Career in Law | Blog

Legal Work Experience And How To Get It

If you are looking to pursue a career in law, the first step in achieving this 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 for you. Today we will be looking at different avenues that you can explore and share our top tips and advice on getting legal work experience.

1. Informal legal 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 voluntary legal work experience at 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:

  • Be proactive 
  • Make speculative applications
  • Network both online and offline e.g LinkedIn, law fairs, law exhibitions such as Legalex
  • Keep an open mind e.g type of organization, the area of law, location
  • Pro Bono work 
  • Always keep your CV up to date

2. Formal work experience
Depending on what stage of your studies you are, there are a number of formal undergraduate law 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:

  • demonstrate academic excellence
  • Attend law fairs/open days
  • Pro Bono work
  • Court Visits
  • Evidence of extra-curriculum activities
  • Demonstrate perseverance ( if you had an application declined do not give up) 
  • Display excellent communication skills
  • Stand out from other candidates
  • Nail vacation scheme and mini-pupillage applications

3. Sandwich degree
If you want to benefit from legal experience whilst studying for your degree you may want to consider a sandwich degree, which is combined with legal work placements. This option is also a great way to get that valuable legal work experience and learn more about the legal industry. The route is less competitive than formal work experience because typically universities offering sandwich courses already have established relationships with various employers that offer these law placements to its students, so, therefore, you only compete with your class colleagues.

4. Workshops
An alternative way to gain law work experience in a law firm is to apply for workshops also sometimes known as insight days. These workshops offer you 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 your application.

5. Become 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 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 application. Indeed, it is not advisable to view a vacation scheme or a mini-pupillage as the first stage in your career. To demonstrate drive and commitment to a career in law you will be expected to gain experience outside the formal law placements. 


Joe Simmons

Legal recruiter and blogger @purelegaljobs

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