona has been a tutor for over 15 years helping students with their reading and writing skills alongside her legal studies, and her legal career. In 2015, Fiona qualified as a solicitor here in the UK, and has since gone on to work at firms, based in Singapore and in Australia. And so has had a wonderfully varied career in several areas of law. Much to the UK’s benefit, Fiona is now back working in-house at British media company, Global. And in fact, small round of applause, just recently was made Senior Legal Counsel at Global which is hugely exciting, Fiona and extremely impressive given the fact that amongst it all, Fiona has run Mills Tutoring, and recently launched Little Lawyers, which we’ll be hearing a lot more about over the next half an hour or so. It’s an exciting new project both for Fiona and for, I believe, the tutoring industry as a whole: teaching students the importance of legal skills, and exposing them to the kind of life skills that people are usually only afforded post-university or post-apprenticeship. I have a lot of respect and admiration for this project, as I myself have been a tutor for over six years, alongside my law school studies. We are alike I guess, yet Fiona is much, much further along this journey than I am. So there’s a whole lot to learn today. I hope I just don’t get carried away …

So welcome, Fiona, to the podcast. We have what I hope is an exciting new addition to the start of these podcasts. We last did it with Susannah Hardyman, who was a guest two episodes’ ago and Founder of Action Tutoring, where I asked guests to see if they can drag up from the bottom of their drawers, old school reports and teacher feedback from their childhood to see if it shines a light on where guests are in their career today. So, Fiona, over to you, I hear, I gather you have a few school reports to tell us about.

Fiona Mills 5:21
I did. I went hunting and I found- I couldn’t find any of my primary school ones. But I found all of my secondary school ones. So it was interesting reading yesterday, don’t think I’ve looked at them for a long time. But I’ve found a couple which I thought were interesting, particularly given I’m now a lawyer. So this is from a year 10, one autumn term in year 10. I think this was from my English teacher, he said, ‘I would like to see Fiona contributing a little more in class. It would be helpful for her to try out new ideas, and the act of vocalising them would help her to substantiate her views and enable others to respond and shape them further. More pragmatically, 20% of Fiona’s English GCSE depends on speaking and listening exercises, so it will be foolhardy to forsake the chance to practice. Moreover, these are skills she’s likely to need later in life’.

Ludo Millar 6:17
Well, your English teacher was very right.

Fiona Mills 6:22
Very right. But I feel I was slightly underestimated. And there was another one in the same school report. I mean, this is just a theme that was I think, throughout secondary school. I think this is from my RS teacher, he said that I ‘can do very pleasing work’, but I tend to be ‘too quiet (‘too’ underlined) in class’, and will not ‘join in general debate’. So I mean, every single report basically said that I just didn’t contribute enough.

Ludo Millar 6:52
You were storing it all up, Fiona, you were just quietly in the wings absorbing it all. [LAUGHS]

Fiona Mills 6:58
Yeah. So yeah, I think that’s probably partly why I have thought about other children and other children who maybe and I might talk about this a bit later, you know, maybe don’t like speaking up so much. But I don’t think you necessarily should count them say that, you know, they’re not going to be lawyers. Because I think law is about so much more than that.

Ludo Millar 7:21
Yeah. So do you think that’s why you, I mean, not, do you think those report cards are why you do what you do today, but do you think that that vision behind or that objective to turn good and impressive young people into lawyers or into good and impressive professionals, is that why you do what you do? 

