The importance of gaining work experience is currently on the rise. There have been debates on whether it is better to apply for placements during university, or to wait after graduating. Some courses include a placement year and others do not. Either way, I do believe it is beneficial to gain an insight into the profession that you aspire towards. A placement may seem as a restriction to those who do not wish to embark on a legal career, but the message behind this post adds to those who seek inspiration from Career Geek on a regular basis. For those who wish to gain legal work experience, and have not done so, here’s an insight of what you may be required to do. For those who are on a journey to a different career goal, relate it to your situation and ask yourselves whether you have done enough to prove to yourselves that your chosen career path is your desired one.
Note: Not every law firm provides its interns with the same pattern of work.
What I was required to do and what skills I acquired
My work experience placement at a local law firm provided me with a valuable insight into the legal profession. I was given the opportunity to gain experience within a variety of legal areas and develop substantial skills. The legal areas that I was exposed to were contract law, commercial law, property law, dispute resolutions and equity. I was given a variety of tasks to illustrate how I achieved a beneficial skills-set. This included developing my numerical skills, writing credibility and organisational skills.
On the first day of my placement, the first department I sat in was residential commercial property. Here my task was to fill out a land transactions returns form. It was my duty to download the form from the HM Revenue & Customs website and fill the form out using details of a case file given. Within the equity department, my task was to create an estates account document using the information that I had been given from a client case file. I then had to present my work on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
On my second day I was instructed to produce a case analysis, and the area of law that I was working on was the law of contract. I had been given a large case file where the case concerned a destruction site being left in an unacceptable condition. My responsibility was to read the case carefully in order to pick out and analyse the relevant information. This task enabled me to develop my analytical skills and my writing credibility also improved.
On my last day, I was given another case to work on. This case involved an online clothing site, where the customer received an item of clothing which did not match the image on the website. It is important to note that the item of clothing wasn’t produced by the clothing company itself, but the order was sent to another company. The main purpose of this task was to discover who was at fault. As a result, this required me to analyse the clothing site and the complaint. After producing my findings I had a discussion with the solicitor who was originally dealing with the case.
What I learnt about training contracts
It is no surprise that competition is tough when applying for training contracts. There is a great proportion of students wanting to become prospective lawyers, but with not enough training contract vacancies available. This firm, however, definitely proved that it is tough to gain a place in any law firm. I found out that the firm had received over 100 applications for one training contract vacancy in 2012.
To some of you, my experience might seem quite boring. However, I was amazed at how much responsibility I was given. Not once did my time there feel tedious, dull or boring. I was appreciated and I felt that they wanted to teach me about practising law. What helped considerably was that I had just completed my second year studying a law degree. As a result, this was very beneficial as I was able to put my legal knowledge into practice. Most importantly, this placement confirmed that I was following the right direction in pursuing a legal career. What I learned was that students should not apply or carry out work placements just to put it on paper and show to prospective employers. I believe that anyone who wishes to embark on a particular career should be passionate about applying for placements. It is important to know who you are applying to and have an interest in that firm or organisation. This shows that you have used your initiative to advance your understanding of your chosen career. You may be asked in an interview what you learnt from a particular placement, and how you progressed from it. Some placements may not provide you with much. For example, you could spent your whole placement just filing. Nevertheless, you could use this experience to show an employer your motivation and willingness not to give up. Filing jobs do have their perks, however. Knowing how to file accordingly illustrates that you have good organisation skills and are able to pay close attention to detail. I say this, as I was required, on a different placement, to place numerous files in alphabetical order. Use work placements to your benefit. It’s better to create a CV that you’re proud of, rather than a document which doesn’t mean much to you.
Here are three affirmations to keep you going:
1) Be positive
2) Continue to achieve
3) Strive to develop
Editor: Simi Gupta has also written a very handy guide to U.K law schools, which we recommend you read and share.