As a law student or aspiring lawyer, you’re likely to hear the about the importance of gaining work experience in your chosen field. Such experience is incredibly useful for developing your skills and making your CV stand out. In some instances, such as vacation schemes, it’s even designed to lead directly into employment itself. The importance of legal work experience for the new SQE route is also worth noting – it’s now a compulsory component of the qualification to have experience on-the-job. This article will discuss a range of legal work experience – from those typically associated with the solicitor or barrister route to more general opportunities for those with a legal interest.

Benefits of Legal Work Experience

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of legal work experience, it is useful to note the benefits:

  • Develop your skills in areas such as writing, research, and client communication
  • Enhance your CV (which will often be interrogated further down the line in later applications)
  • Demonstrates your commitment to a career in law to employers
  • It can help you to consider which area of law you may want to specialise in
  • Gives you a real taste of what legal work is actually like
  • Some legal work experience opportunities are paid
  • Excellent opportunity to network (both with other interns in your cohort and with more senior staff
  • It is helpful in deciding which career path you wish to choose (for example, a solicitor or a barrister)

Law Work Experience for Year 12 Students

For year 12 students, getting law work experience can be an invaluable opportunity to gain insight into the legal profession and help them to decide whether they would like pursue a career in law. There are several different ways in which students can acquire legal work experience which include internships, work placements, as well as volunteering and shadowing opportunities.

Internships and work placements provide students with the chance to work alongside legal professionals and develop their skills through practical, hands-on experience within a law firm or legal advice clinic. Students may be asked to conduct research on legal cases, to help different aspects of a legal case and to sit in on interviews with clients.

Volunteering at a legal advice clinic is a great way for Year 12 students to gain insight into different areas of law and to gain exposure to the legal profession. Legal clinics offer free legal advice and representation for people who are unable to afford a lawyer and rely on volunteers to help provide these services. This can be a highly rewarding experience and allow students to develop important skills such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills which are fundamental for a career within the legal profession.

Lastly, shadowing legal professionals, such as lawyers and judges is another option which allow students to gain legal work experience before moving on to university. By observing lawyers, judges and other legal professionals at work, students gain a sense of what a typical day would be like and the skills required for success within the field.

For more information, take a look at our detailed guide on law work experience for Year 12 students.


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Work Experience for Aspiring Solicitors

Vacation Schemes 

Vacation Schemes (sometimes referred to informally as ‘vac schemes’) are the most obvious form of legal work experience for aspiring solicitors. Offered by law firms, vacation schemes are often a direct route into securing a coveted training contract. They are targeted at recent graduates and vary in structure from firm to firm, but will often last between one to four weeks, are usually paid, take place at various intervals throughout the year (usually winter or summer – sometimes spring), and allow you to experience solicitor life in a handful of ‘seats’ (different practice areas). Alongside your work, you’re likely to attend presentations from the firm, and get to know other vac schemers on your cohort. Vacation schemes are notoriously hard to secure (especially at the top firms), so you’ll want to check out our top tips on how to improve your chances of obtaining one.

Want law work experience? These three pledges will get you there – read them now >>

First Year Schemes

While vacation schemes typically target students towards the end of their education (penultimate or final year of your degree, for example), the firms running them are often interested to meet aspiring lawyers in their first year too. For this reason, a number of top law firms run first year schemes. Some will even offer training contracts via these schemes – although for the majority, it’s just an incredibly useful way to build your CV a year early before the actual vacation scheme applications begin. Aspiring solicitors who have participated in a first year scheme are often more likely to get onto vacation schemes (especially at the same firm). While not every firm offers first year schemes, high-profile examples include A&O First and Clifford Chance’s Spark.

See Vacation Scheme Deadlines

Law Firm Open Days

Much like first year schemes, open days are typically targeted at students earlier on in their degrees – although you can attend at any time. It’s important to note that the phrase ‘open day’ isn’t being used here in the same way it might have been when you were looking at universities, for example – law firm open days are usually selective, meaning you’ll have to send in a fairly competitive application. On the actual day (whether online or in-person), you’re likely to have some kind of hands-on activity as well as talks from the firm. These events look great on your CV, demonstrating both an interest in the firm/solicitor work as a whole, and a level of competence to be accepted in the first place.

