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How law students can improve their employability

Our Director of Employability, John Watkins and his team of careers and employability experts work closely with students and employers to understand and develop the skills needed in today’s workplace.. John has been able to identify some of the behavioural traits that will help students succeed. Below he shares areas that students can focus on to improve their employability.

Embrace the opportunity to excel in different types of teams

There have always been different team sizes and structure, but over the last few years there have also been remote/virtual teams. This is complex for an inexperienced figure who may have had limited exposure to settings with a broad range of ages, and people with very differing attitudes and capabilities.

Working well with these other individuals isn't something that you learn overnight, particularly when students have spent most of their lives hanging out with people who are pretty similar to themselves. It is important to reflect on experiences and ask supervisors/mentors for advice on how to best contribute.

Learn to take different types of feedback

Another challenge faced by students when entering the workplace -- and this is particularly prevalent in the law, is the type of feedback that they expect. In an educational environment, feedback is all about the quality of work that is submitted. But employee feedback tends to revolve around behaviour, because quality of work is largely taken for granted.

Again, this is where behaviours are highlighted. How do you relate to other people? Do you have a pleasant manner? What is your mood like under pressure? These factors often shape people's careers far more than they are willing to accept. As a result, preparing students to accept behavioural feedback, and respond to it, is really important.

Polish your IT skills and understand the AI revolution

The assumption in the digital age is that graduates can do anything IT-related, but they often come up short on the more complex office packages. For an employer, this can be frustrating and also costly. The prevalence of remote working requires not only the ability to operate effectively on a number of different platforms but also an aptitude for building and developing relationships remotely.

AI provides opportunities and threats. The pace of change is fast and accelerating. It is important to understand where added value comes from – the efficiency of technology and the commercial judgment/emotional intelligence of a professional. There will be new areas of law related to technology that emerge over the coming years.

Grab employability opportunities such as pro bono work

The pandemic shone a light on access to social justice and reinforced the commitment of the legal profession to providing those in need with legal support ‘pro bono’.

Aside from contributing to helping those unable to afford legal advice, participation in pro bono schemes enhance employability skills and develops the competences required for those students wanting to qualify as a lawyer. Real-life contact with clients who don't say things you want can create some awkward scenarios, but it is a perfect training ground. It shows that the workplace can be challenging, and with the right supervision you can get some fantastic results.

Be flexible with your ambitions

For law students, the arrival of SQE and QWE has started to allow greater flexibility in the journey towards qualification as a solicitor. The opportunity to develop the required competences can now be found in a diverse range of workplaces where legal services are provided.

Also be broad-minded and ambitious enough to see the other options where you can use what are very highly valued legal qualifications.  We have many successful global business leaders, entrepreneurs, senior politicians amongst our alumni who have done just this.

When I was an accountant, I used to enjoy very much recruiting law students because they understood the importance of regulation. If you look around the market, at Big Four accountancy firms with their tax advisory divisions, at banks and their compliance departments, there is no shortage of opportunity.


Find out more about our award-winning employability service.