updated on 04 September 2019
“Where to start?” - Janine Arnold, senior manager – trainee recruitment at Slaughter and May.
The first year of university is a fantastic time to start scoping out where you want your degree – and eventually your career – to take you. You have the time to consider your options, gain experiences of things that you enjoy and find out more about the different types of firms and how they operate. But don’t put yourself under too much pressure at this early stage to identify exactly which firm you want to start your career with in four or five years’ time!
One of the best ways to start researching careers in law during your first year is to join your university law society – most universities will have one. Law societies will hold various events throughout the academic year - some will be in conjunction with law firms such as workshops, interview skills sessions and careers dinners, whereas others will be purely social activities. Keep an eye out for these events and also those organised by your university careers service. They are a brilliant way to help you understand what lawyers do and to help prepare you for future applications. Talk to your peers, across year groups, about their experiences, thoughts and ideas about law as a subject and the different routes it can take you. Many students may already have training contracts lined up or have attended vacation schemes, so they’ll be able to give you their views on firms. Nonetheless, don’t let their opinions prevent you from forming your own views!
Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to law – join other societies or engage in other activities you enjoy. Giving yourself a varied, interesting and fun student experience is essential. On another note, future employers want to see that you have outside interests and that you are making the most of opportunities available to you. It also a good way of evidencing teamwork, time management and other skills which are important to employers.
In the first term you will probably have the opportunity to attend your university’s law fair and speak to a myriad of firms that practice different areas of the law. If you already know what area of law you want to practice - great! If not, speak to different firms and get a feel for the opportunities they offer so you can learn more. Most firms will have something that first years can apply for, whether it be work experience schemes, open days or workshops. Each firm is different and that’s why it is important to get to know them when you can. To make the most of these opportunities to speak with firm representatives, plan your questions in advance and make sure that you’re asking for information which isn’t easily available on their website. For example, you may find it interesting to hear about their personal experiences; what does a typical day look like? What do they like most about their job? What do they find most challenging?
At Slaughter and May, we offer open days for first years. It is a straight-forward application process; just a CV and cover letter. From our perspective, the purpose of the open day is to give you an overview of ‘the City’ and what City law firms do. At this early stage of your degree, we would not expect everyone to have made up their minds about what aspects of law interest them, so we aim to give you an insight into the work we do and the culture of the firm. You’ll have the chance to interact with trainees, associates and partners in an informal setting, which really is the best way to find out about the firm.
Finally, it is important to remember that employers will ask you to include each module result from your first year exams in an application – even though they don’t count towards your final degree classification. Make sure you are working hard to achieve the best possible results from the start as a good basis for any future applications. But, get out and have fun too!
For more detail, see Slaughter and May’s LawCareers.Net profile.