From Classroom to Courtroom: Opportunities for First-Year Law Students to Gain Practical Experience
It is safe to say that many of us have found ourselves wanting to become the Harvey Specters or the Annalise Keatings of the legal field. However, given that you are in your first year, you must do some exploring before deciding whether this is the career for you. Here are some opportunities which you can get involved with as a first-year law student: whether your aim is to strengthen your CV, gain legal experience or simply enhance your professional skills.
Law fairs and events
One of the key ways of finding out what type of law you would want to go into is by attending a range of events. Application season is likely to be in full swing when you start in September, so a lot of universities, law firms and other organisations will have events going on. These could include: panel discussions, webinars, open days and insight events.
You don’t have to attend every single event, but it’s a good idea to attend a few, to gain knowledge and get a head start. This is especially true if you plan to go into commercial law. It is also pivotal to start making connections, so setting up a LinkedIn and connecting with firm representatives from law fairs will give you a good start.
First year insight schemes
This is one of the most effective ways you can gain practical experience in your first year. A lot of firms (particularly in commercial law) have these schemes in place to allow you to experience what the firm does, what type of practice areas they specialise in and allow you to sit in on real-life cases.
If you are set on a career in commercial law, these will be useful in determining what type of firm you would want to apply for in the future. However, they are becoming increasingly competitive, so don’t feel disheartened if you don’t manage to get a place.
It is also worthwhile to apply to open days. These generally have more spaces and will allow you to experience what the firm does, as well as network with representatives.
Participating in competitions
Since you are in first year, you have some space to get involved with extracurriculars which can involve participating in competitions. Many universities have multiple internal competitions - with some teams going on to compete with external universities. These competitions can focus on mooting, debating, client-interviewing or negotiations.
All these competitions will allow you to develop transferable skills which can aid you in becoming a barrister or a solicitor. At the very least, you can add this onto your CV and demonstrate to employers that you have taken initiative to develop your professional skills.
Engaging with extracurricular activities
There are many ways to gain practical experience beyond events held by your university and insight schemes. One of these can include running for committee positions within societies - demonstrating that you can manage the responsibilities of planning events and handling logistics.
You could also apply for a part-time job alongside your studies. Even non-legal roles like waiting tables, babysitting and being a student brand ambassador will allow you to develop transferable skills which will make you a better lawyer.
It is also worthwhile to find out if your university has a pro bono clinic. These are focused on providing free or low cost legal support to communities and individuals. Engaging with this will allow you to gain practical experience in client interaction, organising and planning drop-in sessions and teamwork.
Whilst there can be a range of opportunities which are on offer, it is also extremely important to stay on top of your academics and try to achieve a 2.1. Achieving high academics can help you stand out amongst candidates when you come to apply for opportunities in second year - but academic performance is only half of the battle.
With the legal field becoming more and more competitive, it will be beneficial for you to engage with the opportunities mentioned and gain practical experience.You will be able to add these onto your CV, and figure out whether the legal field is suitable for you.
First Year Opportunities