It’s hard to predict if you have enough work experience to obtain a training contract and top grades are no longer as impressive as they once were. Today’s law firms are looking for applicants that can demonstrate that they have gained valuable work experience that will enhance and further a career in law.
Here are some tips intended to help you effectively fill out the work experience section of the application form:
Types of work experience
While being able to say that you shadowed a barrister, spent time in the public gallery at court, or volunteered at a solicitors firm all demonstrate your commitment to the legal sector, don’t discount previous jobs that provided you with skills that are transferrable to a business environment.
Skills that can be developed in a non-legal environment might include the following:
Filling a high pressure, customer service role can demonstrate your ability to meet deadlines while providing high-quality work that meets client expectations.
Managing frustrated clients shows the capability to take responsibility and calmly resolve issues through face-to-face interaction.
Working while attending university illustrates an ability to prioritise and manage your time.
Volunteering for a business or non-profit can translate into determination, a strong work ethic and a desire to make a difference in the world.
Don’t discount part-time jobs. Although it might not always be appropriate to list all your part-time employment, you can group some jobs into a more general category and include key aspects of your role in each position.
Describing work experience
Your work experience will serve as an indicator as to whether or not you will be a good fit at the firm to which you are applying. Rather than just listing the positions you have held, try to highlight your accomplishments to show how past work has prepared you for the new role. Here’s how to do it:
Don’t be modest. When describing your work experience, never downplay your contributions. Instead, highlight the most important aspects of the work you performed. Don’t rely on someone else to decide how impressive your experience was—tell them yourself.
Show, don’t tell. Don’t just record your skills; explain specifically how you used them in your work experience.
Be specific. Describe your activities in detail, even if they were performed as part of a team.
Remain relevant. Include the applicable contributions that you made, but leave out information that doesn’t apply.
When deciding which experience to include, you should always choose quality over quantity, regardless of whether the work performed was law-related or not.
Making up for a lack of work experience
Although work experience is a vital component of any online application form for a training contract or vacation scheme, it is only one factor. No matter how brief your work experience was, if you can show how it enhanced your skills—law-related and otherwise—it’s important to include it.
If your lack of work experience is connected to mitigating circumstances—traumatic, difficult, and emotional occurrences—you should be straightforward about the situation and explain the effect it had on you.