Gaining work experience in law
Securing work experience in law is a crucial step along the path to a career as a lawyer. Not only do you gain valuable experience, it’s a way to demonstrate your commitment to a career in the legal profession and shows that you have researched your plans to become a lawyer after university.
There are many different forms of experience and plenty of opportunities to get work experience in law:
Vacation schemes or vacation placements are usually two or three weeks long and paid (often around £250 a week). They are structured programmes for second-year and final-year students or graduates. They are open to both law and non-law students.
Gaining a place on a vacation scheme is as competitive as gaining a training contract with equally rigorous recruitment methods. If your vacation scheme goes well, you may be invited to apply for a training contract at the law firm or be fast-tracked through the application process (such as by being invited directly to an assessment centre).
Most firms use the same assessment days for their vacation scheme places as training contract places. These assessment centres or assessment days may include:
Open days are designed to give you a brief insight into a firm and working life as a solicitor through talks, presentations and networking events. They are an excellent way to show that you’ve done your research into the profession. Open days are held by law firms all year round and can be applied for online.
Insight days for first-year students
Insight days have become increasingly popular over the last ten years. They take a similar format to law open days but with workshops and group exercises too. They are tailored to first-year law and sometimes non-law students. Apply for these opportunities online.
Events such as Inside City Law are ideal opportunities to gain an insight into life as a City lawyer.
Ad hoc work shadowing in local, high street firms
Not all law firms have the capacity or resources to run structured vacation placements for groups of students. For smaller firms that don’t offer structured schemes, it’s still worth sending off a speculative applications and a CV enquiring about work shadowing opportunities. Don’t be shy to network with contacts – do you have any links with local law firms through family, friends or your careers service?
Voluntary legal work experience
Volunteering at Citizens Advice, a law centre, the Free Representation Unit (FRU) and the National Pro Bono centre can help you develop your research and client skills. Your university careers service will be able to point you in the right direction of voluntary opportunities in your area.
Tips for getting work experience in law
- Don’t be shy about promoting your academic achievements – law firms seek aspiring lawyers with consistently strong academic records.
- Research the firm meticulously. Get familiar with its website, follow it on social media, read about its deals and cases, find out which areas of law it is strong in (read the TARGETjobs employer hubs) and ask yourself why you would be suited to life at that firm.
- Attend law fairs (September to February) on campus to talk with recruiters and current trainees about their firms and your career aspirations.
- If you haven’t managed to secure a vacation scheme or open day, don’t panic. Use your part-time job or any voluntary work to promote your communication, negotiation and attention to detail skills in applications.