How to make the MOST out of University!
The legal industry is getting more and more competitive each year so how can you make the most out of every opportunity that comes your way... to put you in the best position going forward?
Check out our extra curricular activity suggestions below!
University Law Societies!!
Almost every university will have a student led law society. Joining your university's law society will not only look great on your CV but it will also provide you with a number of benefits such as:
mentoring (you'll likely be paired with a more senior law student for mentoring)
legal careers events to enable you to learn more about the law firms that exist and understand the whole training contract recruitment process a bit better!
socials - opportunities to get to know more people on your course and beyond!
Taking up a role as an executive committee member will look great on your CV. There are lots of transferrable skills and showcasing what you're up to in the role on LinkedIn will not go unnoticed.
Mooting is a mock trial presented by students.
The students will take on the role of barristers in the trial and be presented with a legal problem. Each student will argue a fictitious legal case in front of a judge. The judge will be played by a lecturer or practising barrister.
Mooting is the closest experience to appearing in court that a student can have whilst at University.
Mooting is not the same as debating - although the two are similar. Mooting is more specialist and involves the art of persuasive advocacy.
Mooting is part of training to be a lawyer. Even if you do not get involved at university, you will still have to do advocacy (a formal moot) during your Legal Practice Course or as part of the Bar Vocational Training. You will also experience advocacy during your solicitors' training contract when you complete 'contentious seats' and when you do the Professional Skills Course (the "PSC" is the final part of academic training and is done whilst you are undertaking your training contract).
The benefits of mooting:
help build confidence in public speaking
helps to enhance researching skills to prepare cases for mooting
enhances/builds on presentation skills
good for networking and looks good on your CV
you engage with interesting and topical legal issues
Pro bono is professional work being undertaken on a voluntary basis without payment. Many law firms do some work on a pro bono basis which means, in certain circumstances, they will offer their legal services for free.
It is quite common for a university to have a 'pro bono centre' or 'pro bono group'. Commonly, this will involve both law students and lawyers providing legal assistance to people that are not in a position to get the necessary support. There are also other types of pro bono groups too that have a different purpose but the ultimate premise is that the work is all done on a voluntary and free of charge basis.
Examples of Pro Bono include:
Check out your university's Pro Bono page to find out how you can get involved!
Why get involved?
Give back to the community
Face to face client contact
Networking - building relationships with qualified lawyers
Build your confidence
Strengthens your interviewing, research and drafting skills!
Law Fairs and Open/Insight Days!
Law fairs are an opportunity for you to meet graduate recruiters at law firms as well as trainees and lawyers that work at those firms.
Generally, universities will host law fairs each year. Those attending the law fairs as exhibitors will include law firms, barristers' chambers and LPC/BVT providers.
Law fairs are likely to be your first opportunity to make an impression with those exhibitors so it's important that you bare this in mind when you do introduce yourself. The firms are there to answer your questions so come prepared to ask good questions about the law firm and what it's like to be a lawyer there.
A preparation tip would be to look at what organisations and firms are attending the law fair and make a list of who you want to speak to. Spend some time looking into each of the firms/organisations you want to speak to so that you can meet them with some prior-knowledge and you'll be able to ask more informed and interesting questions that will leave a good impression.
Open / Insight Days
Open days and insight days enable you to spend a day at a law firm to get an idea of what the firm is all about and what it's like to work there. You will be introduced to graduate recruiters, trainees and other lawyers that work at the firm and be given a range of activities to get involved in, to get a good feel for what it's like to be a lawyer.
Vacation Schemes are usually one or two week placements at a law firm providing students with a real insight into the life of a solicitor (or at least the life of a trainee solicitor!).
The Vacation Scheme will take place over a fixed period of time (usually summer, winter or spring) outside of university term time as they are largely aimed at university students.
Generally, you will apply for Vacation Schemes via a law firm's graduate recruitment website and the interview process is similar to a training contract.
Places on Vacation Schemes are very competitive!
The Vacation Scheme will include some or all of the following:
Real client work - you may get to draft legal documents, attend client meetings and take notes, do some legal research, prepare court bundles or statutory books (there are typical trainee/vac scheme student style tasks in each department).
