In the highly competitive legal market today, there is no doubt that legal work experience is an extremely desirable asset to have – both for your professional and personal development. In this article, we highlight some of the best ways to get work experience at a law firm.
Start Early; Insight Days
For first-year undergraduate students, it can be extremely beneficial to start early with networking by attending structured work experience insight days specifically for first-year students. Not only will this help you gain clarity on whether a specific law firm (or law in general) is for you, but it may also give you a competitive advantage in your future applications for vacation schemes, and sought-after training contracts for aspiring solicitors. Including such early involvements to your legal CV is an additional way to demonstrate your commitment to law and build relationships with, potentially, your future employers.
Each firm will have its own approach towards such schemes, yet many will include presentations about the firm, future application advice, insights into pro bono work, group presentations, chances to engage in networking and opportunities to shadow a trainee or associate at the firm. Many commercial or corporate law firms offer such first-year schemes, for both law and non-law undergraduates.
Vacation schemes are legal internships meant for penultimate year law students or final year non-law students wishing to pursue a career as a solicitor. It will give you a brilliant opportunity to not only get noticed by firms by building legal contacts (which is invaluable when it comes to applying for competitive training contracts or pupillages later on), but equally, it allows you to experiment with various practice areas and understand which area of law you are most suited to. Therefore, there are many things you can do to obtain a competitive edge in your vacation scheme or mini-pupillage applications.
Two crucial things law firms are looking for are:
A genuine interest in the law, but primarily in their specific law firm. Aim to apply for six to eight firms and take your time in doing extensive research beforehand. This can be done by tailoring your answers specifically to help you stand out from the crowd. For example, try to find examples of their recent work and any notable cases that you find interesting.
Active demonstration of essential transferrable skills. Most vacation scheme applications or interviewers may also ask you for examples of leadership, commercial awareness, teamwork skills or extracurricular achievements. It is, therefore, so important that you include active examples of any networking or extra-curricular achievements that show such pertinent skills for a career in law.
In today’s increasingly competitive legal market, getting work experience can be difficult. However, there are several non-traditional ways to make your application more successful. First and foremost, taking part in pro bono work is not only highly rewarding, but also a brilliant way to experience law in a practical and meaningful sense – which many firms and chambers will value. This can be done in many ways, for example, volunteering at your local Citizens Advice, Free Representation Unit, Bar Pro Bono Unit, Human Rights Watch and many more.
Alternatively, visiting your local crown court is also an excellent way to experience advocacy first-hand and practically understand what a barrister does day-to-day. Numerous court hearings are public proceedings, and therefore it is free to observe from the public gallery. Additionally, taking part in debating and mooting will also boost your advocacy, legal research, teamwork and writing skills – highly transferrable to future applications.
All of the above are great ways to enhance your legal CV and being one step closer to achieving the sought after training contracts or pupillages.