In a legal context, virtual work experience programmes are essentially free online courses challenging you to complete tasks similar to those found within traditional work experience opportunities (e.g. vacation schemes for aspiring solicitors). You will often be asked to step into the role of a trainee solicitor, completing tasks such as:
They are usually created by individual law firms (and hosted by platforms such as Forage), and the tasks within each will often be tailored to the needs of those firms, such as specialist practice areas. For example, the Bird & Bird virtual work experience has an IP (Intellectual Property) focus – an area the firm is well-known for. You can also develop your experience further via our joint brand ambassador program with Bird & Bird.
You submit your completed tasks throughout these programmes (they are often broken down into 4-8 task or stages), which the managing firms are then able to review. You usually also receive model answers upon submitting your responses.
Each task is usually introduced via a task brief (sometimes written, sometimes in the form of an associate or partner verbally explaining your task in video format), and supplementary materials are often provided (for example, a few pages of relevant legislation that you might need to read through in order to find the answer to a specific legal query which has come up in the task).
In terms of duration, these programmes are self-paced – meaning that you can leave and come back whenever you please. On average, the completion of a single programme might take 4-8 hours or roughly one hour per task.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of virtual work experience is the ability to easily develop essential skills related to the legal profession. Conducting due diligence research, for example, is a common trainee task – by completing one of these programmes, you will develop these abilities early.
While building your skills is great, it is just as important to be able to demonstrate them to a prospective employer. Mentioning virtual work experience on your CV or within application questions (e.g. in a training contract application) highlights these skills in a proven, tangible manner that will impress any employer.
All law firms will be impressed that you have completed virtual law work experience. Bonus marks are likely to be awarded, however, if you have completed the programme created by the specific firm you’re now sending off an application to. This demonstrates a tangible commitment to the firm which you’ve proven across a number of hours (making it clear to the recruitment team that their firm was not simply one within a list of hundreds that you’ve fired off applications to).
It is worth noting that no one expects you to complete the virtual work experience programme of every firm you apply to, especially since you’re likely to be sending off quite a few applications. If you don’t get round to completing the virtual work experience programme for a firm you’re particularly interested in, try to reference programmes that you’ve completed at broadly similar firms (thus demonstrating transferable skills and interests).
Virtual work experience programs are not competitive at all – there is no application process. This makes them the perfect way to gain experience in the legal sector for aspiring lawyers who are just starting out and may not yet have the most refined CV.
This has particular benefits for people from socially mobile backgrounds too, which has been a key focus of the legal sector in recent years (see the growth of solicitor apprenticeships, for example). Many working-class individuals may enter the competitive world of vacation scheme applications with CV gaps that these programmes can assist in filling. The lack of an application process also means a lot of time saved on applications and interviews, and more time to focus on other important work.
Most vacation schemes at major law firms have relatively strict requirements on when you can apply to them (often this will be between your penultimate and final year of university). Virtual work experience programmes, on the other hand, have few (if any) restrictions on what stage you need to be at in your education (or even career, if you’re looking to go into law as a career change).
Virtual work experience programmes do not suffer from the same rigidity of vacation schemes, where aspiring lawyers may need to block out entire weeks from their university summer holidays, for instance. These programs could be completed across a few evenings after seminars or a part time job, for example.
Perhaps the most underrated benefit of all. For many people, virtual work experience is the first form of legal work experience that they will complete. This makes it an excellent opportunity to work out whether a career in law (and a specific understanding of the tasks involved) are actually something which appeal to you as an individual.
Online law work experience is a great way for Year 12 students to gain an insight into the legal profession, and start to develop the skills necessary for a successful career in the industry.
There are a range of virtual work experience programmes open to Year 12 students, ranging from 4-8 hours in duration. These are usually tailored to the needs of the firm offering the experience, focusing on specialist practice areas such as intellectual property.
Completing virtual law work experience offers a range of benefits for Year 12 students. It provides an opportunity to develop essential skills such as legal research and drafting, and also demonstrates to prospective employers a tangible commitment to the legal profession. It also provides an opportunity to gain an insight into the legal sector and decide whether a career in law is the right choice for them.
As demonstrated by the list above, virtual work experience has a huge range of benefits, and there really is no reason to avoid it altogether. There is, of course, one obvious limitation worth noting – virtual work experience cannot compare to the experience gained via traditional legal work experience (namely a vacation scheme). As a result, employers will not view the same as equal.
We recommend viewing virtual work experience as an excellent steppingstone on your journey to securing in-person legal work experience. Virtual work experience, for example, would not be considered a legitimate way to fulfil the qualifying work experience (QWE) requirements within the new SQE route. Therefore, while such experiences are useful to complete, it is worth being aware of their limitations. They should be completed as well as (or most likely in preparation for) traditional work experience – not instead of.
Let’s take a look at some examples of law firms who offer virtual work experience. Please note that this is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list, but rather a list showcasing a demonstratively wide range of firms who offer virtual work experience. Individual information is listed for each.
Virtual law work experience is an avenue through which to easily develop valuable skills and demonstrate experience and an interest in the legal sector. It is not a replacement for traditional legal work experience, but rather serves as an excellent steppingstone for achieving it, boosting your odds of securing your spot on programmes including vacation schemes. A range of firms offer these programs, and the number is predicted to keep on growing in the future.
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