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LCN Says

What to expect from your university law society

updated on 03 April 2018

This year over 45 student law societies submitted entries for the LCN Student Law Society Awards, explaining how they ran their events and activities, and how they served their membership. We also heard from over 2,200 student law society members who offered their 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.

The awards ceremony took place on Thursday 15 March 2018 in London and the evening was a great opportunity to celebrate the efforts of all societies nominated.

I’ve put together a run-down of the key areas in which a law society can support and encourage its members in their legal career journeys.

1. Engagement

Regular communication is integral to the strength and progression of any society, and you should expect to receive some form of communication from your society at least once a week, whether that’s through social media, email newsletters, or lecture shout-outs. You should be kept up to date about what’s going in on your society, from upcoming events, opportunities, news and sponsorship, to general updates.

Your society should also take into account your opinions and ideas. Are you offered the chance to give your feedback after events? Do you feel like your voice is heard? These are valid points to consider, as an engaged society is one where its members feel like they are offered the chance to share their ideas about the future and progression of their society. Some of the best submissions we read this year were societies who offered weekly drop-in sessions for members to raise concerns and ideas, as well as societies who regularly sent around online surveys for members to complete anonymously.

The award for best at student engagement, sponsored by Kirkland & Ellis International LLP, was presented to The Holdsworth Club of the University of Birmingham.

2. Careers events

Attending careers events is a huge part of being a society member and your committee should be delivering regular events that aim to help you on your career path. Here are some fantastic examples of supportive and innovative careers events from this year’s awards submissions:

  • presentations and interactive Q&A sessions with City and local solicitors’ firms;
  • talks from notable legal professionals – solicitors and barristers;
  • commercial awareness workshops to get students thinking and talking about a range of business issues;
  • peer-learning sessions from students who had recently completed a vacation scheme or obtained a training contract;
  • weekly drop-in clinics with the university careers team to review applications or just seek advice on an informal basis; and
  • careers dinners, allowing students to talk and network with lawyers in an informal setting.

The best careers event award, sponsored by Charles Russell Speechlys, was presented to King’s College London Law Society for their two-day annual workshop.

3. Social events

When we talk about social events, we don’t always mean boozy bar crawls ending up in the best/worst club that your local town has to offer. Social events should be varied and aim to strengthen the personal bonds within your society and its members. Some of our favourite social events of this year didn’t involve drinking and were a bit off the beaten track! They included:

  • law ball – the more inventive the theme, the better! This year ranged from ‘The Nutcracker’ to ‘Cirque de la Luna’;
  • cocktail master class;
  • charity Christmas fete;
  • murder mystery evening;
  • pizza and games night; and
  • freshers’ welcome drinks and mingling.

The best social event award, sponsored by Memery Crystal LLP, was presented to Cardiff University Law Society for their family-themed social.

4. Mooting

The best mooting schemes we reviewed from this year’s submissions were those where competitive mooting was embraced concurrent to a comprehensive support programme for those new to mooting. Internal competitions allowed teams to practise for intervarsity, national and (in some impressive cases) international competitions. We were particularly impressed with societies running a variety of mooting opportunities and competitions for all abilities, while drafting in seasoned judges to score.

The best mooting activities award, sponsored by Blake Morgan LLP, was presented to The LSESU Law Society.

5. Pro bono activities

This is certainly one area where coordination with your law school will be hugely influential. One of the key reasons for pro bono success is focusing attention on one area/project and fully committing to it. It’s important to remember that when supporting real case work – with clients relying on you – you should make proper provision so that the society is fully able to honour commitments for the time period required. We were very impressed this year with all societies that offered a wide range of pro bono activities and projects for its members to take part in.

The best pro bono activities award, sponsored by DLA Piper UK LLP, was presented to UEA Law Society.

6. Aspiring barristers

Some universities have barrister-specific student law societies whereas at others, the aspiring barristers are part of the general student law society, but this doesn’t mean that they should miss out. You should make sure that your society isn’t entirely solicitor-focused and that students who wish to practise at the Bar are catered for as well. Examples of great activities for aspiring barristers include:

  • mentoring scheme, pairing student members with practising barristers;
  • marshalling opportunities for students with senior members of the judiciary;
  • trips to law courts and pupillage fairs;
  • public speaking workshops;
  • BPTC, scholarship and pupillage application workshops and guidance;
  • networking events with barristers and pupils; and
  • career talks about pursuing a career at the Bar.

