If you don’t have a vacation scheme lined up for the summer, there are plenty of other ways to gain relevant experience and boost your legal CV. Of course, any legal experience is good experience, but depending on where you see yourself ending up, you might also think about gaining business experience and/or sector relevant experience. Let’s explore some options:
As well as a formal vacation scheme, typical of the offering from larger and more commercial firms, legal experience also includes work experience, work shadowing, court visits, tribunal visits, pro bono projects and voluntary work. If you want to be a solicitor, any legal experience will be beneficial for you and for your CV. However, for those with a particular interest in ultimately working in areas like family, immigration, employment and criminal law, these less structured ways of building up useful experience may be particularly relevant.
To gain work experience or work shadowing in a firm or other organisation may well involve you having to be proactive and approach local or smaller firms that simply don’t have the resources or the time to promote such opportunities to students. You usually have to be more tenacious in your approach to gaining these types of experiences. It most likely will involve speculative telephone calls or letters, all of which your Careers Service can assist you with!
Many solicitors work in, or for, a business. So gaining some commercial experience is never a bad thing, but it is particularly relevant and helpful for those wishing to work in a Corporate/Commercial firm with business clients.
Many students who I talk to assume that commercial experience means “big business” experience, when in fact, working in a friend’s local café or shop can be equally as insightful. If you’re gaining an understanding of how a business operates, and how your role fits in, then you will be developing “business sense” and this is particularly valuable for firms who service business clients. Likewise, working for a bank or insurance company, even in a temporary admin role (It’s all about how you sell it!), will be especially appealing to firms with these regular clients.
When we refer to sectors in this context, we are usually talking about industry sectors that clients may be operating in, for example shipping, transport, media, IT and so on. So, for example, if you are particularly interested in media law, any experience you can gain in the media and entertainment sector may appeal to such firms. It may be an admin role in the office of a media company, or a receptionist job for a local newspaper. But you will still potentially be exposed to the industry, clients and other professionals, all of which offer you the chance to gain an insight into a relevant industry sector. Again, particularly for larger commercial firms, this can be an attractive selling point on your CV.
As well as being useful for earning money during the holidays, part-time jobs can also be a good way of building up any of the legal, commercial, or sector experience mentioned above. In my experience, students can assume that a part-time job will never be a ‘selling point’ on their CV. However, this takes me back to a presentation I attended many years ago, when a recruitment partner from a magic circle law firm said he was particularly interested in students who had worked at McDonalds! He explained that, to him, this was the ultimate “pressure cooker” and that anyone who could handle “people screaming at you from all directions” could clearly cope well under pressure! So don’t dismiss that café, shop or bar job as irrelevant. It can still be a useful way of enhancing your CV for law, and networking. On that note……
For all of the above, I can’t stress enough how important it is to utilise contacts (family friends, work colleagues, previous coaches or teachers for example) and make the most of networking opportunities. Tell as many people as you can about your career aspirations. I have found some students sceptical about this approach but I can honestly say that I’ve lost count of the number of students I have come into contact with over the years with who have secured some sort of legal experience this way, however remote or unlikely this can sometimes seem when you are getting started.
Speaking of networking, social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are one of the key networking forums now. Having a LinkedIn profile can help you to take your first step into the legal sector; it can help you find the right contacts to get your foot in the door or help you to understand more about the people you meet at careers fairs and employer presentations. So if you haven’t already, you might want to think about setting up your profile. It’s never too early to get started!
If your vacation scheme is unpaid you may be eligible to apply for a bursary
Some internships are available through MyAdvatage
Enjoy the summer!