So what could you be doing to enhance your legal experience? You will probably start hearing talk about a lot of work experience opportunities only being available to those students from second year onwards, which in some cases may be right particularly in formal vacation schemes, but there are other things you could be doing in preparation for securing those vacation schemes & internships available to you.
Mini Pupillage: A Mini Pupillage is an opportunity to shadow and learn from the staff within Chambers. The best way to apply for a Mini Pupillage is to apply direct to the Chamber. The Mini Pupillage experience may allow you the opportunity to attend court or conferences with members of Chambers, observe Barristers at work and gain an insight into how that particular Chamber functions. Usually the Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook (available at the Centre of Career & Skills Development Service) will identify which chambers offer these opportunities or you can search online at LawCareers.net
Insight Workshops and Open Days: These offer students an opportunity to spend a day within a firm / company to gain an insight into how it operates. Those who are selected to attend will have the opportunity to meet recruiters and staff; ask questions and attend workshops. Usually available to first year students and offered by Firms & large Companies, www.milkround.com is one way of identifying these opportunities; otherwise targeting specific Companies/Firms and attending careers events on campus to get an idea of what opportunities are out there. Usually these opportunities are offered throughout the year so it is worth keeping an eye on the Firms/Companies you are interested in as they will usually indicate on their website when the next series of Open Days will be coming up.
Vacation Schemes: A vacation scheme is a formal opportunity to integrate career related experience into an undergraduate education by participating in planned, supervised work. Usually these are completed over a summer/winter break over a period on 4-12 weeks. To search for these opportunities look on Milkround. Vacation Schemes are becoming increasingly popular as many Law Firms will opt to offer Training Contracts to those who they have seen complete a vacation scheme in their firm. These schemes provide students with the invaluable opportunity to learn what being a lawyer is actually like. To secure an opportunity like this it is particularly important to start obtaining some legal experience in the first year through work shadowing, employer insight days or volunteering and getting actively involved in mooting.
Pro bono: Enhancing your legal experience & skills through pro bono work and volunteering has become increasingly important, and the majority of Law Firms & Chambers would expect to see this type of legal experience on your CV.
The City Law School sees the importance of building Pro Bono opportunities into the overall experience at City University so there are opportunities to work as a real lawyer through the Pro Bono Advice Unit and it works with a number of charities. There is also opportunity to deliver session on law to local schools & the community through The City Law School’s Street law project. To find out more about these opportunities, contact Dan Wilsher at The City Law School.
Volunteering: There are hundreds of volunteering opportunities that first year students can be engaging in. When looking at what is out there it is really important that you keep in mind the skills you need to develop so any opportunity that involves advocating, advising, supporting, working with a broad variety of people and cultural groups will certainly add value to any legal CV/Application.
You may want to target organisations that particularly relate to an area of law you are interested in. Try to think about this in a creative way (e.g. Metropolitan Police, Prisoners’ Advice Service, Victim Support Service, and National Probation Service if interested in Crime, not just a Law Firm / set that specialises in criminal law).
Job Shadowing: If you are looking for a little more exposure to a different area of law, then job shadowing in a law firm may be an alternative option. Even if you are planning on a career at the Bar, getting some exposure to the work of solicitors is a valuable opportunity to develop that awareness and start to build professional relationships. It is not likely that these opportunities will be advertised so you will need to be organised and confident enough to approach a law firm yourself with usually a CV or cover letter followed up with a phone call. You may ask for 1-2 days or more or even something ongoing each week depending on the individual law firms. You may have more success with small to medium size law firms who may not have open days so can accommodate a few days here and there.
Mooting (Legal debating): If you have not been involved in debating already through your secondary education, now is a good time to pursue mooting opportunities. Mooting opportunities get you talking about the law, forming a legal argument, developing your public speaking skills and getting a feel of what it is like to present a legal argument to your colleagues. City University offers many opportunities for you to moot within the school or national competitions.
Many Law students will consider the more tradition options to obtain legal experience in the legal profession through a Firm or Chambers. In an increasingly competitive industry it is important to think about how your application will stand out from other Law students. Obtaining legal experience in alternative areas may give your application for a Training Contract or Pupillage the edge it needs.
Whether you know what area of the law you are particularly interested in or not, below are some ideas of where you could obtain experience in the area of law you are interested in or need more exposure to.
If you require any ongoing support in applying to and interviewing for these opportunities the City University Centre for Career & Skills Development Service is there to support you.
Thanks to Ruth Wilcock, Careers Consultant with the Centre for Career & Skills Development Services at City for this very informative piece.