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Top tips from Real World Work Experience Scheme

Towards the end of July, we ran the ULaw Real World Work Experience Scheme to supply students with information they may have missed out on during the pandemic. The two-day event featured sessions from our Employability Director John Watkins, a day in the life of a trainee panel and a LinkedIn session with Employability Team member Clare Stapleton. Today we’re talking to some of the incredible speakers from the trainee panel to get their top tips for students preparing to enter the workplace.

By Editorial Team. Published 18 August 2021. Last updated 19 August 2022.

Niall Crossley - Trainee solicitor at Gateley Legal

Any work experience is valuable. Legal work experience is ideal, so sign up even if you only have time to do one bit of pro-bono work for an afternoon. A lot of the learning you do as a trainee solicitor is through “osmosis” – watching how others work. Something as simple as shadowing can be extremely insightful.

Though it can be difficult to manage your time with studies and other commitments, gaining work experience will also force you to manage your time – an essential skill for a good solicitor.

It’s really useful to have work experience on your CV but only if you can demonstrate what you have learned from the experience. List the key skills you learnt and any notable events/achievements. It’s not enough to just say where you worked and for how long – you need to show what you got out of the experience and how you’ll use that moving forward in your career.

Work experience is not essential. If you are part of sports teams or societies at university, then you’ll have lots of achievements and transferable skills to talk about on your CV.

Imogen Horne - Trainee solicitor at Ward Hadaway

If you can't get any work experience, I suggest going to your local court to watch some court cases (the reception desk can point you in the direction of ones they think you'll find interesting). Then write up what you learnt so you have it ready to talk about in your applications. And/or volunteer. There are many legal and non-legal charities and organisations you can help in one way or another, which is all great experience for applications and working out what you want to do (as well as a great help to those who need it).

Don't be afraid of someone saying no. If you don't ask, you don't get so send your CV out to as many people as you can and ask if they can give you any experience. Even a day in your local firm, shadowing a barrister or as a legal volunteer is better than nothing, and you'll still learn a lot. Think outside the box if you're struggling to get that experience, research charities and local organisations you can help as they will undoubtedly be very grateful for your time. Good luck.

Abi Pawlett - Trainee at Gateley Legal

Due to offices' limited capacity and individuals working from home, I think it may be more difficult to secure work experience placements. However, that does not stop you from speaking to people that work for firms virtually and enquiring about work experience in the future.

Any work experience where you have gained valuable knowledge and grown as a person is invaluable. For example, working in retail or hospitality shows that you have a great ability to work with customers, which will translate well when working with clients in the future. Additionally, adapting to a work-from-home environment in any job role, shows your ability to adopt a flexible work style.

My tip would be to ask yourself - although this is not legal work experience, how can the skills I have gained from this help me in my legal career?

  • Utilise the readily available resources during Covid, for example, LinkedIn, virtual trials, etc.
  • Follow news articles about what businesses are doing to keep up to date with the commercial impacts of Covid.
  • Set up virtual meetings with trainees and those working in law firms to get a feel for the profession and whether it is suited to you.


If you’re a ULaw student who wants to learn more about improving your CV, please contact the Employability Team.