Commercial work experience is highly valuable as it offers an insight into the role of a commercial lawyer. It can be formative in helping students decide whether to pursue a career in the field and expose you to the general responsibilities and tasks associated with the role.
Commercial law firms offer a range of opportunities from ad-hoc internships and insight days to vacation schemes (which can potentially lead to a training contract). However, securing work experience in commercial law is highly competitive and therefore, aspiring candidates need to present a strong application that attracts the attention of recruiters. Here are some of the key ways to further your professional and personal development and successfully secure work experience with a commercial law firm.
Cover letters are an integral part of any work experience application and are required whether you are emailing to enquire about internship opportunities or formally applying to a scheme. Employers pay close attention to your cover letter to learn more about you as a person.
It is important to acknowledge that at this stage of your career, you may lack the extensive knowledge or experience to offer a substantial contribution to the firm. Instead, firms can offer something of immense value to you. They are often enthusiastic to guide and support future generations. As such, make sure to emphasise how a work experience with the firm can offer great opportunities for your personal growth.
Finally, the most important aspect of your cover letter is making it relevant to the particular firm to which you are applying. Firms do not appreciate generic cover letters that have been merely copied and pasted across applications. Do your research and explain what has specifically motivated you to approach each firm. It could be a particular case they were involved in; an exciting scheme they offer or a department you would like to work in.
Along with your cover letter, your CV forms the bulk of your work experience application. It is an opportunity to present your professional achievements and present yourself as a valuable prospective employee. Beyond achieving strong examination results, there are various other ways of boosting your CV.
Aspiring candidates can gain non-legal work experience by participating on society committees; volunteering with charities or working at a local restaurant. This can develop various transferable skills from time management and organisation to teamwork and leadership which attract recruiters’ attention.
Several firms, such as White & Case and Linklaters, have also introduced virtual internships. These do not include an application process and therefore offer any budding commercial lawyer the opportunity to gain experience in the field. These make a wonderful addition to your application as they offer a first-hand insight into the firm and its business, practices and ethos. This can help you cater your application more specifically to a particular firm.
Be sure to highlight not just your previous experience and skills but also your extracurricular interests as these are highly valued by recruiters. Whether you write for your student publication or have represented your university in a regional competition, employers want to hear more about your life outside of academic requirements.
Commercial awareness is essential to mention on commercial law work experience applications as it demonstrates not only an understanding of commercial contexts but also a strong commitment to and interest in the field. There are various ways through which you can develop your commercial knowledge such as reading top legal books; enrolling in online courses and attending any relevant webinars or talks.
Budding commercial lawyers will therefore gain an in-depth view of various elements of the sector which they can draw on in their cover letters, CVs and interviews. These practices definitely help your application stand out to recruiters as they reflect a genuine enthusiasm for knowledge and learning beyond the classroom.
If your school or university hosts law events, make an effort to attend because you can learn more about the field of commercial law directly from professionals. These talks and panel discussions also offer an opportunity to network and develop connections with future colleagues and clients.
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Words: Siobhan Ali
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