Pursuing a passion for literature 

After running his own law practice for 25 years, Jeremy Solnick (BA English, 2011) chose to pursue his passion for literature and undertake a degree in English at Birkbeck in 2007.  

Jeremy grew up in South Africa where he completed a BSc in Psychology and Computer Science. At the age of 22, he moved to the UK and qualified as a Lawyer at the London College of Law. After working for a small law practice in Putney, Jeremy was inspired to go out and set up his own firm. He describes this as a difficult but rewarding challenge: “I went out and started my own business in my own practice as a lawyer, and that was very, very hard work — especially as it was shortly after the birth of my son! But it was absolutely worth it. Owning and working on your own business really motivates you.” Over the 25 years of running his own practice, Jeremy was most proud of the impact his work had on the lives of his clients. He reflects: “I always got a big thrill from helping people. From facilitating the reorganisation of their business, to even the mundane things of helping people move house. People were always very grateful and that was lovely.” 

Jeremy always had a passion for literature and often wished he studied it at university, so after an extensive career in law he was eager for a change of scene. “I was getting tired of being a lawyer and all the pressure,” Jeremy explains. “So, I started looking around at evening classes and that’s when Birkbeck came on the scene.” Jeremy took advantage of the free taster courses in English at Birkbeck and was soon inspired to pursue his passion through full-time study.  

Jeremy was delighted with the transition back to higher education, and the support on offer helped him get the most out of his studies: “What I like about Birkbeck is that it is very accessible to people who are coming back to start again. By the time I started at Birkbeck I was 57 and to be honest, I don’t think I would have been comfortable doing an undergraduate degree at another university. The additional modules for essay writing and other study sessions definitely helped me relearn key skills. It showed me I could still study, that my brain had not gone to sleep. I had the commitment, and I had a much better work discipline than I had when I was doing my first degree in my twenties!”

“[Birkbeck] showed me I could still study… and I had a much better work discipline than when I was doing my first degree in my twenties!”

Jeremy fondly remembers the relationships he built with other students during his time at Birkbeck. He recalls a conversation with one of his peers at his graduate ceremony, who faced challenging home circumstances: “I remember sitting speaking with her, and she said to me, ‘I’ve got a degree. I’ve actually got a degree, and no one can ever take this away from me. I’ve got it. It’s mine.’ That was so, so moving.” 

After completing his BA in English Literature at Birkbeck, Jeremy continued to pursue his love of literature by undertaking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Essex. He remains an avid reader and is now studying for a PHD in epic poetry at the University of Essex.