16 Legal Work Experience Ideas

Nov 27, 2019

Whether you are an aspiring solicitor or barrister, you want to boost your chances of entering the legal profession once you have graduated.

In this post, we will share 16 legal work experience ideas that will help your applications to stand out. 

1. Send out speculative applications to high street law firms 

Many aspiring lawyers focus solely on getting a place on a vacation scheme at larger firms. However, it is possible to get some valuable law firm work experience at a smaller high street law firm. 

A speculative application is a request for work experience even though this opportunity has not been advertised. 

You may find success, sending out speculative applications as there will be less competition relative to vac scheme applications at larger firms. 

How to get work experience at a high street law firm

1: Research high street firms in your area  

2: Put together a spreadsheet with contact details for each firm 

3: Update your CV

4: Send out batches of emails to local firms requesting work experience and attach a copy of your CV 

You may need to send out several speculative applications for legal work experience until you are successful. 

Tip: If you don’t hear back, be sure to follow up via email or telephone. 

Once you have completed some work experience at a high street law firm, don’t forget to add this experience to your CV and LinkedIn profile. 

Applying for law firm work experience speculatively can be time-consuming, however, it is worth it if you manage to gain some valuable experience. 

Some firms such as GT Stewart invite students who are interested in the areas of law that they work in to apply for their work placements/internships by sending a CV and cover letter.

2. Get some voluntary work in a legal setting 

Doing pro bono work will give you some hands-on experience with real legal cases. It is an excellent way to get legal work experience whilst helping people in need. 

Benefits of getting involved with pro bono work and gaining voluntary legal work experience:

  • Develop practical legal skills such as interviewing clients and drafting letters 
  • Demonstrate legal research skills 
  • Expand your professional network
  • Explore different areas of law 
  • Add value to your training contract and pupillage applications 

How to get pro bono experience 

Check if your university has a pro bono centre as the first port of call. 

You can also check out the following organisations: 

Lawcareers.net have compiled a really handy list of pro bono and volunteering opportunities.   

Alternatively, you could volunteer at a court. Doing so would provide you with valuable court work experience.

Court volunteers provide reassurance and support for clients. Volunteers in courts generally support clients in the following ways:

  • Explaining how the court system works 
  • Assisting with tasks such as filling out court forms 
  • Helping clients to plan what they are going to say in court 
  • Going into court hearings with clients 

Find out more about how you can get involved in volunteering in a court

3. Get a job as a paralegal 

Working as a paralegal is a great idea for gaining legal work experience and bolster your CV. 

Paralegals provide administrative support to solicitors and only requires candidates to have (or to be pursuing a law degree).  As a paralegal, you may be required to complete the following tasks: 

  • Interviewing new clients 
  • Taking witness statements 
  • Preparing and drafting legal documents 
  • Providing legal advice

There are paralegal opportunities within both high street firms as well as within larger firms within the city. 

Being a paralegal is a good way to kick-start your career in law. It is an excellent idea to gain legal work experience by working as a paralegal part-time whilst studying at university. 

Tip: Find out as much as you can about the role of a paralegal, then start applying for opportunities.  

4. Secure places on vacation schemes 

Vacation schemes last between a week and a month. Vac schemes usually take place during the summer, Easter or Christmas. 

During a vacation scheme, you will get the opportunity to meet trainees, associates, solicitors and partners. The scheme will also help you to improve your legal knowledge and help you to gain a better understanding of your career path. 

The structure of the vacation scheme will differ depending on the firm. However, generally speaking, you will get a supervisor and will gain experience within different practice areas

Benefits of completing a vac scheme 

Some law firms use vacation schemes to identify candidates for their training contracts. This means securing a vacation scheme can significantly boost your chances of getting a training contract at a top law firm.

Several firms offer vacation schemes these includes (but are not limited to): Allen & Overy, Dentons, Eversheds Sutherland, Shearman & Sterling, Trowers & Hamlins, Mills & Reeve and Penningtons Manches. Such placements give students structured law firm work experience.

Tip: apply for vacation schemes as early as possible as they are extremely competitive and many places are filled on a rolling basis. 

As a part of the application process for vac schemes, you may need to attend a one-to-one or a panel interview. Here at Graduate Coach, we provide interview coaching for students, graduates and career changers. Find out how we can help you to nail your vac scheme interview with our interview coaching

5. Apply for mini-pupilages 

Mini pupilages are short work experience placements for aspiring Barristers. They are designed to give you a taste of the Bar. 

Mini pupillage applications are usually open for second or final year undergraduates. However, it may be possible to get a mini-pupillage placement in your first year of university. 

Applicants tend to be current law students. Non-law students may have to wait until they are doing their GDL. 

The mini-pupillage application process

To apply for mini-pupillages, you will need to send a copy of your CV and cover letter to each of the chambers you are applying to. Some applications will require you to complete an online application form. 

Here is a handy list of Barrister’s chambers that offer mini-pupillages

6. Do some marshalling 

Marshalling is another way of gaining law work experience.

