*By work experience, we mean informal work experience or shadowing at a law firm, charity or company.
Where should I start looking for legal work experience?
A good start is deciding what kind of work experience you actually want to get! There are thousands of law firms and legal organisations in the UK, so you’ve got to figure out which ones interest you.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to decide on an area of law to explore...
Law vacancy tools
This is an invaluable way of finding out about the firms near you that have practices in areas of law that interest you.
Law careers are not just for solicitors and barristers...
Don’t restrict your search just to law firms and chambers; there are plenty of other legal organisations and charities that are well worth looking into.You might even want to try getting work experience with an in-house legal team.
If you're interested in an area of law such as banking and finance, it might also be worth looking into getting non-legal work experience at a finance company.
Bear in mind that lawyers wouldn’t exist without clients so being able to view things from a client’s point of view is an invaluable skill to have.
Just as if you were applying for a vacation scheme, start looking for work experience well in advance, at least six months before you want to do it. Informal work experience places are highly competitive therefore some companies, firms and chambers have yearlong (or more) waiting lists.
Expect to send out a huge number of work experience applications and only get a few responses.
Getting legal work experience
Aside from the work experience organised through your school, college or university, there are a number of ways that you can secure work experience under your own steam.
First things first, you should have a look on the websites of the firms, chambers and organisations that you would like to work for, as they might already have details of the vacation schemes and work experience programmes they offer.
If this is the case, they will probably have an application form for you to fill in or will provide contact details for the people in charge of work experience applications.
If they don’t, it’s still worth sending them a speculative letter or email asking if you can do work experience. You should tell them why you want to do work experience with their company and include your latest CV.
Make a new connection in the law world
Try and find out the name of the person you need to contact, so you can personally address your work experience application. It's a good idea to search for someone who works in the recruitment department. Trust us, it will have more chance of being read.
You should also follow up with a phone call if they don’t respond after a week. Politely ask if they have received your email.
Networking, networking, networking
In an ideal world, getting work experience would be meritocratic, but, in reality, one of the best ways of getting work experience is through who you know.
Making use of your legal friends
Think about all the people you know, i.e. family friends, neighbours, aunts, uncles, admirers and acquaintances, and see if anyone knows anyone working in the industry you want to work in. This can apply to law firms, but also companies outside of the law which have in-house law departments.
Ask them to help you find work experience. Even if their own firm or organisation might not offer work experience, they might be able to put you in contact with someone else who will!
Go to law fairs
Law fairs are your chance to find out more about certain companies, meet their employees and get an idea of how to get work experience with them.
Take advantage of professionals coming to your school or university, talk to them, get their contact details and see if you can wheedle some work experience out of them.
Make your social media law-friendly
Finally, you should get a LinkedIn profile, join Twitter and follow the companies that interest you. You could maybe even start a blog about the industry?! That way you might get to meet industry people online.