I had the best time doing my LLM at Warwick, I really enjoyed my course and made lots of new friends from all over the globe. The only thing I regret is not thinking about my future law career from the beginning of the academic year. I started seriously considering a career in law in the summer term which was too late as by that point I had missed out on vacation scheme applications and training contract deadlines were imminent (it didn’t help that I had a 10,000 word dissertation to write!) I missed useful careers events like the Law Fair. As a result of my experience I thought it might be helpful to provide some pointers for current LLM students to (hopefully) prevent others from making the same mistakes I did.
Firstly, I would have started thinking seriously about my future career plans early on in the year (this is a useful tip regardless of whether you want to practise law or not as the year passes by in a flash!) Although in hindsight it worked out better for me to begin making training contract applications once I finished my Masters (post-LLM I have more time to dedicate to researching firms and building my commercial awareness), in reality not considering my options early on meant that I missed out on a lot of useful career events that were on my doorstep at Warwick. For example, the Law Fair in term one provides a great opportunity to meet representatives from a wide range of firms; it’s also a great opportunity to start developing important networking skills (whilst getting some great freebies!) Attending this is a must if you want to practise law as you probably won’t have another opportunity like it where so many representatives of law firms are in one place. There are other useful law-specific careers sessions organised by Valerie, the law careers consultant, which run throughout the year. These sessions focus on skills such as CV and cover letter writing workshops and tips for preparing for interviews. I found these sessions extremely useful, especially as you get emailed a handout which you can keep for future reference when you decide to start making applications.
Secondly, I would have started thinking about what type of law firm I want to work at and the practice areas which interest me from the outset. Resources such as Chambers Student, Lawcareers.net and Target Jobs all provide useful information about the legal sector generally and about solicitor/barrister roles specifically; they also have information on other legal career paths.
Another thing I would have done is to prioritise gaining work experience. There are multiple ways to do this, for example open days at law firms are a great way to really get a feel for the culture of a firm. An open day only takes one day away from your studies so isn’t as time consuming as a vacation scheme – although these are very valuable. There are other options such as work shadowing and work experience in smaller firms etc. If you want to do a vacation scheme or open day, you’ll need to start planning applications early on in the first term as application deadlines usually fall around January or earlier.
I would have dedicated more time each day to reading the news and developing my commercial awareness; reading the business news is particularly important given that as a solicitor you need to have a wider understanding of the business needs of your clients and your firm. Since building commercial awareness is a gradual process, it’s best to start doing this from the beginning of the academic year. If you’re like me and reading the Financial Times daily doesn’t appeal to you, there are lots of easier ways to build commercial awareness, for example Finimize. This is a great app designed specifically for students and gives you regular market updates. The business updates on LinkedIn are also useful. A great book is ‘All you need to know about the City’ by Christopher Stoakes which provides a good introduction into city terminology, a must-read if you want to go into corporate practice!
If you’ve made it until the end of this post, congratulations and I hope these few tips help you to hit the ground running (looking back they definitely would have helped me). At the beginning of the year it seems like you have a lot of time, however the year really does pass by quickly, so I would really recommend using the careers resources available to you from the outset. So while it’s important to enjoy your LLM course and your time at Warwick, it’s definitely worth making the most of the careers resources and events available to you, they will stand you in good stead for making great applications later on!
Lauren Frederick, LLM Student 2017-18