Connor Graves has been awarded the Morton’s Solicitors Prize for his Outstanding Achievement in Law after graduating from the University of Sunderland with a First-Class degree this week.

The annual prize is presented to the ‘Top Performing Final Year Law Student’ who receives an internship over the summer with the Company, book tokens and an engraved Dartington Crystal Bowl.

The University and Morton’s Solicitors have built a strong partnership over the years which is crucial in supporting graduate employment prospects.

Connor, 26, from Cardiff, said: “I am truly honoured to win the Morton’s Prize. It is the achievement of a lifetime to gain a First-Class honours degree in Law and I cannot thank the university enough for recognising my achievement.”

Connor chose to study at Sunderland because of the Integrated Foundation year it offered together with the LLB (Hons) Law undergraduate programme.

“I was out of education for a good few years and Sunderland offered a fantastic programme back in, and staff supported me throughout my four years here,” says Connor.

“Most of my degree was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the transition from in-person teaching to online teaching was very smooth. The law department, together with the university was supportive throughout the pandemic by arranging one-to-one sessions and providing extra resources so that I did not miss out on any learning.

“A particular highlight of the course was the Law Clinic where I was able to work with the general public and deal with their legal queries, by interviewing clients and providing accurate legal advice throughout the academic year.”

The Sunderland Law Clinic, based at the University’s Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s, is a unique innovation which operates like an ordinary solicitor’s practice. Law students offer free and professional legal advice, focusing on areas where people may find it difficult to find or afford other legal services, shadowed by experienced solicitors.

Connor added: “I also took full advantage of the opportunities that the Law Department offered, I attended workshops such as dementia friends which now allows me to assist clients who may suffer from dementia and I am a recognised dementia friend.

“I also took the opportunity of presenting a legal project to senior figures of the University and the Mayor of the City, where I highlighted the issue of male domestic abuse victims and the legal issues surrounding that sensitive issue.”

Angela Ashcroft, Solicitor Director at Mortons Law, said: “We are very proud to have supported the University of Sunderland’s Law School for more than 10 years with the presentation of the Mortons Law Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Law.  It is very gratifying to see some of the past winners working locally as solicitors in north-east firms.

We look forward to welcoming Connor on his internship with us over the summer and wish him well in his future career.”

Connor now plans to gain experience of working in the legal sector with the hope of getting a training contract at a law firm. He is studying the LLM Legal Practice Course in September in Cardiff, which will allow him to complete a Masters in Law and have the relevant qualification to become a trainee solicitor.

Connor’s advice to Law students about to embark on their own University journey is to utilise everything that the university has to offer.

“You may feel uncomfortable joining a social or sports club at first but I cannot stress enough how beneficial it will be for a student,” he says.

“Whether you want to learn a completely new skill, or just meet people it is an effective way to give you a brilliant start to university and settle into student life.

“I would also encourage students to join the Law Society, they have exciting plans for the academic year of 22/23 which will assist them with their studies and allow them to meet new people in the legal sector at the same time, which will no doubt benefit them socially and professionally.

“Lastly, my advice would be to enjoy the journey. University can be stressful, but as long as you give all you can with the support of the staff then you will be fine. The staff at Sunderland will always do their upmost to support you.”

Caroline Gibby, Head of Law at the University of Sunderland said: “I was fortunate to teach Connor this year and supervise his journey in the Law Clinic, he demonstrates what it is like to be a Sunderland student – focused, dedicated, hardworking, a great team player and it was a pleasure to see him apply his knowledge, understanding and skills  gained throughout his time at Sunderland– we wish him well in his next steps in his legal journey.

“We very much appreciate the prize that Mortons continue to sponsor for our students and their continued support for the Law School.”

For more information about Law programmes at the University of Sunderland, click here.