How do I get the most out of my legal work experience? Formal and informal work experience schemes are an important part of the recruitment process. You can only learn so much from an application form and interview. However, a week or two spent with lawyers and support staff is the best way for both firm and student to make an informed decision about each other. Treat your applications for summer schemes as seriously as – if not more seriously than – your training contract applications. This is your opportunity to show off your skills and charms to their very best advantage. So while there, make sure that you really do all you can to be your best possible self. That means: • asking questions; • showing enthusiasm and initiative; • taking advantage of all opportunities that are offered; and • behaving professionally. Equally, if you are at a firm or chambers, you should be assessing whether it is the sort of place in which you can imagine working. If you are at one of the other voluntary schemes (eg, Citizens Advice or a pro bono clinic), make sure you are taking mental notes about how you respond to the type of work to which you are being exposed. What sparks your interest? What makes you switch off? What would you like to learn more about? Don’t forget, it’s a two-way process. Following up after the placement Send a brief email thanking the recruiter for your placement/mini-pupillage/DIY work experience. Add a personal touch along the lines of how you think the experience has helped you at the outset of your career and what you most enjoyed.
One recruiter talked about the non-law student candidate who was studying business management, but joined his university law society and enjoyed the benefits it gave him. Commercial experience, perhaps in-house, is also regarded as valuable. Previous non- legal work experience can help students understand businesses or individuals that they are working with and the challenges they face. Students with disabilities should get in touch with the Lawyers with Disabilities Division. This division of the Law Society aims to achieve equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, whether they be qualified solicitors, trainee solicitors, law students, clients or members of the public. One of the things that the division does is contact firms to encourage them to offer work placements to disabled students. For more details visit www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/ practice-management/diversity-inclusion/ lawyers-with-disabilities-division. When should I look for legal work experience? It’s never too early to start. In terms of formal schemes, law students should try to secure a placement in the summer before their final year at university at the latest; non-law students should apply during the summer following their third year. In fact, more firms than ever are running schemes aimed at first years, so you need to be on the ball right from the beginning of your university career. Most formal schemes last between two and three weeks. See the “Vacation scheme insider reports” chapter to learn what placements at different employers involve.
It may be worth jotting down some thoughts and impressions of the experience to focus
And for informal experience, get in contact with local law firms, courts and barristers.
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