Fiona Mills 7:45
Yeah, I think I do. think a lot of children are underestimated. And particularly if they’re a bit quieter, and they don’t speak up, and they’re not one of the loudest in the class, they, you know, might be- the teachers kind of leave them to it a bit. And I think, you know, I did quite well at school, but at the same time, I always kept a low profile. And I think probably, if I said to a teacher, ‘I want to be a lawyer’, which I would say from about 14, I did consider being a lawyer. So I was thinking about it, probably when those school reports are written, they will probably be like, ‘Oh, she’s not going to be a lawyer. There’s no way’. And I just think that, you know, law is about so much more than that. And you don’t have to- I still don’t love public speaking, I still don’t love talking whether we’re in a big meeting, but I still think you can be a good lawyer. And that doesn’t have to be the focus of your job. And I think that’s people don’t necessarily think of law in that way. People think that law is where you have to stand up in court, and you have to be good at public speaking. And you have to, you have to love it. And I just don’t think that’s the case.

Ludo Millar 8:50
Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about Little Lawyers then, and just what you’ve been talking about some of the opportunities you think it has in the tutoring market.

Fiona Mills 9:03
Yeah. So Little Lawyers is, of course, to help children to build their confidence to improve their speaking, their negotiating and their reasoned thinking. And I started the course to teach children some useful skills that will help them with their writing and their speaking in interviews maybe later in life, and just so that they can better advocate for themselves, so that they can articulate their views and stand up for themselves and what they believe in. I also hope that it teaches children about the basics of the legal system, because I think lots of adults don’t understand the legal system. And I hope it opens children’s eyes to different career options and opportunities that perhaps they haven’t been exposed to before. And in terms of the market for it, I previously just used to tutor children and to help them prepare for 11+ exams. And there’s obviously a huge market for this but there are also lots of lots of tutors who were doing it. So I really wanted to use my legal background to create something that was a bit unique, that would still help children with 11+ assessments, but would also teach children life skills that would help them later in life, and kind of open their eyes to different aspects of the world. And I think I’ve really since, I used to work in law firms, and for about two years, I’ve worked in-house for a firm, Global. And when you work in-house, you work with a lot of non-lawyers. And I think a lot of people who haven’t had legal training struggle with basic legal skills and find contracts and anything legal quite intimidating. But we’re all affected by laws every day. And adults need to understand that the contracts that they’re entering into. And I think life is really becoming more complicated and fast-paced. And I really think it’s important that children are taught how to deal with challenges that they’re likely to face later in life, as well as the academic skills that they’re taught and assessed on in schools. Because when they go into the big wide world, as adults, they need to be equipped to deal with the problems of modern life. And if they have those skills, they’re going to find it a bit less stressful. And you need to be speaking to parents, I think a lot of parents find aspects of adult life quite overwhelming. And they really do want to help their children to navigate the difficulties as they grow up.

Ludo Millar 11:27
So do you find that the interest in Little Lawyers comes from the students themselves, or more often the parents wanting their students to enrol?

Fiona Mills 11:38
So at the moment, I’m just running Little Lawyers for children in Year 5 and 6, so they’re quite young, and probably, you know, they’re always very interested. And when I say I’m a lawyer, they’re interested in knowing what I do. But they probably haven’t really thought about the skills that it develops to help them when they might, you know, if they’re doing let them pass, I’ll be like, ‘Well, this will help you with your interviews, or this will help you with your persuasive writing’, but they won’t necessarily understand how it will may help them later in life. Whereas I think it is often the parents of these younger children who do see how the course can benefit their children.

I think I would really, really love to expand the course to work with older children, I think it’s something that could work right the way up to university level. And even with adults, I think a lot of adults would love to do a course that helps them with how to write letters of complaint, how to advocate for themselves. I often find that I’ve got friends or family who come to me, and they’re like, ‘This problem has happened, this has gone wrong, what should I do about it?’. So, I think there’s probably a big market for it all the way all the way through all levels of students and all ages.

Ludo Millar 12:47
You’ve got to be careful not to put lawyers out of a job by teaching a course on the aspects of law [LAUGHS]. But no, I certainly think that, amongst peers of mine, at university and at school, that would have been a really helpful thing to do just in the summer and a holiday, perhaps one that doesn’t have big set of exams coming up just after it, that would have been a great thing to do is a course in those fine legal skills. I’m wondering as well, you know, you more than anyone perhaps is best placed to answer something like this. But, Fiona, in what ways do teaching English and teaching legal skills intersect?

