updated on 22 December 2020
I am a second-year law student and am wondering what advice you can give me on how to get ahead in my search for legal work experience and a training contract during the holidays?
You should definitely enjoy some time off to rest and spend time with friends and family over the holidays (where it is safe to do so and following government guidance), but our advice is to also use some of your break to think ahead to next year. Unfortunately, these few years spent studying, gaining work experience and applying for a training contract or pupillage are very intense, and there are plenty of things you can be doing during this pause to get your CV in shape for the applications ahead.
First, we suggest that you aim to apply for some legal work experience over the break. In an ideal world you would have already landed a winter vacation scheme or mini-pupillage, but if you haven't, why not contact some local high-street firms and find out if you can do a short placement? Alternatively, you may like to get in touch with your local court to see whether it is possible to do some judge marshalling or even just sit in on a few cases. Read this previous Oracle question on alternative ways to gain legal work experience.
Voluntary work is also a good idea. First, it is a great way to use your skills to help people in real need, but it will also be sure to impress legal recruiters. A variety of organisations welcome the help of students, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, www.do-it.org.uk, LawWorks and the Bar Pro Bono Unit. See LCN’s pro bono initiatives section to find more volunteering opportunities near you. You can also read our Feature for more information on the professional benefits of doing pro bono work.
Having said all that, we do realise that not everybody will have time for unpaid work experience or volunteering, as many of you will be working. Don't forget that any work experience or employment is useful – for example, working in a bar will improve your client handling skills and ability to work in a team. Remember to include these kinds of jobs on the applications you make in future; recruiters want to hear about them and (more importantly) the skills that you developed while doing them.
As well as gaining experience, you can use some of your free time to consider which type of firm you want to work in. You should be aiming to identify a handful of firms that fit your criteria. And don't forget that there are deadlines for vacation schemes throughout January, with many firms setting 31 January as the deadline for their summer vacation schemes, so you should be beavering away on your applications for these. Follow the link for a full list of vacation scheme application deadlines.
Finally, remember that excellent academic grades are absolutely essential when it comes to a career in law. Great experience and focused applications are useless without consistently impressive academics to back you up – you need to be aiming for a 2.1 degree or higher, so your time would also be well spent getting ahead with your reading and any assignments that you might have. If you’re well organised, you’ll actually find it easier than you think to get ahead in whichever one or two of these areas is most pressing for you personally. Happy holidays and stay safe!