Five ways to gain legal work experience
If you are looking to pursue a career in law, usually the first step in achieving this goal would be to obtain some form of legal work experience. By undertaking work experience not only you will give yourself a better chance to secure a legal role in the future but it will also help you determine if a career in law is actually for you. Today we will be looking at different avenues that you can explore and share our top tips and advice on getting legal experience.
1. Informal work experience
Obtaining informal work experience can add considerable value to your CV particularly if you are a non-law student and it can also help with future job search. Informal work experience could be anything from shadowing a barrister, solicitor, to volunteering at places such as the Citizen Advice Bureau or the Free Representation Unit. Typically this type of work experience is unpaid. To maximize your chances of securing an informal placement we recommend you take the following steps:
2. Formal work experience
Depending on what stage of your studies you are, there are a number of formal legal work placements available to you the most common being vacation schemes and mini-pupillages. As expected the competition for formal work placements is very tough in comparison to informal placements. To succeed you will be expected to:
3. Pursue a sandwich degree
If you want to benefit from legal experience whilst studying for your degree you may want to consider a sandwich course, which is combined with a legal placement year at a law firm. This option is also a great way to get that valuable legal experience and learn more about the legal industry. This route is less competitive than formal work experience because universities offering sandwich courses typically already have established relationships with various firms that take on their students, so therefore you only compete with your class colleagues.
4. Make use of workshops
An alternative way to gain work experience at a city law firm is to apply for workshops. These workshops offer an opportunity to work shadow trainees, network and interact with various teams within the firm to get a real insight into the work undertaken by a city law firm. Take a look at Herbert Smith Freehills workshop schemes for further details about application and criteria. Top tip if you secure a workshop with Herbert Smith and the following year you decide to apply for a vacation scheme, your application will be fast-tracked and you will not be required to do online assessments as part of the application.
5. Consider becoming a campus ambassador
Many city law firms also offer first-year students the opportunity to become campus ambassadors, which effectively means you will be organizing events and promote the firm through these events. This is also a great way to find out more about the firm itself and what is like working in the city. It goes without saying that if you subsequently decide to apply for a vacation scheme at the firm, you will have considerably improved your chances by undertaking a campus ambassador role prior.
Whichever route you will take, evidence of work experience is now requisite part of any training contract or pupillage. Indeed, it is not advisable to view a vacation scheme or a mini-pupillage as the first stage in your career. Seeking and gaining experience outside the traditional formal work experience is a great way to demonstrate your drive and commitment to a career in law.
If you believe we have missed anything we would welcome any comments below. Feel free to share this article with friends and colleagues who may find it useful.
Legal recruiter and blogger @purelegaljobs