Fiona Mills 13:30
Well, I think every aspect of being a lawyer or doing something that requires legal skills, it’s all about being able to communicate and articulate yourself clearly, whether that’s orally or whether that’s in writing. And therefore, I think all aspects of English come into teaching legal skills. Without the basics of grammar and good vocabulary and being able to structure your thoughts, it’s difficult to be able to express yourself in a way that’s convincing and persuasive and easily understood by others. And that’s really important when you’re using your legal skills. In one of my Little Lawyers courses, in one of the sessions, I focus on how to complain in writing if something goes wrong. And you know, that has similarities with how I would teach persuasive writing to children in Year 5 or 6. Equally in a different session, I focus on argument building for negotiating, which has similarities to debating, which I know lots of children might cover in English lessons. But really, Little Lawyers, what I really hope is that it gives children a different perspective on English, particularly for those who maybe don’t enjoy reading or writing lots. I think with law, it’s all about applying English skills to real life practical scenarios.

Ludo Millar 14:47
Yeah. So I imagine you’re able to draw on practical scenarios, a great deal during the course?

Fiona Mills 14:54
Yeah, definitely. And I really, really try and do that and I think particularly having worked in-house, when you’re in private practice working in a law firm, you tend to get the more complicated things that come in from from clients. But if you aren’t able to deal them in-house legal teams can’t deal with them or they’re not sure how to deal with them. But in-house, you get all sorts, such a wide variety of things that come up from things that are maybe not so complicated to things that are really, really complicated and not so easy to get outside legal advice on. So definitely, I think the last few years working in-house has helped with that. And I can see it more from- having worked in law firms, I can see it from a lawyer’s perspective, but also from working with people who aren’t lawyers, I can see it from an everyday person perspective.

Ludo Millar 15:39
A layperson, if we follow what the law says …

Fiona Mills 15:42
Ah yes, that was the word.

Ludo Millar 15:45
So I think that’s a really key observation to make. And, you know, I love this idea that children are exposed to some of those key aspects of legal skills earlier on in life than they otherwise might be mentioned, in my introduction, that post-university, there’s a much greater chance to be exposed to these skills, but it’s about, you know, exposing students a little bit earlier than that. Yeah, I think that what you’re doing, I hope that what you’re doing will flick a switch in lots of the brains of listeners today and make them think about how, whether it’s law or whether it’s some other aspect that adults take for granted, how we can intertwine that into the skills that we teach children at school, not just obviously, looking past the classic subjects like English, maths and science, I think there’s a real scope for intertwining those life skills into school studies, whether it’s their financial skills and financial knowledge, or whether it’s legal skills or whatever else, I think it’s a really good step that tutoring might be able to take given that there isn’t really time in the school schedule, teachers, classroom, that kind of thing. There’s not much leeway in that schedule for teachers to be able to teach these extra life skills. So I think it’s something that specialists and tutors [can do] and I think it’s brilliant that you work in-house at a firm alongside this, I think that’s just amazing.

Fiona Mills 17:22
Yeah, well, I enjoy it, it gives me a good variety of work, which I enjoy.

Ludo Millar 17:29
Yeah. So I guess one way of adding value to those listening now is to ask you: what do you know now about being a lawyer that you wish you’d known as a child or as a student?

Fiona Mills 17:48
Yeah, I think when I was at school, I thought all lawyers either worked as barristers, or judges standing up in court, or worked in small high street firms in offices, dealing with individuals. And I don’t think I quite realised how very different lawyers jobs are, you know, in terms of the types of work you do, the hours you do, the salaries, the opportunities to work in different places. For example, I was always told that if you trained as an England and Wales qualified lawyer, it will be difficult to work elsewhere. But then I ended up working in three different countries as a lawyer, and if you work for the big international law firms, you know, that’s fairly common. And equally, many lawyers work in-house companies, which is what I do now. And more and more companies are hiring in-house legal counsel. And the great thing about this is that as, as a lawyer in-house, you work really closely with the board and senior people in the business. So you really do get to see how businesses are run and get to input and make a difference to strategic decisions,  particularly when you’re a junior lawyer, and you can work in a really, you know, big company or a big business, that’s just such great experience.

