How to gain legal work experience
31st October 2016
As most law students in Britain will know, breaking into the sector is exceptionally difficult, with law proving to be an increasingly competitive sector to enter into.
Like most job sectors, good grades are no longer enough to help land the top in-house legal jobs and other such roles, so prospective job hunters must find other avenues in which to stand out.
Work experience is often the best way to show potential employers, particularly legal recruiters, that you have knowledge of working in the sector and have the skills and attitude needed to work in the industry.
We have created a guide to some useful resources students and graduates can use with top expert tips to help pupils gain the legal work experience needed to land the dream job they have always wanted.
Start your legal work experience as soon as possible
Suzanne Lucas, who runs the Evil HR Lady blog, explains why it is important to start legal work experience as soon as possible.
“If you want to get good legal experience, start as soon as possible. How? Apply at law firms to do anything. Grunt work. Getting coffee, archiving files. Whatever. Work hard. Be positive. Don't complain. The law firm that saw you busting your buns to clean out a storage shed will be happy to hire you for an internship when you're in the middle of law school, and you'll be well situated for a job.
“If you have your degree and just can't get a job, volunteer. There's always a need for legal aid lawyers. Your volunteer hours will give you experience.”
Let's be completely honest: as amazing as it would be to get some legal work experience at a top London law firm, it can be very difficult due to the amount of applications they receive.
You should, however, apply, as not only does it show ambition, it also shows initiative. If you don't get offered a placement at one of these firms, don't give up. Options where you are much more likely to get experience during your studies are at local practices.
You might even find that because you are at a smaller firm that you end up getting more work to do and can learn more about different legal jobs and positions.
Another great tip for budding lawyers who are looking to gain some vital legal work experience is to network.
A great way of getting work experience is to think about all the people you know, for example, friends, family and acquaintances, to see if you know any professional lawyers.
Ask them if they can help you to find some work experience as even if the firm they work for cannot offer work experience then they are likely to know a firm or someone that can.
There are a number of resources law students can use to help them in the search for work experience and here are some of the best.
When looking for legal work experience it can be difficult to secure hands-on experience. Appropriate Adult is a registered charity and member organisation that provides an appropriate adult to children and vulnerable adults while they are detained or interviewed by the police. While this process won’t see you gaining experience defending your ‘client’ per se, it will certainly work in your favour when legal recruitment agencies look over your CV.
The Free Representation Unit
For a greater emphasis on the legal side of the job, the Free Representation Unit (FRU) offers volunteers the chance to flex their legal muscles by offering representation in social security and employment tribunals to those who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford their own lawyers.
This gives volunteers, mostly made up of law students and legal professionals in the early stages of their career, the chance to practice their skills while helping those who cannot afford representation. Volunteers also receive the assistance of FRU where representatives receive training and are supervised by their own legal advisors.
LawWorks’ motto reads that they are ‘at the heart of legal volunteering’. They are the leading legal pro bono charity for solicitors, in-house counsel, mediators and students. Working in partnership, LawWorks identifies need, brokers casework and connects volunteer lawyers and students with communities nationwide.
In particular for students and law school staff they offer information and assistance in order to help students get started in organising and carrying out legal pro bono work.
Student Pro Bono with Queen Mary University of London
Law Works has also teamed up with Queen Mary University to create Student Pro Bono, which is a collaborative project that offers a website resource that is dedicated to student pro bono work and its promotion.
Queen Mary University of London even created their own Pro Bono Society that is looking to increase access to justice and provide legal aid to all that need it.
Black Solicitors Network
The Black Solicitors Network has been promoting the interests of black solicitors since 1995, but they also provide work placement opportunities to help students gain access to the all-important legal work experience they need to secure a job after study.
They also offer careers workshops to offer students and recent graduates advice on applying for training contracts.
For more volunteering opportunities, Do-it is a brilliant site that connects those looking to broaden their experience and opportunities, allowing them to do just that.
Just visit the website and you will find plenty of work experience opportunities, and with its location and availability filters you can even find a volunteering opportunity that completely suits you.
Finally, PRIME is a great website that offers work experience to young people from less privileged backgrounds who are looking to gain access to legal careers, but might not have had such a chance.
Working with law firms and legal departments across the UK, they are looking to broaden access to the legal profession and gain a diverse UK legal workforce.
In order to achieve such an aim, PRIME is a resource in which students can gain access to high quality work experience that may not just help boost their CV and potential, but even possibly see them earn a career out of such connections.
Image Credits: bikeriderlondon, TATSIANAMA, EDHAR, Kzenon.