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Your first-year guide to a career in law – find out how to kickstart your legal career at this early stage
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updated on 20 September 2022
Most trainee-hiring law firms now run work experience schemes and events specifically for first-year students, so if you’re seriously considering becoming a solicitor, you’ll be doing yourself a big favour by making sure you attend one or two during your first year at university. Use this list of firms offering opportunities to first-year students to get you started!
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Gaining first-hand experience in a law firm used to be limited to vacation schemes and university law fairs, but things have changed. While two-week vacation schemes remain the best route to a training contract – with the majority of such placements still focusing on second and final-year students – an increasing number of firms now also run shorter schemes, insight events and open days for first years.
Some of these opportunities are easier to find online than others, so below we set out what some of the country’s top law firms are offering to help you kickstart your own research. Start by investigating the firm’s profile on LCN to introduce yourself to its business, work areas, offices and so on, then if you feel the firm could be right for you, head to its recruitment site to find out more and apply. While securing legal experience during your first year is not compulsory, it can help to give you an edge by boosting your CV and networking, and may also help you to fast track your way onto a vacation scheme later on. You’d be wise to make the most of the opportunities available.
The firm’s first-year programme ‘A&O First’ is open to students in the first year of a three-year course or the second year of a four-year course (undergraduate).
Applications for this programme open on 9 January 2023 and close on 10 February 2023.
Specific dates for the 2023 scheme haven’t been announced yet but keep an eye on the firm’s socials for more information.
Ashurst hosts first-year insight days (virtual and in person) to give candidates a chance to understand what it’s like to work at the firm. First-year law and non-law students are eligible to apply, as well as second-year students who are on a four-year degree.
Applications for the in-person insight day open on 9 January 2023 and close at midday on 24 February 2023, and applications for the virtual insight day open on 27 February 2023 and close at midday on 28 April 2023.
Baker McKenzie’s First Year Insight Scheme is a two-day placement for first-year law and non-law students, which will run from 17 to 18 April 2023 at the firm’s London office.
Applications open on 1 November 2022 and close on 1 February 2023.
Bristows hosts several IP-focused workshops to offer interested candidates an insight into life as an IP lawyer. The firm’s IP Workshops for First Undergraduates will be held virtually on 14 June 2023 and is open to both first-year law and non-law students.
Applications are open now and close on 31 May 2023.
The firm’s open days are open to first-year university students and beyond, and will take place on:
Applications will open on 1 October 2022 and close on 16 November 2022.
The magic circle firm hosts a series of Clifford Chance Live events that are open to everyone, including an insight series, skills session series and a flagship event series.
The firm also has a programme called SPARK which has been designed for ‘exceptional’ first-year law students, second-year students of a four-year law degree or penultimate-year non-law students. It’s a five-day paid scheme that offers insights into what a career at Clifford Chance looks like.
The first scheme will run between 26 and 30 June 2023 and the second scheme will run between 17 and 21 July 2023. Applications opened in August and will close at midnight on 9 February 2023.
The firm’s First Steps scheme is open to first-year law and non-law students and those in the second year of a four-year law or non-law degree. The programme involves practical experience skills sessions and networking. Applications for 2022 are closed but candidates can register an interest in future opportunities on the firm’s website.
The insight days at Covington & Burling are aimed at candidates who aren’t eligible to apply to the firm’s vacation schemes. The insight days include an introduction to the firm’s key practice areas, an applications skills workshop and networking opportunities.
Applications open on 5 January 2023 and close on 24 February 2023.
The firm’s insight programme is open to first-year law students, second-year law students on a four-year course, second-year non-law students and third-year non-law students on a four-year course.
It’ll take place at the firm’s London office in April 2023. The application window hasn’t been confirmed.
Applications for DWF’s open days will reopen in autumn 2022.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
International firm Freshfields has a spring scheme that’s open to first-year law and non-law students, and second-year students on a four-year course.
There’s also a one-day non-law workshop which includes insight from lawyers who came to the firm from a non-aw background. It’s open to all non-law students.
Meanwhile, Freshfields’ focus events are open to all and focus on specific areas of the firm including, pro bono, tech and innovation, dispute resolution and more. There are also virtual panel presentations that include insights from partners, associates, trainees and recruiters at the firm. These two opportunities don’t require an application.
The dates for the 2023 opportunities haven’t been confirmed.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher UK LLP
US-headquartered Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s First Year Insight Day will take place on 27 April 2023 – applications are open from 1 October 2022 until 20 March 2023.
The firm offers first-year workshops for law and non-law students each spring at its London office, which include interactive sessions, a careers fair, an afternoon shadowing a trainee and an evening social. There are also several open days available to first-year students including the firm’s IP, cyber and tech open day.
Hogan Lovells runs two insight schemes for first-year students of all degree disciplines, which include interactive workshops, presentations and networking opportunities. The dates for next year’s schemes are yet to be released so keep an eye on the firm’s website for updates.
The firm’s campus ambassador programme is also a great way to develop your CV and make connections with the firm and its people.
This international law firm hosts an insight day for first-year law students and penultimate-year non-law students interested in a career in law. It includes a chance to meet with the firm’s trainees and to find out more about the recruitment process.
