StudyingLaw.co.uk Blog & News

A Little Hello…

Hello

I really only found the importance of blogging through the use of social media so it was quite a nice coincidence to have come across Studying Law.

My name is Greg and I’m starting the second year of my LL.B at Swansea University. But this is only the bare minimum of what I plan to do this year. As well as surviving hours of study in the library, I also write for another blog and a column in my University Newspaper.

I am also the President of Swansea University Bar Society and The Regional Rep for Wales for National Student Pride.

So from my very brief introduction, I am an extremely busy boy, but devil makes work for idle hands and idle minds…So I make sure to keep mine very busy.

The Future  

What would I like to do when I’m a barrister….Pretty much Everything.
I would love to be part of something that brought Equality Legislation to the Middle East, Africa or South America; any place that needed it to protect the LGBT population from persecution and execution.

I would love to research the law surrounding “Trolling” and help pass legislation that gave the right people the right powers to make convictions.

I would love to defend a case in front of the Supreme Court or the European Court of Justice and secretly I would love to be Prime Minister but I’m not Eton Boy, so that’s one pipe dream well and truly on the back burner.

But before I do any of this, let’s get a pupillage first!

Yes, I am an aspiring barrister, The Bar calls me far greater than that of a Training Contract and to be honest who doesn’t love those wigs! I have no idea why I have had this aspiration but its my aspiration and my dream so I wouldn’t know how to answer…”Why do you want to do Law”
I Hate that Question!

This Blog is gonna be a number of things, its gonna be my trials and tribulations during my second year, my successes and failures, some hints and tips I would like to share with other law students, my plans with the Bar Society and really anything else I find interesting when it comes to the law, learning the law and surviving the law.

One plan in motion for this blog is an interview with a Queer Theorist. he was amongst the Top 50 LGBT Twitter users of 2011 according to Pink news. (Number 26) and is a Reader in Law and Society at Sunderland University and I very much look forward to interviewing him!

Here is a link to his own personal blog if you fancied checking it out http://lawandsexuality.blogspot.co.uk/

Here is a quick photo to put a face to the blog.

Gregory W Smith >>>>> Not the most professional of Photos but It’s a face!
Fortunately, I have some photographer friends so may need to organise a professional photoshoot!

I will be uploading more photos as the year continues, photos from any society event and really anything exciting worth photographing!

I did see Lady Gaga on Sunday, but that isn’t technically Law Related.

Goodbye

I hope you enjoy my blog this year, I really want to make it as accessible and as readable as possible.

Please post any comments!

Gregory W Smith

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Site Update – Welcome to Liam, Future Writers & A Few Ads

The site has come far in 5 months and I’m pretty happy with the way way it’s developing! It’s evolved from something that I do just in my spare time to something which I spend (nearly) all of my time on. I basically thought “If I could go back in time, what sort of advice would I give myself”. So I started writing articles around that premise. Then I expanded by answering a few of the most basic questions someone could have about a career in law. Next I started messing around with Adobe Illustrator and started making some legal based visualisations. Then before I knew it I had a site with 80 pages. That’s good considering I was worried that I’d lose interest quickly. I’m happy to say the opposite has happened. My enthusiasm and desire to build the site has grown.

Welcome Liam

Just want to say a big thanks to Liam who will be writing for studyinglaw.co.uk several times a month. Having a blog from a current law student is fantastic (the site is called StudyingLaw after all!) It’s just so useful to see the first hand experiences of a current law student. I’m sure both current and future law students will find his blog very beneficial. Liam sounds like he’s got some interesting posts lined up too, you can read his introduction post here.

Future writers

Having a blog is something that can really look good on a CV. You can tell a lot from a blog entry. Firms can see examples of your writing, your interests and even get a glimpse of your personality. In a way it can be seen as an online extension of your CV. It also demonstrates that you have a decent understanding of technology. Blogging is something firms are doing more and more of these days as a means of getting more business through the internet. So individuals who already know all about it could stand out.

The problem is people soon get discouraged from blogging. They start the blog, write maybe 10 blog posts and then think “Oh, no one’s reading” so quit. Writing a blog which gets loads of visitors takes many months and let’s be honest – people don’t tend to be that patient!