Group exercises - some firms may set you a task at the beginning of the placement with other Vacation Scheme students and you'll have to work together throughout the placement to complete your exercise.
Presentation - your group exercise may involve doing a presentation in front of assessors.
Trainee lunches / socials - it is very likely the trainees will arrange socials throughout the placement for you to get a well-rounded experience of trainee life.
Partner / senior associate networking will take place at set times throughout the placement.
Seminars / talks / workshops / presentations hosted by the firm to teach you about the firm.
Visit to other offices of the firm (if they have any!).
Legal work experience is important for three key reasons:
1. Help you decide if a career in law is for you (let's be honest, getting into the profession is not the easiest so it's best to be sure!)
2. Make your CV and/or training contract application stand out (the goal!).
3. Build you skills!
Legal work experience doesn't just mean vacation schemes. There are a range of other ways you can achieve the above.
Legal work experience (i.e. working in a law firm as a volunteer) is slightly different. You can apply at any time (even whilst at secondary school) - just send a speculative CV and cover letter to the firm.
The work experience can be as long or as short as you want to be (in agreement with the firm) and there is usually not (at most places) much structure (tends to be lots of shadowing and admin work... you get more variety the longer you volunteer!).
Vacation Schemes are designed to be a two week long interview process (the firm are looking for future trainees) whereas work experience is designed to show you what working in a law firm is like and essentially boost your CV!
Legal work experience is a great opportunity to gain an insight into life as a lawyer without the pressure of feeling continually assessed.
How to get legal work experience:
Write to / approach law firms - there is no harm in sending speculative cover letters and CVs to law firms with an area of law that interests you.
Research online - law firms may advertise for work experience students or have a link on their website that welcomes work experience applications so always check out the firm's website.
Reach out to connections at law firms - do you have LinkedIn? Reach out to your connections at places you're interested in and see if they can help.
Paralegal roles - paralegal roles look great on your CV and allow you to build a relationship with the firm. You may find temporary paralegal roles too so you can work between term time.
You may feel like you do enough writing with your essays but did you know, another great way to stand out as a law student and get closer to that elusive training contract is through your (extra-curricular) writing.
Examples of writing include:
Law Essay Competitions (these competitions may be hosted by your university or through societies such as the National Law Society, Regional Law Societies or through other groups and organisations - find out more through your university careers service!).
Blogging - set up your own blog! You can do a blog about your aspiring legal career or about other hobbies and interests you have. It's a great way to develop your writing skills, have something to put on your CV and engage with followers that are interested in what you have to say!
Writing Articles for academic/legal pages - there are a number of legal platforms that look for student contributors such as The Student Lawyer.
Other Societies and Events
Law societies are not the only societies you should join at university. You should join societies that you are genuinely interested in and would enjoy being a part of. Joining and taking a proactive role with any society will look great on your CV as it shows commitment to something, great team work, initiative and proactiveness (not every student goes out of their way to join societies and organise events) and good networking (you'll make friends!).
Lots of universities have student papers or magazines and/or student run radio stations and other projects that you can get involved in. Find out what is available and apply to take part. Getting involved in non-law related activities will only enhance your CV and make you look more interesting (you have more to you than just the law!).
It's not just what the university can offer you either. If you're interested in a particular cause, why not run your own project or event? The world is yours so take the leap! You don't need to do it alone, you can use the initiative to organise your own group project and get others involved that are interested in the cause.
Part time employment
Saving the best for last... get yourself a part time job! The skills and character you build through part time employment are extremely invaluable and make you an extremely desirable candidate and a great employee!
There are so many transferable skills from part time work that will be beneficial to your career as lawyer such as:
working with customers = client relationship
working with colleagues = team work
shift work = flexible
dealing with complaints / angry customers = dealing with high pressured situations and coming up with innovative solutions
regular customers = retaining good client relationships
working to targets = ability to win new work
meeting new people = networking
same part time job for years = loyal and committed employee
The list quite literally... goes on!