It is essential with any degree to gain work experience outside of studying not only for your CV, but to build up confidence in yourself and your abilities. It is also a great way to show your passion to prospective employers while networking and meeting new people within the legal sector.
It can be daunting trying to figure out how to find work experience in the legal field but we have experts in that here at ULaw. Our Director of Employability, John Watkins, has shared his top 5 ways to gain legal experience while studying.
In-person and virtual internships
A key way to develop skills during your studies is by taking up an internship at a firm or business in-person or online. John Watkins explains: “Employers will give you project work/tasks to complete over a period of time and you may have regular catch-ups and support from the employer during your internship.
“Depending on the sector and nature of the role, you may not be able to undertake all the elements of a real internship, due to client-patient confidentiality. However, you will still be able to experience some of the work of a trainee and the function of the business.”
Indeed and Rate My Placement advertise a variety of in-person and virtual internships. It’s important to take your time choosing the right one for you and ask for guidance from the Employability Team with your application if you need to.
Mini-pupillages allow you to gain experience by shadowing barristers in chambers. It is great experience for anyone interested in the bar, giving first-hand insight and allowing you to ask questions. Visit Pullpilage Gateway to look at current opportunities, you can also find information on individual chambers websites.
In addition, there are organisations such as the Crown Prosecution Service and various advisory services employ legal caseworkers.
Voluntary work is an invaluable way of gaining experience and being involved in cases. ULaw has over 3,000 pro bono opportunities available each year, covering areas such as family law, employment law, crime and welfare.
Paralegals support other legal professionals in a variety of law firms in the private, public sector and not-for-profit sector. This varied role allows you to try out lots of different aspects within the legal industry. It is also sometimes used as preparation for qualifying as a solicitor, as the work often mirrors that of a trainee or recently qualified solicitor. You can apply for paralegal work through an agency or directly with a firm.
A few more ways to broaden your experience outside studying is by going to court visits, most courts allow public spectators to watch which is extremely interesting and allows you to see what happens within a courtroom. There are also firm open days which are a great way of networking and building relations. Visit Law Careers Net for a list of open days at law firms and insight schemes.
Build your commercial awareness
John Watkins describes commercial awareness as “having a good understanding of an organisation/company, how it works, how it makes a profit, its client, objectives, services, products and the industry in which it sits as well as understanding how current news can impact the sector. You should have an overview of what’s going on in the market sector - are there legal or regulatory changes on the way, or does the economic situation have a larger-than-usual impact?”
You can read more about building commercial awareness by visiting Skills You Need.
Gaining experience is invaluable and although it may seem a bit overwhelming at first it will become easier with practice. It is also a great way to network and make friends in the legal sector.
To discover more about the legal experience opportunities open to you, contact our Employability Team.