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 12 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 legal 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.
Applying for work experience speculatively can be time-consuming, however, it is worth it if you manage to gain some valuable experience.
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
- 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. Court volunteers provide reassurance and support for clients.
Court volunteers 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
You can 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here at Graduate Coach, we have helped aspiring lawyers to enter the legal profession. Visit our one-to-one career coaching service.