Making Connections: Networking Opportunities for First-Year Law Students in the UK
While two-week vacation schemes continue to be the best way to land a training contract, most of these placements only target second and final-year students as well as graduates. Now, an increasing number of firms are now also offering shorter schemes, insight events and open days for first-year students. There are endless opportunities now on offer, and with many events now taking place online, it can be relatively easy to access and benefit from workshops and insight events from firms across the country.
First-year insight events and open days
If you're considering becoming a solicitor, make sure you attend one or two first-year events when you start university. Most trainee-hiring law firms now provide work experience programmes and events exclusively for first-year students. Remember that even though attending these is a good idea, passively sitting there means you may as well not have gone. Take a notepad and pen. Jot down the names of the trainees, associates and partners who speak to you, what they talk about, and a few bullet points about why this interested you.
These notes will be invaluable when applying for training contracts and other entry-level positions. You will be able to concisely set out what you learned at the firm and from who, as well as how this has influenced your choice to apply to the firm in question. For example, you enjoyed the experience of being in a firm that boasted a unique variety of departments and international links, hence your choice to apply to the firm you are drafting the application for.
Create a LinkedIn
Facebook for professionals, LinkedIn is a great resource. The key is to keep it updated, make connections, and follow firms, businesses, and individuals that interest or inspire you.
You shouldn't disregard the summary area of your LinkedIn profile, it's a crucial component. You get the chance to introduce yourself and explain why people should continue scrolling to learn more about you. You risk creating a negative first impression and losing a professional opportunity (in or outside the legal sphere) if your summary is badly worded. Begin by setting out what you are doing now. In a few sentences, try and answer some of the following questions:
- Are you studying law?
- Where do you attend school or university?
- What kind of law are you interested in practising?
- What career goals do you have once you graduate?
- What legal subjects have you decided to study?
- Where do you work?
Then move on to a summary of previous achievements and work experience. Be sure to inject your personality and highlight your strengths.
For those of you who are nervous about striking up a conversation with your classmate in a lecture, entering your first networking event might be a rather scary experience. However, it’s a good idea to show your independence at these gatherings (you can go with a friend, but not stick with them the whole night) and engage in discussion with everyone there. Dress professionally and approach all conversations as an active listener. Make eye contact and shake hands firmly.
If you are attending a networking event at a firm, ensure you have researched them beforehand. Don't ask how many offices they have or what areas of law they practise - you should know this at least! Make sure you go in with a few icebreaker questions; some of my favourites include, 'What experience at this firm has been memorable and why?' or 'What do you think makes this firm unique?' The lawyers in attendance will be grateful that you've asked something thought-provoking, and you can mention this conversation if you end up applying for a role at the firm.
Have a response prepared for the questions asking about you. Make an effort to determine what sets you apart from the competition and why the firm should be interested in what you have to offer. Often, you will go in ready to ask questions but not necessarily to answer them. However, networking goes both ways, and the firm wants to get to know you just as much as you want to get to know them.
Have interests outside of university
The majority of people you will be studying alongside and competing against for graduate roles have also achieved good grades in their A-levels, and will go on to do the same in their degrees. Therefore, you should have more than just strong academics. You should engage in activities outside of your study. This may include: society events, sports groups, mooting, debating, work experience, volunteering or even creating your own society.
This is important for ensuring you maintain a good work-life balance, and it can help with your mental health, communication skills, and time management. Prioritise your passions, even if they’re not law-related! Law firms want people with a multifaceted personality, with interests beyond law.
To conclude, there are so many things that you can get involved with as a first-year university student. The key is to attend events that interest you, but remember that you are just beginning your career journey. Be kind to yourself, enjoy where you are and ensure you keep up all your interests - not just law-related ones!
First Year Opportunities