Jul 07, 2022

Written By Natasha Jones

Can you shadow a lawyer?

Jul 07, 2022

Written By Natasha Jones

If you’re debating whether or not to study law at university, it’s a good idea to try and secure some work experience in the legal field before making a decision. Although navigating the world of legal work experience can feel daunting, there are plenty of opportunities available for students who are willing to look for them. Keep reading as we discuss work shadowing, as well as other ways for budding lawyers to obtain legal experience pre-university.


‘Shadowing’ a solicitor or barrister is a great option for Year 12 and 13 students, as you often aren’t eligible to apply for the more formal work experience placements advertised by law firms and chambers unless you’re at university.

Shadowing involves observing solicitors and barristers as they complete their daily tasks. At a law firm, for example, you might have the opportunity to review case files, observe meetings with clients, or attend court. Even passively ‘observing’ a solicitor in a law firm will teach you valuable lessons such as the importance of maintaining client confidentiality.

Witnessing how legal issues arise in the daily lives of individuals and businesses, and how these issues are resolved will ultimately help to develop an understanding of the law in practice. This may or may not confirm your interest in actually pursuing a career in law.

If you do decide that you’d like to work in the legal industry one day, don’t be afraid to ask the lawyers you meet how they got to where they are now. This will give you an insight into what you could be doing to further your own career prospects.


Take matters into your own hands

Shadowing opportunities aren’t often advertised and, if they are, usually crop up at smaller firms or chambers on an ad-hoc basis.

So, if you’re interested in shadowing a lawyer, the onus is usually on you to research local firms or chambers and reach out to enquire about shadowing. Showing that you can take initiative in this way will make you stand out in your personal statement and in future applications.

Make sure to have an updated CV and a tailored cover letter to hand.

Other opportunities

We’ve covered shadowing, but what other options are available? We mentioned that formal legal work experience placements are often reserved for university students. Although that’s often the case, there are some formal work placements out there for Year 12 and 13 students.

To take just a few examples, Slaughter and May offer a virtual ‘Excellerators’ scheme, which aims to provide Year 12 students from less advantaged backgrounds with a better understanding of a career in City law.

Womble Bond Dickinson’s ‘Experience’ programme allows students aged 16 or over to spend several days with different teams across the firm. The scheme is specifically designed for those with no previous legal work experience – a bonus if you’re struggling to get your foot in the door.

Finally, Browne Jacobson delivers the UK’s biggest virtual law careers event, FAIRE. Standing for Fairer Access Into Real Experience, FAIRE welcomes approximately 7,000 16 – 19-year-olds looking for insight into life at a national law firm. Attendees even receive an e-certificate which you can use to bolster your CV.

Aside from these more formal options, you may wish to search for voluntary legal positions. You might wish to search for your local legal advice clinic.


For more information about available legal work experience options, including voluntary roles, visit our careers guide to Legal Work Experience.


Legal Work Experience