Learn to manage your workload
This might sound obvious, but it’s crucial. Try to get into the habit of keeping on top of assignments, preparation for seminars and reading. This makes it so much easier when exams come around. Another handy tip is to start making revision notes as you go along!
Commercial awareness and wider reading
Your tutors will no doubt have you reading vast amounts from numerous textbooks, but every now and then, have a read of the newspaper.
Reading newspapers is fundamental, and it isn’t just the legal articles you should be reading. The content of most articles will have some form of commercial focus. When reading, consider the social, economic, political and legal aspects that can be drawn from the articles. This is a vital skill for trainee lawyers, and it also keeps you up-to-date with current news.
University activities & networking
Your own university or law school will most likely run a host of legal events, and it’s crucial that you get involved and attend. They will often provide an opportunity to network—an important skill in any work environment, but especially during a vacation scheme or a mini-pupillage. Some of the activities at your university will be aimed at improving your skills in key areas, or may even open up other areas of law for you to gain an insight into.
Join your law society
Your law society, which may or may not be directly related to your law faculty, will host events to introduce you to people from various legal fields. The law society will also be able to highlight any events outside of university that may be of benefit to any aspiring lawyer. They should be providing you with extracurricular activities and guidance on your work experience, mini-pupillage and vacation scheme applications.
It’s fundamental that you join your law society to get the most out of your time at university. Some universities also run a Bar Society for students who are specifically considering a career at the Bar.
Remember that these societies exist for your benefit. If you have ideas for events, then make sure to inform the society; after all, you’re the best advocate for your own personal growth!
Advocacy & debating
Most universities will have an advocacy programme or run classes on mooting and mock trials. There are also mooting competitions that take place up and down the country, for students to get involved in.
Advocacy is a skill that any law student should seek to develop, whether or not they are considering a career at the Bar. It helps to develop a range of transferable skills such as confidence, public speaking and presentation skills. All in all, advocacy is an excellent foundation regardless of the line of work you pursue in the future.
Mooting and mock trials also enable you to write precisely, develop your argument and speak with accuracy and confidence.
Debating—a sought-after skill for many employers—is very similar to advocacy. It allows you to practice stating your argument clearly and concisely, and upholding it throughout a debate. The legal scenarios you will face in exams and tutorials require you to pick an argument and stick with it, so debating will inevitably help your academic studies too.
Public legal events
Many legal firms, universities, chambers, Inns of Court and societies such as The Junior Lawyers Division run events that are open to the public. They will run insight days, public lectures, networking events and conferences all aimed at developing your legal knowledge and enabling you to be the best you can be.
Get involved, but don’t forget to use your time wisely, be selective in which events you choose to attend and don’t neglect your degree—your academic studies matter too!
Experience is key for any aspiring lawyer
Many solicitors are happy to have students work with them for a week or two over vacation periods, as they understand the importance behind it. The top law firms even have dedicated first-year schemes that are very competitive. Always remember that first appearances and attitude count, and if you’re offered a work experience placement or a first-year scheme, they may invite you back if you meet their expectations.
Mini-pupillages are work-experience placements for aspiring barristers, in which you get the chance to shadow a practising barrister for a short period of time and get a taste of what they do. Different chambers have their own policies regarding first years on mini-pupillages, but it’s worth applying to those that will accept you at this stage in your studies. Do some research into chambers and make a note of when they accept applications for the following year too—this way, you won’t miss a deadline!
Visiting Inns of Court
The Inns of Court often run events throughout the year, and we would highly recommend attending these if you’d like to pursue the barrister route. They provide students with an insight into life at the Bar, as well as the application process and also Q&A sessions and networking. You may even get a mini-pupillage out of attending one and speaking to people.
Remember that your degree does come first, so don’t take on more than you can manage, as lots of experience is practically worthless if you don’t have a degree to show for it. And don’t forget to enjoy your law degree, as the time will fly by!
Next article: Law modules: first year