With today’s financial issues as they are and this never ending recession, not to mention the horror stories of solicitors not offering training contracts or even worse keeping trainees in unpaid limbo, and law firms profits falling, and then being told that there’s no chance of a pupilage anywhere, and fees are going up ……. its easy to become despondent and wonder how the hell we’re going to be able to get anywhere in this career that is law!
We’ve been told from the word go that it’s not just the academic qualifications that matter but the extra stuff too that makes our cv’s stand out from the ten thousand others. One of the most important skills to have is work experience – relevant work experience. As a law student myself, I thought I’d pass on the tips etc that I’ve been given with regards to work experience – they really seem to work! I hope it’s useful!
Don’t be scared to use the people you know – if you don’t ask, you don’t want. You’d be surprised who can help and who knows someone else who can. Also, don’t limit yourself geographically – there are experience opportunities pretty much everywhere and while we have the advantage of student rail cards and other subsidized travel we should use it. Also there’s less competition out of town.
Think outside the box – if you are absolutely certain you want to go into criminal law for example that shouldn’t limit you to just applying to the CPS or criminal defence solicitors. There’s also the police, any legal aiders and other voluntary organisations especially ones that are concerned with rehabilitation or young offenders etc.
Outdoor Clerking – this is where you act as a clerk to the court or the solicitors. An independent person is often desired to prevent one party claiming this or that was said!
Free Representation Unit – In a case I was reading recently the judge praised this – so it’s something that’s often very highly thought of. A barrister has also told me to try and get stuff here.
Once you’ve got work experience – write about it!!! This too is good for the cv and I’m certainly very proud of the fact that I can put “contributor to Lawbore/Learnmore” and other highly rated publications.
Local MPs/council members etc from your home town. Politics and the law are very closely linked whatever area of law you want to go into. I took advantage at a recent bbq to meet the Mayor of my home town who, after a glass or two of white wine, has asked me to join a local working party regarding the future of the town. Whilst this isn’t in itself legal work as we know it from the books I’m going to use the opportunity to network as well as having my say with what happens to the town I grew up in!
If you don’t get anything anywhere, then see if there’s something you can do with your friends. We all met up and went to the Supreme Court and we have visited the Old Bailey. Literally hanging around on the court steps talking to barristers can get you somewhere.
It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, especially for us law students, so everything we can do to make ourselves stand out from the rest of the pile of application forms we should do.
Whatever work experience you get, it is of course important to remember that there’s no knowing where it might lead. The most important thing to do is to enjoy it! I did work experience a few weeks ago and I’ve been called back to assist with Tribunals over August and September, as well as being asked to carry on helping with the casework.
Thanks to Verity Coutts (LLB3) for this interesting piece.