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The importance of engaging with your university careers service

The importance of engaging with your university careers service

Bethany Barrett


Law students can have an awful habit of getting so bogged down with tutorial work, mooting competitions, applications for insight evenings, vacation schemes and training contracts that they forget that other students also have career worries. All graduates nowadays enter into a competitive job market, in which they will have to fight for the best graduate positions. This is why your university will have some form of careers service. Some universities have a specific advisor for law students within the service, but many will not. This does not mean that the careers help they offer is not applicable to law students, and that you should not take advantage of it! The earlier on in your studies that you engage with the career advisors, the better, as it will mean that you get the support you need well before submitting that final all-important training contract application. Equally, being in contact early on gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with the service, which is always useful when you need that extra bit of help or an additional referee.

The specifics of what help your careers service may offer will be unique to the university, but most will conduct presentations on general career hurdles such as application forms, assessment centres and interviews. It is not just the legal sector which uses tools such as assessment centres and psychometric testing, so attending these talks are a great way to introduce you to how they may be conducted, and for you to talk to the professionals about what firms are looking for. Some firms will employ third parties to conduct assessment centres, and these third parties will not just run legal ones, so do not be put off by the fact that the talk is not just centred around law. All advice is useful in some way, even if you only apply it once.

Another common offering of a careers service is one-to-one appointments. This may be with a specific law school advisor, or with a general careers service employee. I have had appointments with both, and it surprised me how different they were, and useful in their own ways. Subject-specific advisors are great if you want to talk about things specific to the legal sector, such as training contracts, firms and the LPC. But if you just want another pair of eyes to read over an application before you hit send, someone who is not directly trained to give advice to law students specifically is great because of the fact that they may not know anything about the exact firm or sector in general. This means that they approach your application as a complete outsider, and can really show you where you perhaps are not as clear as you need to be, or where you are forgetting the simpler tricks to make a strong application. My advice for such appointments would be to go to them with a set few questions in mind so that you do not waste time talking about general application advice (unless you are just starting out, and that is what you really need). Take a notepad and write down what they say, as it is easy to think that you will remember their advice, and then promptly forget exactly what they said!

Finally, I would strongly encourage you to research whether your careers service runs some form of employability award (for me, it is called the Bristol PLUS Award). If it does, look into how it is formatted, and schedule some time (preferably over the holidays) to complete its requirements. Personally, I had to complete at least 50 hours of work experience/ volunteering, complete an online course, attend a few workshops and write a reflective report. I completed the first two requirements over summer, when I had the time, and this meant that all I had to do when I came back to university was attend the workshops and write the brief report. I managed to complete the Award by mid-November, all without too much hassle, and this gives me access to a network of PLUS Award alumni, as well as the recognition of having the Award itself (it even goes on my end degree classification). It gave me a central hub through which to talk about my other achievements, helping me to save words on applications and be more concise. So if your university runs one, I would definitely say look into it. Of course, each one will be different, and you need to personally assess the benefits and the workload of it before committing. But chances are it will be worth it!

In conclusion, it is important to remember that the careers service is for law students too, even if there is no special law school advisor. We aren’t so special that we are denied the benefit of the service! Hopefully, my advice has inspired you to look into your careers service’s offerings, because my experience of it has been nothing but positive. I hope yours is the same!