The best society for aspiring barristers award, sponsored by The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, was presented to the University of Nottingham Bar Society.

7. Non-law students

All student law societies should ensure that they cover the needs of non-law students and acknowledge that these students will have less specific legal knowledge. We were impressed by societies who were inclusive of all subject areas and keen to spread the word to non-law students through lecture shout-outs, events and specified subject representatives on their committees. Examples of beneficial activities for non-law students are:

  • talks on the GDL conversion course and alternative routes into law;
  • informal social events for non-law students interested in a legal career;
  • specific content on society websites for non-law students;
  • presentations from solicitors with recently-completed non-law degrees; and
  • career talks explaining the career path for non-law students.

The best society for non-law students, sponsored by Osborne Clarke LLP, was presented to York University Law Society.

8. First-year students

It’s important for societies to support members from their very first steps at university and to make them aware of what exactly the society does and how it can help launch their legal careers. From stands at freshers fairs, to first-year representatives elected to the committee, societies should be ensuring that they are catering to the specific needs and interests of first years. Examples of beneficial activities for first-year students are:

  • social events specifically for first years to meet and network;
  • orientation introductions to the society and its committee;
  • introductory talks and presentations about the legal profession;
  • buddy and mentoring schemes between first-year and older students;
  • essay help schemes for first-year students; and
  • panel discussion of students who had recently completed first-year schemes.

The best society for first-law students, sponsored by Slaughter and May, was presented to Warwick Law Society.

9. Social media

It’s 2018 and if your society isn’t putting itself out there across all social media platforms, how is anyone going to be aware of the great work it does? Social media accounts should be active and relevant, engaging with members and future employers, letting members know of the latest opportunities, and shouting about what the society is up to across all areas. Your society should have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at a minimum and we were very impressed to see societies embracing new forms of technology and communication in this year’s submissions.

The best social media award, sponsored by Shoosmiths, was presented to the University of Bristol Law Club.

10. Diversity

It’s obvious when societies have actively considered the importance of diversity and practically implemented steps to increase it. Diversity is much more than embracing non-law students or ensuring gender equality on the committee. To quote one of our submissions, you must be “conscious of the fact that diversity comes in many forms: race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, age, disability and socioeconomic background”.

Examples of excellent activities for increasing diversity within the society are:

  • electing a diversity officer to focus on these issues;
  • workshops on topics such as women in law, LGBTQ issues, challenges faced by minorities in the legal profession, and how to ask for adjustments on application forms;
  • working alongside organisations such as Aspiring Solicitors to promote awareness and access to the profession;
  • diversity events/fairs to celebrate different cultures and backgrounds of members;
  • working alongside cultural societies and bodies of international students within the university; and
  • providing bursaries and free membership for students from low-income families.

We hope that your society is doing its best to champion diversity in all forms and across all areas. If you would like more information about diversity in the legal profession, check out Aspiring Solicitors and the work they do throughout campuses across the UK.

The most committed to increasing diversity award, sponsored by Baker McKenzie, was presented to Manchester University Law Society.

11. The president

The main criteria for the student law society president is that s/he has the best interests of the society at heart and is striving to take the society forward. Common characteristics among this year’s nominated presidents include: dedication, approachability, friendliness, inclusiveness, creativity, fantastic organisational skills and a willingness to get stuck in!

The best law society president award, sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright, was presented to Kenny Glass of the University of Bristol Law Club.

12. The society overall

If your student law society is covering all of these areas well, you should know about it! It was fantastic to read so many responses from student law society members in this year’s submissions, all aware and proud of exactly what their society had to offer.

We know that student law societies are hubs of information and opportunities, and here at LawCareers.Net we enjoy supporting societies as places to empower members to take practical steps towards launching their legal careers. A massive congratulations to Leicester University Student Law Society who picked up the best law society overall award, sponsored by Clyde & Co LLP. Their submission proved that it is possible to work together and support their members fully across all the above areas.

If you think your society is deserving of a nomination for an award, keep an eye out for the 2019 Student Law Society Awards submissions which will be opening later in the year.

Bethany Wren is the communications and events coordinator at LawCareers.Net, and the host of the Student Law Society Awards.