The other thing is I was always told that law was just such a demanding career, and it would take over my life. And you do have to work hard, particularly if you start in a big firm. But you know, I never thought it possible until a couple of years ago to have this multifaceted career to add a bit more variety to my life. I always found it a bit odd that when you’re a child, and you’re at school, you’re encouraged to try lots of different things, but then you get to your early 20s and you have to choose one career path to do for the next 50 years.

And I just think we’re all working longer, so it does make sense to branch out a bit in your career path. And I think law is really good for that. I don’t think I realised what a great stepping stone becoming a qualified lawyer is to many careers, even if you don’t think that you necessarily want to practice law for the rest of your life. I think it teaches you lots of transferable skills. It’s very well respected, there’s very good training. I think it’s something I really would encourage lots of people to consider.

The other thing is that law’s not just for the extroverts. As I said earlier with my school report, when I was at school, teachers constantly told me that I needed to speak up and contribute more, and I never thought or they never thought I’d be a lawyer. But you know, law really is for lots of people, no matter what their personality is, what their background is, or what their life goals are.

Ludo Millar 20:34
So do you find yourself giving spontaneously career advice to either the students you teach through Mills Tutoring, or those on the Little Lawyers course?

Fiona Mills 20:48
Yeah, I do definitely talk to children, I just want children to, not to think they can’t do something, particularly when they’re really young. I think some children will just get told when they’re quite young, well, that’s not for you, you’re not going to be able to do that. And I just really want children to really feel like if they work hard, and they really want to do something, and there are opportunities out there, they are going to have to work really hard. But, you know, firms and I think this is across the board. And in particular with graduate careers, they’re really, really trying to push diversity, they’re really trying to push for people from all different backgrounds. But I think at the same time, you know, and it’s amazing that they’re doing that, and we need to keep doing that. But at the same time, we do need to be trying to get into the schools and trying to speak to the children say to them, you can aspire to do all of these careers, and we’ll help you to help you to get there.

Ludo Millar 21:48
Yeah, and if they can hear that from school and also from their parents, and then from a kind of trusted adult tutor, as well, that’s a really good holistic message. So, yeah, I think that’s brilliant, Fiona, If you are with Fiona in this vision of giving children greater skills in being able to choose their own path in their careers. I think that’s a wonderful vision to be part of. And you can find Fiona on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/fionamillslawyertutor or facebook.com/millstutoring is Fiona’s Facebook page for the tutoring business that she runs, so plenty of places to find out more about Fiona. But just before we wrap up here, Fiona, I wanted to look ahead and ask you, what’s next for you? What’s next for Fiona Mills?

Fiona Mills 22:53
So I’m currently running Little Lawyers for children in Year 5 and 6. I would really like to run the course for older children in the future. So thinking about that, I’ve been speaking to some schools about how they can incorporate the skills and the Little Lawyers course into their curriculum. And I’m just trying to build the profile of Little Lawyers so that more children start to be taught these skills and also other life skills. I’d also really love to see more adults who work in professional jobs engage with schools, so that students are able to meet adults who work in a variety of careers. I really think the key to social mobility is exposing children to a wide variety of options, peoples and lives. And some children are only exposed to the teachers and the jobs their parents do. So,  if they’ve never met a lawyer or a doctor or people in other careers, they may have preconceived ideas about what kind of personal background you need. And working towards those professionals is not something they feel is a reasonable aspiration.

