Legal work opportunities for postgrad students

Dear Oracle

I have recently graduated with a 2.1 in my philosophy degree and plan to take a year out to earn some money before enrolling on the Graduate Diploma in Law. What kind of paid work could I do which (i) looks impressive to employers, and (ii) would be flexible enough to allow me to keep putting my legal career first?

The Oracle replies

You're right to be looking for legal work opportunities at this point - although it is often necessary for aspiring lawyers to work in order to pay for their postgraduate courses, employers will want to see a demonstrably consistent interest in and involvement with the law. You could try applying to the legal departments of non-law organisations; one barrister we spoke to recently spent her first months after graduating with Channel 4's legal team.

Working as a paralegal or legal secretary would be a good option, but without any legal qualifications you will have to apply for a lot of roles. Enquire with paralegal recruitment agencies: you may find one that will take you on. It can be difficult to land that first paralegal role, particularly when many vacancies request prior experience, although not all do – keep an eye on our Jobs board to see the sort of opportunities that are on offer.

Alternatively, you could ask your local high-street firms if they need any administrative help or you could look at some of the various pro bono opportunities available. Investigate the possibility of volunteering with your nearest free legal advice centre, and with pro bono organisations like the Free Representation Unit, the Innocence Project and Amicus. LawCareers.Net has a directory of pro bono and volunteering opportunities to help you. Working pro bono will boost your CV and employability (both in terms of paralegal work and applying for a training contract) and improve your skills, but it will also give you the chance to use your knowledge to help others and participate in rewarding and wholly worthwhile work.

Consider, also, applying for vacation schemes at slightly larger firms, some of which are open to non-law graduates. Vacation schemes are a great way to accrue valuable experience and impress potential employers. To help you in your search, consult our database of vac scheme deadlines, which will give you all the details you need to apply.

Finally, remember that any spell of employment to pay for your further education does not necessarily have to be centred on the legal profession in order to impress law firm recruiters. Any job, from bar work to retail, will provide you with valuable experience that develops essential skills such as client interaction, presentation and time management. Remember to include any experiences such as this when you finally come to apply for legal roles, as too many aspiring lawyers neglect to emphasise the wealth of skills and experiences that they have acquired outside of a legal context.

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