Virtual Work Experience

These are a relatively new form of legal work experience that many firms have now started to roll out. They’re non-selective and can be done at any time in any place – meaning there’s really no reason not to at least try out a handful before you send off vacation scheme applications, for example. For the limited amount of effort required, these virtual internships can be very rewarding to have in your application arsenal. They will usually involve a few pages of miscellaneous legal tasks, and might take a few hours to complete. At the end, you are usually presented with a certificate which can be linked to your CV or LinkedIn. Most are offered by a provider named Forage, and can usually be found on the individual law firm website. 

Brand Ambassador Programmes

If you’re looking to demonstrate an interest in one particular firm that you have your eye on, then brand ambassador positions are an excellent starting point. They also develop your skills in preparation for applications to come. Often, these positions involve spreading the word about a particular firm on your university campus via social media, events, etc. The Lawyer Portal have teamed up with top law firm Bird & Bird to provide a brand ambassador role worth considering.

Pre-University Opportunities

Law firm work experience opportunities for younger individuals (i.e. pre-university) are more limited. There are certainly fewer structured law work experience opportunities available. That being said, there is nothing to stop you from making some speculative applications to law firms at this stage. There may be opportunities to build your legal experience before university with Law summer schools.

Law Internships

Many firms offer undergraduate students the opportunity to spend a week or so in their firms to get a taste of what work in their offices may be like if they choose to pursue a career in law.

Watch our video with former legal intern, Wing, for more information:

Work Experience for Aspiring Barristers

If the Bar is of particular interest, work experience in a barrister’s chambers and/or in a courtroom setting will help to give you a flavour for a career as a barrister and whether it’s right for you. Law work experience opportunities are as follows:

Mini Pupillage

Aspiring barristers often look to mini pupillages as preparation for later pupillage applications. Securing one looks excellent on your CV, and usually involves shadowing a barrister for a week or two – an exciting opportunity for anyone interested in this career path. It can also be a sure-fire way to demonstrate your interest in a particular chambers, as well as providing a great opportunity to network with insiders within this notoriously competitive profession.

See Mini Pupillage Deadlines


Outside of the structured format of a formal mini pupillage, it is often possible to secure shadowing-based barrister work experience in other capacities too. Judge Marshalling, for example, allows you to shadow the work of a judge. This demonstrates your interest in the career path and again acts as an excellent networking opportunity.

Court Visits

Court visits are not technically work experience in and of themselves, but they are still great ‘experience’ in a general sense. Attending open court rooms at the Old Bailey, for example, might allow you to get a better understanding of how the legal system operates for the most serious crimes – perfect for someone developing an interest in criminal law, for example. They can also act as anecdotal ammunition for future interviews.

Other Opportunities

In-house Legal Internships 

In-house legal departments will often offer legal work experience. This is a great opportunity to develop your CV, skills, network, and more – while these opportunities are often less structured than training contracts or mini pupillages (and offered on a more random basis), they can be incredibly useful. This is also an opportunity to gain the unique experience of being at the other end of legal processes (as opposed to being at a law firm itself) – an experience which law firms value highly. An IP/patents-focused law firm seeing you have in-house legal work experience at a pharmaceutical company, for example, are likely to be very impressed.


It is also possible to gain work experience via volunteering. Citizens Advice often list such opportunities, or they could also be found within a pro-bono service at your university. This provides the opportunity to gain hands-on legal responsibility in a way few other opportunities can offer, and thus looks very impressive on a CV (as well as the skills you’ll naturally develop).


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Tips on Securing A Legal Internship

Legal work experience is competitive across the board. As well as the more specific advice to be found on the pages already linked into this article, here are some of our general top tips:

  • Draw on any experience you already have
  • Link your relevant skills to the work involved
  • Tailor any application you send closely to its destination (as much research as you can find time to do)
  • Show as much enthusiasm as possible
  • Prepare for any admissions tests as part of the application process (e.g. the Watson Glaser critical thinking exam; you can try a free practice test here)
  • Maintain the best academic record you can (law places a significant amount of emphasis in this area)
  • Demonstrate your communication and interpersonal skills throughout – remember that law is essentially always about dealing with people

In short, legal work experience can be an excellent way of demonstrating your tangible interest in a legal career (or sometimes even a direct route into it). There are a range of opportunities available that, while often competitive, are certainly worth trying your best to secure. 


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