It involves shadowing a judge. Marshalling experiences typically last between one day and a week. This experience will give you a birds-eye view of the legal system. 

It is a good idea to marshal a judge if you aspire to the Bar. Whilst marshalling is not a substitute for completing a mini-pupillage, it will complement any mini-pupilage experiences you get. Marshalling experience will also stand out on your CV. 

Here is a great article on what to expect from Marshalling.

How to gain Marshalling experience 

  • Contact your Inn of Court or your local Crown or county court 
  • Send out speculative applications to judges explaining why you would like to marshal them 
  • Ask contacts within your network 

7. Take part in debates and mooting 

Most universities host debating and mooting competitions for students interested in pursuing a legal career. Find out if your university hosts these opportunities and get involved with them. 

Mooting involves presenting a legal issue or problem against an opposing counsel and before a judge. Mooting is often mistaken for a mock trial. However, it differs from a mock trial as it assumes that the evidence has already been tested. Mooting places more emphasis on practising the ability to argue the question of law. 

If you are studying a for an LLB law degree, you will probably be presented with the opportunity to gain mooting experience as a part of your course. 

Moots involve:

  • Conducting legal research 
  • Preparing written submissions 
  • Delivering an oral presentation  

It is a good idea to get involved with mooting opportunities because getting into the legal profession is very competitive and recruiters will be interested in seeing any evidence of advocacy or mooting experience.  

8. Visiting a court

Regardless of whether you want to become a Solicitor or Barrister understanding of how courts operate is important. It’s a good idea to visit a court to gain valuable insights. 

Court visits allow you to sit in on real cases to see legal professionals in action. Gaining this experience can help you to make informed career decisions and work out what area of law you would like to pursue. 

Spending some time in court can help you to decide whether to practice in a contentious or non-contentious area of law. 

Even if you are sure that you would like to become a solicitor visiting a court is useful. Some law firms take their trainees to the High Court to help them to gain a deeper understanding of how their work impacts what happens in court.  

Tips for visiting a court to gain legal work experience 

  • Arrive a few hours before the case starts if it is a high profile case with lots of media coverage. 
  • Check the rules of the courtroom before you enter. At the Old Baily, for example, you are not allowed to bring anything electronic. 
  • Remember to bow to the crown when entering the courtroom and stand when the judge enters. 

9. Attend law insight days 

Insight days are also known as open days or workshops. 

These events are held at law firms and usually involves shadowing, a guided tour of the office, group exercises and talks from partners and the recruitment team. 

Attending insight days will help you to decide which law firms you would like to apply for. 

It is a really good idea to attend legal insight days because some firms use them to screen applications for their vacation schemes and training contracts. 

Here is a list of open day dates and their application deadlines

10. Join law societies

If you are currently studying at university, it is a good idea to join the law society. Being a member of the law society will present opportunities to network with other aspiring legal professionals and to meet legal recruiters. 

University law societies host events and talks to give students a deeper understanding of legal careers. 

You can also gain valuable skills from helping to run the law society at your university. 

If you are a member of an unrepresented group and wish to become a solicitor, you can join Aspiring Solicitors. Aspiring Solicitors work with law firms to provide events, mentoring, commercial awareness competitions and employability assistance.  

Every year, Aspiring Solicitors collaborates with Barclays to host a work experience week in Canary Wharf.

The programme offers 50 Aspiring Solicitors’ members to do a one-week legal work placement with Barclays. During the one-week placement, candidates gain a unique insight into the internal workings of an in-house legal function.

Find out more about the Barclays Legal Experience weeks here.

11. Get a legal research position 

Various institutions such as universities and governmental bodies require people with legal knowledge. 

Look out for legal research job opportunities. This role would help you to develop your legal research skills as well as providing some law-related work experience. 

Legal Work Experience

12. Complete a Legal virtual internship 

The last of our legal work experience ideas is to do a virtual legal internship.

A few of the leading law firms have collaborated with InsideSherpa to provide virtual law internships and experience programmes. 

Some of the companies offering these experiences include:

  • Latham & Watkins 
  • White & Case 
  • Pinsent Masons 
  • King & Wood Mallesons  
  • Baker McKenzie 

These virtual work experience placements are free and take around 6 hours to complete. 

Alternatively, you could sign up to a company called Virtual Internships. Virtual Internships was founded by Edward Holroyd Pearce who also founded CRCC Asia.

They have a legal programme that is designed to help candidates to develop key competencies for a successful career. Typical placements include roles such as: Legal assistant, Legal researcher, In-house legal intern, commercial exec and business development.

13. Do an internship abroad

Gaining international legal work experience will help you to stand out. International law firms will look at this experience in high regard.

Goabroad.com have put together a list of the 10 best law internships abroad.

City Internships also offers internships abroad for those who are interested in law and politics. The programme allows students and graduates to do a legal internship abroad in cities including: New York, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Toronto.