Someone contacted me recently who may be interested in doing something similar to what Liam is doing. This made me think that there may be a need for an established platform that law students can blog on. So I’m strongly considering opening a registration page on studyinglaw where interested students can sign up and submit their blog posts. Liam can post on his blog whenever he wants without any input needed from me. But if I did let anyone sign up then I’d need to approve the articles myself. This would be to limit spam and abuse of the blog. But after a while, when it was obvious the user wasn’t a spammer / Viagra salesman I could upgrade their account to an “Author” account. So they could post whenever they wanted without input from me.

I just think it would be a good idea for law students who want to blog, but don’t want to spend time setting one up and promoting it. It would also be a fantastic opportunity to network with students from other universities. If there are several  people blogging they would be able to comment on each others posts & provide advice and support. In a way it could be a mini community. I’m not losing anything by setting this up. If even one other person writes a blog, and it helps them in some way I’ll consider it a success! So expect this feature soon.

Ads

You may have noticed that I’ve added a few adverts to the site. This is just as an experiment at the moment. The site could do with some revenue for the following reasons:

  • I’m going to need to upgrade my hosting package in the near future (especially if the above idea goes ahead!)
  • I would LOVE to get some professional help so an expert can do the things I want to do, but don’t know how. My knowledge of HTML and CSS is quite limited.
  • Maybe have a designer look over the site. The logo that I made myself looks OK, but it can always be better.

I just need money to improve the site really. I’ve just added the two adverts which I don’t think are too intrusive. Not sure how much money they will bring in (if any!) and some seem a little irrelevant at the moment. Ideally I want to be able to pick the advertisers so I know they’re good quality. I do think that relevant ads can actually help. For example, an advert from a university on the GDL section I believe would be useful. So maybe this is something I’ll look at in the future. If the ads don’t seem to make much I’ll remove them obviously.

Being a Trainee Solicitor in London

A brief video explaining what it’s like to work as a trainee solicitor in a London firm which I thought could be useful. This is another video from icould:

“icould is about inspiration, encouragement and discovery. The idea is to help you make the most of your potential and talent, by showing how others have used theirs.”

Some of their videos are pretty inspirational which is a nice change. The legal news these days is pretty depressing to say the least.

The video explains the route to becoming a trainee and some of the advantages and disadvantages of working in London. It also touches on Gap years and some of the motivations behind becoming a solicitor.
 

Liam’s Legal (B)log

First off, let me introduce myself. I’m Liam, currently reading law combined with German at Bangor University, Wales. I’m going to be blogging, or at least attempting to blog, every couple of weeks about the goings on of a fourth year combined LLB law student. Where I’m going to find the time to do this is beyond me though!

I suppose I should write a little about myself, career aspirations and such. Well, I’ve been studying law for a few years now and it has just cemented my desire to pursue a career in law. As to what area of the law I’ll practise, I have no idea. You may see a few blog posts this coming year regarding future career choices etc. Studying a combined law degree gives you an extra edge and opens up a whole plethora of options. Having recently returned from studying Law at Johannes Gutenberg Universität in Mainz, Germany, it could be something I put to further use in the not too distant future.

On a more personal level, I enjoy writing, hence starting this blog for studyinglaw.co.uk, hanging out with friends, socialising and everything else that a 21 year old university student enjoys doing. Can’t possibly forget reading though; I’m a huge reader. Most genres will do but anything from Sci-Fi and Fantasy always tops the list.

 (First day of study in Germany, on the steps of the Alte Mensa)

There will a couple of blogs in quick succession in the coming weeks. Namely, the importance of work experience, why choose a Joint Honors degree and a look at what Erasmus and Law has to offer. You’ll also be treated to posts about Street Law and the Innocence Project, more of which I’ll go into at a later date.

I recently saw a great quote that describes lawyers/attorneys/solicitors and the many other names we go by; “Only lawyers would refer to something as a brief that takes hours/days/weeks to write and is 30 pages long.” This blog will be by no means 30 pages long, you have my word on that. Fortunately for us students, we don’t  have this problem just yet, but I’m sure the day will come when I’ll look back at this and realise the truth of those words.

That’s your lot for now. Hope you enjoy reading! Feel free to comment on anything or follow me on Twitter @LiamEvs91.

Is Technology Creating Worse Solicitors?

reading law bookWhen I was studying law I spent a great deal of time thinking “Wow, imagine how much harder this would be if I didn’t have Westlaw / Wikipedia / the internet”. Before everyone had laptops even a simple matter of looking up a case would require a trip to the law library.

