updated on 27 April 2021
Every year we survey student law societies across the UK for the annual LawCareers.Net Student Law Society Awards to find out how they run their events and activities, and how they serve their membership. We also hear from student law society members who offer opinions and feedback on their societies, including which events they most enjoyed and how they felt specific areas such as mooting and pro bono activities were run on campus.
This year, for obvious reasons, things were a little different. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, student law societies like the rest of the world were forced to move online. In hearing from students all over the country, we have seen how societies have innovated, provided excellent virtual events and opportunities and, above all, continued to support their members in their legal career journeys.
Here is a brief run-down of some of the ways your student law society can support you in your quest to become a lawyer – virtually and beyond.
Engagement is key to any law society – especially during times of social distancing and online learning. Luckily, with email newsletters, social media, online hubs and virtual events, it has never been easier to stay connected to your law society, know what’s going on, and feel part of a wider community.
Communication, however, is a two-way street, and as well as providing information for you, your society should also listen to your opinions and ideas. Are you offered the chance to give your feedback? Do you feel like your voice is heard and valued? These are valid points to consider, as an engaged society is one where its members feel like they can share their ideas about the future and progression of their society. Some of the best submissions we read this year were from societies that had taken on board their members’ concerns and opinions and made concrete changes in response.
The award for best at student engagement, was presented to the Edward Bramley Law Society (from the University of Sheffield).
Attending careers events is a huge part of being part of a society and, quite honestly, probably one of the main reasons you joined in the first place. With Zoom, Hopin and various online event platforms easy to access for everyone, moving online has opened the door for many student law societies to deliver more events than ever before as we are no longer restricted by physical distance or travelling.
From firm presentations and interactive Q&A sessions with lawyers and law firms, to meticulously organised virtual networking sessions and events, workshops and competitions, there is still so much you can gain from attending virtual society careers events. Make the most of the opportunities by preparing ahead of the events, and follow up on LinkedIn afterwards. Watch this video and read this article for more advice on making the most of virtual events and networking online.
The best careers event award was presented to the University of Lincoln Law Society for their cheese and wine virtual networking evening.
Perhaps the biggest casualty to the pandemic for many society members will have been the social events. A society is, after all, supposed to be social. However, while law balls, bar crawls and coffee mornings might be off the cards for the time being, we were still impressed by the innovative and fun social events many societies pulled off virtually. We read about virtual pizza parties, online quizzes, murder mysteries and games nights. All of these events proved that fun and community can be built without being face-to-face, and that societies worked hard to provide welcome distractions for students during an especially difficult time. Plus, attending events virtually brings the added bonus of saving money on a taxi home and being able to simply close your laptop to leave. No more awkward goodbyes!
The best social event award was presented to the University of Leeds Law Society for their online cocktail masterclass
Although many might find the idea of transferring moots to the digital world a strange one, we heard from many societies who managed to successfully host a series of internal moots and coordinate participation in external moots. In our eyes, however, one of the most important aspects of this category was to provide training and allow students at all experience levels to get involved and take part in mooting activities. From beginner sessions and intensive workshops, to publishing guides for inexperienced mooters, your society should allow you to feel comfortable participating in moots, and hopefully support you on your way to larger competitions and even prestigious prizes. And who knows? With new technology and software already in use, paperless mooting could become a regular part of society life in future.
The best mooting activities award was presented to UCL Law Society.
Not every society can offer its members the opportunity to take part in pro bono work and this is one area where coordination with your law school will be hugely influential, especially if your law school runs a law clinic (or as we have recently seen – your society has started one!). Working in community-based projects has undoubtedly been difficult across the charity and legal aid sector as a whole, but there are many legal and research tasks that can be conducted online by willing students. Some pro bono projects we read about in this year’s submissions have even made it their aim to make legal information as accessible as possible by creating technology and communication platforms to enable members of the community to know about their rights, for example. Your society should be signposting you to these kinds of activities, if not organising them itself.
The bottom line is that there is always something you can do, however small. And it will be of benefit to your future legal career too, as this Feature explains. If you’re still on the fence, make sure to read “Why you should get involved in pro bono work” from Pro Bono Society President Sonia Gandhi.
The best pro bono activities award was presented to the University of Nottingham Pro Bono Society.
Our award for the best society for commercial awareness was introduced at the 2020 Student Law Society Awards as we saw a huge increase in students seeking information specifically on this crucial subject, as well as bespoke commercial awareness societies launched at some universities. From commercial awareness events with firms and external speakers, to workshops, guides and competitions, societies continued to take this theme seriously this year, providing their members with the resources and tools for them to understand and demonstrate this skill to future employers. Don’t forget to head to our commercial awareness hub if you are interested in developing your commercial awareness in your own time.
The best society for commercial awareness was presented to Manchester University Law Society.
Supporting first-year students should be a priority for law societies at all times, but this seems especially pertinent during the 2020-2021 academic year during which many students were unable to fully experience their university’s freshers weeks or welcome events. As well as hosting online drop-in sessions and icebreaker events, societies ran bespoke sessions for first years to prepare them for how to launch their legal careers at this early stage. This year there was an added emphasis on student welfare and wellbeing with mental health events and resources quite rightly prioritised for all students – not just first years. Many societies also run buddy and mentoring schemes between first-year and older students which can very easily be replicated online.
The best society for first-law students, sponsored by Burges Salmon LLP, was presented to the University of Bristol Law Club.
It’s clear when a society has actively considered the importance of diversity and inclusion, and practically implemented steps to address it. Across the legal profession there have been calls for discussions around diversity and equality to continue to be prioritised during the pandemic. From reading the awards submissions, it’s clear to see that students are more active than ever in seeking change and representation at all levels – from their societies and committees, to their future employers, and the industry as a whole.
Annual themes and topics, panel discussions and networking events with lawyers from underrepresented backgrounds, accessible membership schemes, and even outreach programmes to schools and sixth form students are all ways societies impressed us with their efforts this year. More than this, a law-related society should seek to represent its members and their diverse needs and backgrounds, and ultimately allow all members to feel welcome and supported in its community.
Of course, there is much more to be done – in societies, universities, legal employers, and the legal profession. Take a look at our new Diversity hub for content relating to diversity and inclusion.
The most committed to increasing diversity award, sponsored by Baker McKenzie, was presented to King’s College London Bar & Mooting Society.
Find out more about the Student Law Society Awards and read the full list of 2021 Student Law Society Awards winners.
If you think your society is deserving of a nomination for an award, keep an eye out for the 2022 Student Law Society Awards submissions which will be opening later this autumn.
Bethany Wren is content and events manager at LawCareers.Net, and the host of the Student Law Society Awards.