Work experience can and does play a vital part in a law student’s passage into the legal profession. With more and more young people choosing to read law, this experience can be essential, not only to future employers, or when trying to obtain that ever elusive training contract, but it really is the quintessential thing that you’ll do to decide whether a career in law is for you.
Employers are increasingly looking for those candidates who stand out, not just academically, but have something else to offer. Work experience at a law firm goes a long way into proving that you’re dedicated to the profession, and it makes you more of a desirable candidate.
During my final month or so in Germany, I emailed numerous law firms within my local town asking for work experience and was fortunate enough to secure a placement. I cannot count the amount of emails that I sent out, but don’t let that put you off. There is some advice here; be PERSISTENT. Send emails until you’re sick of doing so, and then send some more!
With the economic climate the way it currently is, don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting lucky. I know I certainly was. At the end of the day, what we sometimes forget in our excitement of studying law is that law firms are businesses, and will no doubt be grateful for the unpaid labour you’re providing (this may sound off-putting, but it isn’t, and I’ll explain why a little later).
For the past three weeks my days have been spent here, at Garner Canning Solicitors Ltd.
The firm itself has four main offices, spread throughout the Midlands area, so it’s not a typical one-office small town firm at all. There are a number of areas that the law firm deals with, such as New Homes, Family, Conveyancing, Wills and Probates and Employment Law. Whilst on my placement, I was placed in New Homes. Essentially what this entails is the buying of a new property on behalf of the client(s) and going through the process of registering the property at Land Registry, carrying out required searches, securing mortgages and so on.
I could now bore you to death and give you a detailed account of every little thing that I did, day in day out, but that’s completely unnecessary as I’m sure many of you will have done this, or will go on to do it in the near future. What I will tell you that working in New Homes requires a lot of paperwork, and I mean A LOT. The first thing I noticed when walking into the office where I‘d be working was the sheer amount of files. Now I always knew that being a lawyer meant paperwork, but surely not that much!
Two weeks into the placement and everything was going swimmingly well. I’d gotten on with every task that had been assigned to me, asked questions when curious about areas of the law, and generally felt that I was as professional as I could be. More than that, I felt like I was genuinely learning about New Homes, Land Law and Conveyancing as well, and general day to day goings on in a firm.
Towards the end of the second week, much to my surprise my boss calls me into the office and asks whether I would be willing to stay on another week in addition to the two weeks we’d previously agreed upon. Now, as much as this sounds like me blowing my own trumpet, you cannot imagine the feeling when a professional in this business tells you that you’ve been such a fantastic and brilliant worker over the last two weeks that he wants you to stay for longer. The speed at which I’d gotten through the backlog of files, my own professionalism and high work rate paid off, and in doing so made me feel a valued and integral part of the team. When this happens, the fact that you’re unpaid disappears and you take pride in a job well done.
When I was younger, the dream was to be a big shot lawyer, in a big international law firm, but as I’m now older and much more mature my perspective has certainly altered and probably for the better. Working in a law firm such as Garner Canning, even for just three weeks, has given me a taste of what I see myself doing in the future.
Do I love studying law? Yes. Do I love studying it enough to commit myself to a firm where I have no life outside of the office? No. The priority for me has now changed, and it has become about the work life balance. Working at a firm 9-5 (well, roughly 9-5) and having the chance to go home of an evening and leave work behind at the office is now something I dream of.
I’m going to end this post by returning to my original thought. Work experience is something that every law student should do for a variety of reasons:
• It gives you such a great opportunity to learn the practical application of the law which you are studying
• It reaffirms your desire to work in this business
• It shows employers that you are serious about a career in law
• You get to network with a wide range of lawyers and solicitors and;
• You have a great time doing it, especially when your praises get sung (to a senior partner nonetheless) and you get that glowing reference for your C.V.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable three weeks working at Garner Canning, and can’t wait to head back there for my next stint over Christmas!