Freshers’ Week is upon us and students are flooding into centres across the country. It’s an exciting time for many new undergraduates getting that first taste of freedom and independence, but there’s a lot more to Freshers’ Week than partying and freebies. It’s also a great time to get to know your way around university life and make some early steps towards your dream career.
Here are our top tips on how you can use Freshers’ Week to your advantage and make the most of everything on offer.
With no exams or dissertations immediately looming, the first few months of your course are undoubtedly the best time to enjoy the broader benefits of student life. It’s common for psyched students to work and party too hard in their first term, which increases the danger of burning out later in the year. Instead, take this time to ease yourself in as gently as possible. Be sure that you have a good understanding of the university and your place in it before the workload starts to pile up; it’ll make it feeling less overwhelming.
Develop good habits early on
While the excitement (and cocktails) of Freshers’ might be intoxicating, you need to remind yourself why you’re here. Ditching 9am lectures to nurse a hangover can be a hard habit to break once you start, so plan your nights out to avoid interfering with your studies. If you get into the routine of blocking out certain times to abstain from the partying, you’ll be able to let loose at the right time without worrying. Studies show that it takes a minimum of 21 days to ingrain something as a habit, so early self-discipline can be key to not having to play catch-up and a successful study routine.
Get involved with the graduate recruitment process early
Big law firms tend to hire students two years in advance of them actually beginning work. With this as the standard practice, the early legal bird definitely catches the worm. Graduate recruitment cycles open in October, so you’ll want to be making those all-important connections three years before when you’re aiming to start as a trainee. With university law fairs, official open days and winter work placement application deadlines potentially closing from the end of September, being in the know and planning from the get-go will definitely give you a clear advantage.
Snap up a scholarship
Firms and chambers offer a very generous amount of financial support to promising students, so it’s worth checking out what scholarships are on offer. Application deadlines tend to be scattered through October and early November, with essay and interviews becoming the norm for the application process. Keeping an eye on our scholarships page and contacting our scholarships team early could see that your application is done and dusted before your course workload starts to pick up.
Get extra-curricular, but not too much
Freshers’ Week offers up the chance to join a whole range of clubs and societies which can not only give you a break from your studies, but boost your CV too. Firms and chambers pretty much expect that you’ll have a bunch of extra-curricular achievements on your CV by the time you finish your degree. While it’s important to get involved in what you can to show a diverse range of interests and skills, you don’t want to overload yourself and end up struggling with your course.
Pro bono is an absolute must-have because it shows your commitment to a career as a lawyer while giving you insights into what legal practice is all about. Otherwise, try to get creative with what you do. Find activities that reflect your personality and interests, things that are going to make you the person employers are intrigued by and want to talk to. And the more interested you are in it, the more passionately you’ll be able to discuss it. Visit the Employability Service to find out about what you can do to be the person employers are desperate to meet.
Broaden your commercial awareness
In your first few days you’re likely to hear and read about a lot of terms, firms, companies and chambers that you may not be familiar with. This is the perfect time to get to grips with the wider world of law and how it operates. Whenever a certain organisation piques your interest, have a little snoop online to find out more about them. Start following them on social media channels and read things that they write or are interested in. There’s no real need for you to interact, but you can learn a lot about the goings on of the legal sector by comparing the differing perspectives that come from different firms or companies.
Special news sites like Legal Cheek and individual legal blogs such as the UK Human Rights Blog or Head of Legal are also excellent places to start building knowledge about current legal affairs. The key is to use a diverse range of sources so you get a broad view.
Find people who are where you want to be
Practising solicitors and barristers often enjoy passing on their knowledge and expertise to the younger generation, which is why ULaw has an excellent legal mentor network, connecting with over 64,000 alumni across the country. Many are positioned in top chambers and law firms, while others work in-house for some of the world’s biggest global companies. It’s one of the best ways to get advice from experienced practitioners who are still working in the sector, so make time to find out about the mentoring scheme and how you can get involved.
Both online and offline, there’s a lot to do with the world of law that is done through socialising.
We’ve already mentioned tapping into social media feeds as a source of information and insight, but the flip-side of this is that later down the line you’ll want to develop your own digital footprint too. By starting to follow key industry commentators, law firms, recruiters and publications you’ll quickly start to see how they’ve all built online reputations for themselves. This is massively important, especially if your dream is to champion a particular cause. While you don’t want to jump the gun with uninformed commenting, you still want to be involved in the conversation. Asking well considered questions is a good way to start being noticed as someone with an interest in the subject.
It’s equally important to make time for face-to-face events, such as ULaw’s Step into Law. Employability events like this are perfect opportunities to introduce yourself to representatives from leading law firms, make good first impressions and find out more about what it’s like to work within different areas of the law.
To get more information on law careers, check out our Careers and Employability Service.