Think about all of those times you needed look up a relevant case you hadn’t heard of before. Nothing in depth; let’s just say it was referenced and you wanted to know the basics. Instead of needing to read through a text book, or reading the case in full you can just type “[case name] key facts” to get a quick and dirty explanation. You will probably find out enough to get by but certainly not anything complex. It basically plugs a hole in your knowledge.

Sadly it also got to the stage (for me) where instead of looking up a case in a textbook, I did a quick Google search. Why? Because it was faster and easier. Now don’t get me wrong, I never based by knowledge on an online summary when it came to reading an important case. But I didn’t use the opportunity to greatly expand my own knowledge. Someone 15+ years ago would have needed to read a full section in a text book, or even research the entire case themselves. Therefore learning a ton of new stuff.

So my point is this – for me it was rare to read a case all the way through, as it was for my classmates. I read through the full case a few times but I used a lot of online resources (at least to get the foundations of knowledge in place). Without the internet – just relying on the cases and law textbooks when doing your own research, you’re going to develop some pretty amazing comprehension skills and a far greater understanding of the thinking behind the ratio decidendi of a case.

Alternatively you could argue that all of this technology and information is a good thing. This is because it’s not realistic that every case / legal principle the law student of yesteryear didn’t understand would be researched. They may just ignore the gap in their knowledge because the time spent researching compared to the actual benefit would mean it wouldn’t be worth it.

But humans tend to get used to challenging circumstances, they also get used to situations in which everything is going their way or is too easy. I always remember this bit of research:

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert found that after about three years, amputees and lottery winners have about the same level of happiness, having returned to their natural state of happiness after their respective gains or losses

I believe that this can be applied to a student studying law now, and one studying it 15 years ago. You soon get used to the current work load and way of doing things. I remember when I was doing the GDL, people doing the LLB said how they couldn’t imagine doing all those modules in one semester. It was hard yes – but you get used to it. Likewise students of 15 years ago would find a way to fit all this extra research time into their routine. Have modern students got too used to this easier way of studying law because of the wealth of information (some good, sometimes not so good) at their fingertips?

I believe the best students will always go into further detail when studying the law. So they will pick up similar skills, understanding and knowledge compared to students of the past. But they will also be aware of something perhaps much more powerful – the power of technology. At the end of the day what matters is fully understanding a legal principle. You can read through a case 100 times yet not understand it. If something you find on an online resource suddenly makes the case click, then great.

I always understood the cases very well – but one thing I wish I had done is read through the actually cases fully. To complete my knowledge. It’s like I had a 80% understanding, reading the actual case would have pushed that up to 95%. Yes, it’s time consuming but it’s something you won’t regret doing.

I guess you can phrase this question like an essay question – Do you think technology has helped or hindered the development of legal professionals? Would love to hear your opinions on this – leave a comment! 🙂

Recommended Reading; Preparing for a Law Degree

law booksYou’re going to have to work damn hard during your law degree – if you want to become a solicitor or barrister that is! Your social life will be reduced and you may find that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. So why not make good use of your time over the summer before university starts? 

Yes we know you would rather be sat out in the sun or going out with friends, but you should dedicate at least a few hours a week to preparing for your law degree. This will help you so much when it comes to the start of the academic year and may even give you an advantage over the people who didn’t bother preparing. Anyway if you want a career in law you better get used to putting in some extra hours. If anything it will make it less of a shock when you degree starts!

Recommended reading for law

Your university will give you a reading list for your law degree way before the start of your course. It usually is a pretty long list. The good news is you may not have to read all of it. When I was doing the recommended reading I bought two introduction to law books which were very similar. Reading one would have sufficed. But each university will provide different reading lists. As a general rule just make sure you don’t read two books which are obviously the same.

So what’s the best introduction to law book? Well I’ve just read a few – certainly not all of them but Glanville Williams: Learning the Law really stood out. I learnt a lot from reading that book. It’s brilliant at laying the foundations before you start you degree. That’s not just in relation to knowledge, it’s good at showing you the sort of legal thinking & skills that you will need too. So when you start your lectures the topics and themes won’t be too alien to you. I found the book contained a good mix of theoretical and practical knowledge. Since university focuses on academic law some key practicalities of the legal process are sometimes overlooked. Learning the Law gives you what you need to know in regards to practical law until you start your LPC / BPTC.