14. Sign up to access to law programmes

Law firms are increasingly taking steps to increase the diversity within their organisations. A diverse workforce allows the firm to reflect, and understand their clients better.

There are a few companies that help law firms to access diverse talent. They also help students and graduates from underrepresented backgrounds to get law work experience.

Another one of our legal work experience ideas is to sign up for the following organisations if you are eligible:

  • Prime is an alliance of law firms who are committed to improving access to the legal profession through work experience.
  • The Brokerage is a London-based social mobility charity connecting young people to employers. Sign up if you are interested in exploring career opportunities in law.
  • SEO London aims to connect some of the most prestigious commercial law firms with law and non-law undergraduates, graduates and career changers.
  • Rare recruitment have a legal development programme called “articles”. Candidates who complete this programme are 27 times more likely to get hired after completing articles.
  • City Solicitors Horizon provide training mentoring and law work experience placements to improve access to the legal profession.
  • UpReach has a law springboard programme sponsored by Slaughter and May. They also have a law programme giving candidates exclusive employer insights.
  • EmployAbility is dedicated to providing opportunities for disabled and dyslexic students and graduates. They are partnered with law firms including Bird and Bird.

15. Do a law-related placement year

If you are in the first or second year of your degree and would like to gain some relevant legal work experience, you could consider taking a law placement year.

Placement years are often referred to as sandwich years or industrial placements and involve working at a company for 12 months before going back to university to finish your degree.

If you are currently doing an LLB Law, with a placement year, you’ll be keen to secure your placement. If you are doing a three-year law or non-law degree, you can speak to the admissions team to see if you can do a placement as part of your degree.

There are a number of companies offering undergraduate students law placement year opportunities.

For example, the Simmons and Simmons Evolve placement year – The evolve placement allows undergraduates to work with lawyers and innovation teams to explore how technology can be integrated across the business. If you have an inquisitive mind and an interest in a legal career, you might want to consider this opportunity. This opportunity is available for students studying for a law degree and non-law students. Throughout the placement, candidates will be assessed for a training contract.

16. Get a law summer internship

If you are currently completing your degree but do not have any law work experience you may consider completing a law summer internship.

If you are an aspiring corporate lawyer, you may have only considered applying for vacation schemes at law firms. However, many reputable companies hire interns to work within their in-house legal teams.

Gaining in-house legal experience will help to boost your CV and will interest legal graduate recruiters.

Check out this page for a list of legal summer internship opportunities.

Don’t dismiss non-law related work experience 

We hope you implement the above legal work experience ideas.

Remember, both law and non-law work experiences are really important. Gaining a wide range of experiences will help you to develop your commercial awareness skills. If you will be applying for commercial law firms, recruiters will be interested in your commercial awareness skills. 

Work experience is important because it will help you to gain and develop employability skills. 

Legal work experience ideas: summary 

We hope this post has given you some new legal work experience ideas

Whether you shadow a judge, visit courts, get onto a vacation scheme, do a virtual internship or become a paralegal, all legal work experience will help you to stand out.

As well as taking on board these ideas, don’t forget that some law firms also have application forms for their work experience opportunities online. So be sure to conduct thorough research to find suitable opportunities.

For example, Kingsley Napley offers a number of unpaid work experience placements throughout the year to students who are 18+ and entitled to work in the UK. Placement students get hands-on experience by sampling many different tasks such as attending court meetings, drafting documents, shadowing, qualified lawyers and more.

Here at Graduate Coach, we have helped aspiring lawyers to enter the legal profession. We can help you with creating your law CV, sending successful applications for vacation schemes and training centres and preparing for assessment centres. Visit our one-to-one career coaching service. 

If you are in year 12, and are looking for inspiration for some legal work experience ideas, visit Student Ladder’s work experience opportunities for year 12 students.

Legal work experience ideas: FAQs

What work experience do you need to be a lawyer?

It is a good idea to gain a variety of experiences that are relevant to the type of legal career you are pursuing.

In order to secure a training contract to become a solicitor or a Pupilage to become a barrister, you’ll need to first meet the academic requirements. As law is a highly competitive field, having work experience will give you a competitive edge by improving your CV, cover letter and interview answers.

Where can I get work experience for law?

Where you can get work experience for law will depend on what stage of your academic career you are at. Some work experience placements are reserved for sixth formers studying A-levels. Whereas others are for undergraduates. Revisit the 16 work experience ideas above for a list on where you can get work experience for law.

How do I get a law job with no experience?

If you are keen to get a job in the competitive field of law but do not have any work experience:

  • Do a virtual legal work experience placement
  • Audit your skills and leverage your non-law experience
  • Aim to gain some work experience by implementing some of our legal work experience ideas above

What do you do in work experience in a law firm?

This will vary depending on what company you work at and what area of law they practice in.

Why law work experience is important

Here is a video of Paul Gascoyne, a Graduate Recruitment Manager, explaining the importance of gaining work experience before applying for vacation schemes or training contracts.

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