The dates for the upcoming insight days haven’t been released yet so visit the firm’s website to stay up to date.
National firm Irwin Mitchell is running several virtual open evenings in the autumn term, including insights into the firm’s recruitment process, its various offices across the UK and a chance to hear from trainees.
These virtual events will be recorded for those who cannot make it.
The firm hosts four open day events, with one a dedicated First-Year Spring Scheme designed to offer students a real picture of “roles, responsibilities, and experiences of Latham trainees”. Penultimate-year non-law students are also eligible to attend this scheme.
Dates for 2023 haven’t yet been released so visit the firm’s website for updates.
The Pathfinder programme is a hybrid insight and developmental programme that includes workshops and shadowing over the course of six months. The scheme is open to first-year students of all degree disciplines.
The firm’s first-year insight scheme is a week-long experience for candidates in their first year of a three-year course of second year of a four-year course.
Macfarlanes also runs a week-long first-year skills development initiative, which includes work experience and mentoring for law undergraduates from certain universities.
The firm hosts open days between December and January each year.
The firm’s annual open day is open to everyone and will enable aspiring lawyers to find out more about the firm’s training contract, practice areas and life as a trainee. Keep your eye on the firm’s website for more information.
Mishcon’s next first-year open day will take place on 19 April 2023 and is a great chance to get an insight into life as a lawyer at the firm and advice on how to stand out in your applications.
The First Steps programme is a week-long taster placement open to first-year students studying any degree subject. Candidates can usually apply from February with the scheme taking place previously in July (the 2023 dates are yet to be confirmed – keep an eye on the firm’s website for information as it’s released).
Osborne Clarke LLP
The firm’s insight scheme is designed for first-year law and second-year non-law students to provide a “glimpse into life at a law firm and a taste of what it’s like to work at Osborne Clarke”, plus much more. Each scheme will run over the Easter break in Bristol, Reading and London, with applications opening on 1 October 2022 and closing on 28 February 2023.
The firm will be hosting both an in-person and virtual open day, with the virtual event open to all interested candidates. Applications for the open day are open and will close on 17 October 2022. There are events taking place across several dates in November.
RPC’s First-Year Workshop is open to first-year law and second-year non-law students and will be taking place virtually. The workshop includes presentations, skills sessions and networking opportunities and will take place on 29 March 2023. Applications close on 24 March 2023.
Shearman & Sterling (London) LLP
The firm’s Head Start programme is a one-day event designed with first-year law and second-year non-law students in mind. It’ll be taking place on 3 May 2023.
Several insight evenings will be taking place across Shoosmiths’ various offices. The insight evening will be held on specific dates from December 2022 to March 2023 for candidates applying to the firm’s Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Thames Valley and Solent offices.
Applications will open in September 2022 and close on 31 October 2022.
The firm’s insight days are open to first-year law and first/second-year non-law students. The dates for the 2023 insight day haven’t been confirmed so visit the firm’s website for updates.
The firm’s spring insight scheme is open to first-year law and non-law students (as well as second-year non-law). Information on when this scheme will take place in 2023 hasn’t yet been announced so check the firm’s website for more information. The open days are also a great place to meet the firm and gain an insight into its culture and the opportunities available.
The magic circle firm’s first-year open days are open to law and non-law students.
These will take place on:
Applications will open on Monday 3 October 2022 and will close on Friday 16 December 2022.
There’s also a week-long spring work experience scheme that’s open to first-year undergraduate students only. It’ll take place from 17 to 20 April 2023 in the firm’s office. Applications will open from 3 October 2022 and close on 16 December 2022.
The firm will be hosting virtual insight days in November and December, and in-person open days at its London office in January and March.
There are several Trailblazing open days taking place at Taylor Wessing – one in-person event in October (London), and an in-person and virtual event in November. These are open to first-year law and penultimate-year non-law students.
TLT hosts an insight scheme for first and second-year students, which runs in all its offices between July and August.
TLT open days also take place across the firm’s different offices.
The firm’s open day is dedicated to first-year students and offers insights into the firm, life as a trainee, the opportunity to network and lots more. The next one takes place in spring 2023. Applications will open on 1 November 2022 and close on 3 February 2023
Open days are open to all undergraduate students from first years onwards.
Weil Gotshal & Manges (London) LLP
Weil’s first-year fast track scheme is a two-day scheme, where first years who impress are ‘fast tracked’ onto the firm’s vacation scheme for the following year. To apply, you must be a first-year law student on a three-year course, a second-year law student on a four-year course or a penultimate-year non-law student.
The firm also hosts insight days that are open to candidates from all universities and degree disciplines.
Dates for both these opportunities have not yet been announced, find out more about the scheme via the firm’s website.
In 2022 the firm ran two-day insight schemes that were open to first-year students (law or non-law). Information on when these schemes will take place in 2023 is yet to be announced.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP (UK) LLP
Aspiring lawyers can attend the firm’s virtual open day on 2 November 2022 to hear from partners, associates and trainees.
Insight schemes and open evenings are not the only opportunities that you should pursue in your first year at university. Other things you can be doing to improve your CV and access opportunities include getting involved in your student law society and volunteering.
Find out more about getting experiences in your first year with this Oracle. And don’t forget to use LCN’s dedicated First-year law students hub to find out more.