What else should you do?

The recommended reading isn’t the only thing you should do before the start of the academic year. You should try and get some work experience. Even if it’s just for a week, or even if it’s for 2 days! It will help demonstrate you have had a strong interest in the law from an early age. That one piece of experience could also be the difference between getting a mini pupillage / vacation scheme and not getting one.

It may also be a good idea to go down to your local court / magistrates and observe a hearing. This is even more important if you want to be a barrister. I really wish I could go back in time and tell myself to get more experience before university (yes if I could time travel I probably wouldn’t need to go to law school, I know!) But it really will make the difference when you’re in the final year of university and you’re aiming for the top. The fact is it’s not even going to be that much time out of your summer. Surely you can spare one week?

Setting goals out for yourself is crucial. No one is expecting you to know exactly where you want to be in 3 years, but at least have a rough idea of what you want to do. This way you won’t miss training contract / pupillage deadline and have to wait another year. It also allows you to make full use of the university societies. So do some thinking!

The last thing you should do is keep up to date with the latest legal news and developments. Again this doesn’t need to take hours of your time up every single day (or even week!) but a little work can really help your chances of getting a training contract. Reading the legal news will allow you to see the most important issues currently facing the legal sector. And keeping up to date with it over a matter of years will let you see how these issues evolve and change. If someone just started reading the legal news weeks before an interview they won’t be able to do this. This in our opinion is key to commercial awareness and demonstrating depth of knowledge at any kind of interview.

Law Gap Year / Internship – The last ingredient your CV needs for a training contract?

Do you need that one extra piece of experience on your CV to make yourself stand out? That one little thing that could make recruiters take note? Well it’s possible that the experience you gain on a Gap year could be exactly what you need. But you need to think pretty logically about the choice. It may be a bad decision to take a Gap year depending on your circumstances.

It’s so easy to get carried away when thinking about a Gap year. You may get to have a holiday, get legal experience, and maybe even get paid at the same time. It all sounds very nice. But there’s a good chance your gap year won’t turn out so well. It may cost you a load of money, provide little in the way of decent legal experience and if you could have landed a paralegal role during the time, it would be a wasted opportunity.

Be realistic

Sorry to be a Buzz Killington but a Gap year won’t always be a good idea. So I’m going to look at some of the situations where I think a Gap year is and isn’t a good idea. There are quite a few articles I’ve read out there stating that a Gap year is going to be the best choice you ever make, while painting an idealistic picture of your experiences overseas. You need to remember that these companies may want your money / free labour. So you should take everything they say with a pinch of salt.

When should you do a Gap year?

In my opinion 2 main criteria should be met if you want to take a Gap year to further your legal career prospects:

1. Currently limited career options. If you don’t have any realistic chance of imminently obtaining a training contract or paid legal work then it could be a great idea to do a Gap year. What would you be doing otherwise? Working a minimum wage job which doesn’t have much value on a CV? You could find yourself in a nasty rut where you’re not going anywhere.

A gap year which provides you with experience and a fun time could be just what you need to give you extra confidence, determination and skills you need to get a training contract (or other legal job). Depending on the placement you may even be paid for your work. Other placements may provide your accommodation

2. The experience is actually relevant. Fair enough if you just want to go on a fun holiday. But don’t take a Gap year for the sole purpose of improving you CV if you’re going to go to be doing something which isn’t worth mentioning at an interview. It doesn’t need to be legal based (look at some of the key legal skills you need) but it would be great if it is.

This would be a good example of invaluable Gap experience; the sort of experience that could make the difference between getting a training contract and not even getting through the application stage.

A year working in Hong Kong in a Chinese firm carrying out a range of duties. Once a week you take Chinese lessons. You went travelling in China during the last two months.

That sort of experience would probably require some sort of investment on your behalf. But it could be well worth it. If enough research is done you can find some pretty good Gap year / internship schemes where accommodation is included in the price and you get a basic wage from the place you’re working.

When shouldn’t you do a Gap year?

You probably shouldn’t do a gap year for the sole purpose of helping you get a training contract if, realistically speaking, your academics aren’t good enough. Unfortunately a Gap year won’t turn that 3rd class degree into a 2:1. A gap year should help improve an already good CV. Not be used to patch up a bad CV. You need to be realistic about your training contract chances.