So, I’m trying to encourage people that I work with to try and  do mentoring or to get involved with schools to try and change that a little bit. And ultimately, I just want to make legal skills more accessible to more people so that both children and adults feel more confident about advocating for themselves and advocating for their rights. And that’s probably the main reason why I started tutoring in the first place. Because I think confidence is what often holds people back and it really is the key and there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing someone grow in confidence and improve their aspirations and change their life success, that it really does change their life choices and their outlook in life.

Ludo Millar 24:44
That is a wonderful message to leave people with, Fiona. Thank you so much for filling our heads with hope and inspiration and hopefully a new way of thinking. If not diving straight into the legal profession, putting down their tools or whatever they’re doing right now and jumping into law school, then at least changing the way they think about life skills for students, for children. So I am so glad that we were able to talk about this on the podcast. Obviously, as someone going into the legal profession myself, this is great to hear, I’m 100% behind this, I wish I’d jumped onto the Little Lawyers course when I was much younger, and I’m glad to see that there will be people are able to do that. So thank you, Fiona.

And if you, dear listeners, would like to hear more from Fiona, if 25 minutes is just not enough for you, then Fiona appeared on the TandTeaching podcast just a couple of weeks ago. So you can find the link to that podcast or that episode here, as well as all the other links, you need to find out more about Fiona and get in touch with her if you want to talk about law, want to talk about legal education or legal skills for children, any of the topics we’ve touched on today. I’m sure she’d be glad to, to chat to feel those questions. Lawyers are always so gracious and open to giving advice on different areas. So that is your next step. But Fiona, thank you for joining us.

Fiona Mills 26:32
Thanks for having me.

Ludo Millar 26:33
I hope you enjoyed talking about what you do, talking about the Little Lawyers vision.

Fiona Mills 26:38
Yeah, always love talking about what I’m doing.

Ludo Millar 26:41
And I’m so glad that you’re able to find those school reports. I think they’re brilliant to hear what actual educators are saying about the educators of today. I think that’s really powerful. And one day, even though you may not write teacher school reports, I’m sure you’ll have written emails or reports to the parents of the students you work with. And they’ll be able to pick up one of those in 10 years’ time and read about that. So I think it’s a very inspiring cycle. listeners. That’s all we have time for today. Thank you so much for listening.

Next week, we’re talking to a tutor, an educator in Canada who runs live STEM workshops. His name is Reuven Tzalmona. So that’ll be a really interesting look into how experiments and inquiry-based learning can help students but today was about life skills for the future, was about legal education for children. So go back and listen to any of this conversation if you’d like to repeat it, but Fiona, for one final time, thank you so much for joining us. And we’ll see you all again soon.

Fiona Mills 26:47
Thank you.


Ludo Millar

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Whether you’re a regular listener of this podcast, or you’ve just stumbled across it, join the Qualified Tutor Podcast Group within the Qualified Tutor Community. To stay up to date with our latest news offers workshops and of course, simply to meet other tutors like you, whatever your level is as a tutor, our training courses will be the next step in your professional development. Visit qualified tutor.org/training to find out more about our CPD-Accredited and Ofqual-recognised courses: the first of their kind in the tutoring industry.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Related Posts

How to Incorporate Spaced Learning...

Cindy Palmer, Founder of STEM Tutoring based in Washington State, has a handy tip to help you embed spaced practice…

Why the Time to Focus...

Quite why it's taking us this long to get Sean McCormick onto the podcast, we will never know. But now…

Giving Students the Tools for...

Autonomy, responsibility, self-direction. These are basic tenets of Henry Dingle's educational philosophy. In this slightly longer episode, find out why…
About Us
group photo of
Qualified Tutor is a grassroots movement led by tutors and school-leaders to raise standards in the tutoring profession with the QT, a flexible yet comprehensive qualification and quality mark designed to enable and empower motivated tutors.

Let’s Socialize

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Popular Posts