By Anastasia Magnago
Firstly, when considering legal work experience it is important to think “why”: why do you want to get work experience? Well, completing work experience can give you an insight into your desired profession, as well as allow you to identify and practice the skills needed. Additionally, work experience can help you find out what you do not enjoy, which can further guide your career path.
Whilst legal work experience is not essential in order to get a job in the legal sector, it certainly helps as it shows dedication and a prolonged interest in the law.
CASUAL/AD HOC WORK EXPERIENCE
By this I mean emailing a firm local to you and asking if you can shadow a solicitor for a few days or be assigned administrative duties; it would be best to send your CV and a covering letter. Although this way can be really helpful and lead to lasting relationships with firms, people will not always reply. This is nothing personal as firms may simply not have capacity for you, especially in recent times.
This is a great way to gain experience during your studies whilst helping those who need it. Places that offer pro bono include law centres, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and universities’ legal advice centres. There is often an application process which requires time and effort but this work experience is definitely worth it.
A vacation scheme is usually one/two weeks of work experience in a law firm. Many firms offer schemes, but places are very competitive. To apply, you often have to complete an online form or provide a CV and covering letter. Deadlines vary but many fall in January. You are paid during your time with the firm and afterwards you may be offered a training contract. Recently they have been held virtually.
Marshalling a judge is where you would sit and watch cases that the judge presides over. This can be useful to see what happens in court as well as discuss cases you have observed with the judge afterwards.
This is a way to get a taste of the bar. It is an internship that lasts one to five days. Some sets require you to have legal experience (e.g. second-year law students and above), whilst some do not specify this. To do a mini pupillage you would apply to the chambers (n.b. experiences like mooting are well regarded).
BRAND AMBASSADOR ROLES
This role is less of a legal one, but it can be useful to practice your skills. Law firms, law schools (e.g. ULaw), Frontline, legal careers platforms (e.g. The Lawyer Portal), diversity networks (e.g. Aspiring Solicitors) and of course The Legal Amity all have different ambassador roles for students. These roles can be paid and unpaid and consist of you promoting the organisation at your university. This can be a really rewarding role and can be carried out during your studies as it is unlikely to take up too much of your time. To apply for these roles, it would be useful to stay up to date with the desired company so you can be the first to hear when applications open.
FREE REPRESENTATION UNIT (FRU)
FRU provides representation in social security and employment tribunals. They help people who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford lawyers. This is a voluntary role and can bring great advocacy experience for aspiring lawyers.
LEGAL ASSISTANT AND PARALEGAL ROLES
This is a paid legal role and would not require a degree. This is a great job in its own right as well as being a useful way to gain experience in the industry. To find roles like these it can be productive to follow firms on LinkedIn as they often advertise roles here.
Although it may be difficult right now, visiting the courts could be something to do again in the future. You cannot visit all of them due to confidentiality, but can often sit and observe trials in Crown and Magistrates’ Courts.
IMPORTANCE OF NON-LEGAL WORK EXPERIENCE
Although it is important to gain some legal work experience, it is not the be-all and end-all. You can do other things to make yourself stand out. For instance, part-time jobs can demonstrate many skills transferable to a legal career.