The legal work experience guide
18th February 2020
Searching for work experience can be a daunting and stressful time for anyone who is trying to boost their CV or their knowledge of the industry they wish to work in. Whether you’re a law student trying to apply for lawyer jobs in London, or a graphic design student trying to expand your portfolio, work experience is something that can help get your foot in the door. Long gone are the days of being able to walk from one job to another, nowadays, expansive knowledge of your industry, experience and knowing the right people are needed just for you to get an interview as well as a CV that puts you ahead above the rest. All about law suggests that “a record 22,765 students were accepted into undergraduate law degrees in 2016”, meaning the competition is only going to get harder. Saying the market is competitive is an understatement, especially within the legal sector.
To succeed in the legal sector, students and job seekers alike need to obtain the most work experience as possible as this will show a commitment to the sector as well as helping you to decided what part of the law you wish to work in. This guide contains a few helpful tips on the types of work experience you can get when studying.
Shadowing in a firm
While studying for a law degree, one of the most helpful experiences is shadowing in a law firm. It allows you to see how a firm works from day to day as well as how the skills you are learning fit into this work environment. You can contact law firms directing by phoning or visiting your local firms to see if there are any opportunities, or you can send in your CV and cover letter asking if they would be willing to let you shadow. This type of work experience is very informal as it doesn’t involve you putting in lots of hours of work. You are observing to get a better perspective in what you could be doing which allows you to work out what type of law would suit your best.
Alumni student Verity Coutts suggests on Learnmore that if you’re struggling to find any law firms that will allow you to shadow them for work experience you should try your “local MPs or council members from your hometown. Politics and the law are very closely linked to whatever area of law you want to go into”.
To become a solicitor, many students will carry out vacation schemes as their main form of work experience. These can be carried out during your university holidays and availability depends on the firm and how long it will run for. They usually last around one to two weeks and require a lot more than just shadowing. This is the time to decide what kind of law you wish to go into as this is your first step towards working in a firm.
One tip while applying for a vacation scheme is to make sure you tailor our application to them. They want to see that you are interested in their firm over any other so research them and their clients.
On way to boost your CV before applying for formal legal work experience or even a graduate job is to volunteer for pro bono work. This is achieved outside of your academics, which shows a willingness to use our free time to develop your skills in law and that you have a commitment to the sector. During a pro bono volunteering position, you will be helping organisations and charities, providing legal services.
The Lawyer Portal suggests these opportunities are a great way to develop not only your legal skills but also other important skills that will help you in the interview process. For example, they suggest, “Volunteering for a charity such as the Personal Support unit will be an invaluable addition to your CV as it will not only expose you to the court and its processes, but it will also help you to advance your communication skills by interacting with genuine clients”, allowing you to enhance how you appropriately approach clients. It will also give you something to talk about within an interview.
If you wish to decide whether you want to become a barrister, carrying out a mini-pupillage could be the best step for you. Many chambers will offer a mini-pupillage to allow students the opportunity to shadow certain barristers in their day to day practices. Different chambers will offer different lengths of the experience, but it will typically run for three to four days. During that time, you will get a feel for the courts and how they run and as well as the opportunity to attend court hearings. This time with a barrister is crucial as it will leave a positive impression for when you wish to apply for a pupillage, which is the final step towards your qualification as a barrister.
Once you have completed your law degree, paralegal roles are often the next step. It will allow you to strengthen your CV even more as you take on the responsibility of providing administrative support to many solicitors. This can be in either the public or private sector as well as charities and will often require you to have similar responsibilities to a trainee or newly qualified solicitor depending on your experience.
One last great tip is that once you have completed your work experience, do something with it. Adding it to your CV is great but Verity Coutts suggests you should “write about it! This is good for the CV and I’m certainly very proud of the fact that I can put ‘contributor to Learnmore’ and other highly rated publications” as it shows you have learnt something from your experience.
If you’re ready to start your career in law, contact Law Absolute, the recruitment specialist. Whether you’re a law student in need of some advice or you just want a new start, they can help get you started.