First years – first things first!

Whether you are already set on becoming a lawyer, or you don’t have a clue what you will do after your law degree, there are so many ways you can combine enjoying yourself in your first year, with building up skills and experience that will help you secure career opportunities further down the line.

It might not seem like it now, but it really won’t be long before you have to make applications for legal or other graduate opportunities.  Don’t forget, many law firms recruit their trainees at least two years ahead of when they want you to start, which means this time next year, some of you will be having to answer questions on application forms such as “Tell us about a time you worked well in a team” and “Why do you want to be a lawyer?”  Even for non-legal jobs, you need to have experience you can draw on and evidence for your answers for skills-based questions.   Having a degree may well get you to the point of application, but it is your skills and abilities and how you evidence them that will determine whether you go any further in the process for graduate jobs and other opportunities.

Over the years, I’ve seen many a panicked second and third year student during application season, come to me saying “I don’t have anything to put in answer to question x.  Maybe I should join a university team?”  But by that stage of the course, although there may well be much to gain in terms of personal development, it will be too late to use this to demonstrate team work on an application form!  You need to have built up the experience and skills before you come to make applications, otherwise you won’t be able to use the experience as evidence.

So, with this in mind, what sort of things can you be doing now that may well help you in the future?

  • Join a society, team or interest group.
  • Become part of a committee.
  • Get work experience.
  • Become a mentor.
  • Get a part-time job.
  • Attend careers fairs and presentations.
  • Be open to new experiences.

Whatever it may be, if there is an element of communicating with others, working co-operatively towards a common goal and/or building up your skill-set, you’re not going to go far wrong!  At the very least it gives you something interesting to talk about at interview.  Obviously, anything you do has to be carefully balanced with your academic studies so don’t overload yourself straight away.

How can we help?

Whatever stage you are at in your career planning, all of us in Student Careers & Skills (SC&S) want to support you during your time at university and beyond.  Whether you are considering a career in law or not, whether you’ve given years of thought to your career plans or don’t have a single idea about what you might do after university, we are here to help and support you.  [We have two Senior Careers Consultants for the Law School – Valerie Matthews-Lane and Rachel Vacalopoulos.  Appointments can be booked by logging on to MyAdvantage:

You can also email SC& S at:  SC&S also offer a Drop-In service Mon – Thurs in the Oculus.

And do check out the Law Careers Blog ( and the Law Module Moodle (


I know I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but if you’ve read to this point and you’re still with me, I’m impressed!  I remember (or rather I don’t?!) my first few weeks of university life many moons ago and I’m pretty sure I didn’t spend a minute of my time thinking about my plans for when it all ended!  But if you take one thing from this blog post, please let it be this:  get involved!  At the start of such an exciting time in your lives, it can only benefit you in many different ways to get out there and meet like-minded people.  And whilst doing so, as well as having a great time along the way, you are also ensuring that you give your future self the best possible chance of success with career opportunities!

Enjoy your first term!

Rachel Vacalopoulos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s