Just because work experience is gained overseas doesn’t automatically make it better. A years worth of work experience working with the British legal system is invaluable. Especially because you will be getting paid and therefore reducing some of those nasty debts. If you can realistically get this sort of experience then maybe a Gap year is unnecessary. Working in a firm may also increase your training contract chances at the firm or even allow you to work your way up.

Make sure the experience is useful. Although it will be of some value, and will be very rewarding, volunteering on building projects may not be of that much value when it comes to applications. Yes it will give you some great skills and experiences but if you’re pinning your hopes of training contract success on your year abroad then you should really pick something which is law based.

Where can I find law gap years?

You need to fully research you gap year placement so you know it’s right for you. Get all of the information you can and know what will be paid for, what you will need to pay for, how long it will last, accommodation arrangements and most importantly learn about the exact nature of the experience you will be getting. Once you find out exactly where you’re going do some research on the location. If you’re being sent to a ghetto it’s best to know before (so you can pack your nunchucks). Here are a few sites which offer legal based internships / gap year experiences:

The bottom line

It’s all about knowing the strength and weakness of your own application. Would some good experience overseas make the difference in your training contract chances? You need to be realistic about your application. If you’re just lacking that bit of experience, then yes; it could be a good idea. If you don’t stand much of a chance then don’t waste more money! You need to be brutally honest and realistic.

The phrase “Gap year” can mean so many things and the value of your year off can vary an insane amount depending on what you’re doing. In better economic times it used to be possible to find paid paralegal work in Australia, New Zealand or the US. This would look so good on your CV (and would be so much fun!) that it could be a good choice to take it even if you already had decent career prospects or could obtain a UK legal job. However due to the economic situation at the moment this sort of gap year experience would be very hard to find. (Note: If you have duel nationality or overseas contacts this route could still be a possibility.)

Remember we’re speaking from a purely logical point of view here. If you just want a fun holiday then go for any Gap year. But if you’re thinking of a Gap year specifically with your legal career in mind then take note of the above points. What you don’t want to do is spend yet more money on your legal career unnecessarily – that money may need to be spent on the LPC.

What to Expect Studying Law at College – Skills, Revision & Exams

Guest poster Steph Staszko talks about her experiences taking law at college. Read about revision tips, the skills needed, and the advantages of studying with others.

What to expect when studying law at college

Knowing what to expect from studying anything as part of a full time education programme can be difficult, so knowing what to expect from studying law at college is certainly a difficult task. Because of the sheer volume of work involved and the difficult nature of the subject matter, law courses differ greatly from other programmes of study.

There seems to be a common misconception about those studying law, in television programmes they’re often stereotyped as being rich and highly intelligent. Whilst intelligence is required, you don’t have to be in MENSA or own a mansion to progress in a legal profession. What you will require is determination, patience and the ability to read, re-read and read some more!

Studying law is well suited to people with a natural eye for detail and a great memory for storing and recalling information, and during your time studying you will be learn the reading, writing, problem solving, and teamwork skills that almost all modern employers look for in an applicant, regardless of the position.

Basic skills and talents

Whilst becoming fluent in the language of law can feel like climbing a mountain at times, there are some fantastic skills you pick up along the way that will help you in all walks of employment. If you’re like myself and somewhat unorganised, studying law will help you kick your bad habits of untidiness. In order to be able to revise on your own (i.e. out of class) you will have to organise your folders by area of law and come up with a system that will help you to be able to recite case studies by heart. If you end up entering the world of business, organisation is a key skill to have that many businessmen and women struggle with.

As I have already mentioned the volume of work which is given whilst studying law is immense, extensions are rarely granted and students are expected to teach themselves how to prioritise their time correctly in order to get their work done, on time and to the full extent of their ability. In fact its things like this which teaches law students the skills which will benefit them in any line of work they choose to take on. So anyone studying law can expect to have their social life diminished and can expect their ability to study, work and prioritise their time to greatly improve. Those who put the most work in will get the most out of their legal career path.

Social studying

Team work is essential to most forms of studying, but when studying law this rule is magnified two fold. Having friends who can act as study partners will make the entire learning process easier, more bearable and generally less stressful. Essentially, discussing law, solving problems and working on coursework together is the best way to grow and learn. Not only is it easier to learn as part of team, but because anyone who hopes to move into a career in law will be working closely as part of a legal team, the skills developed as part of socialising in college will be essential later in life.

Social studying can prove vital and further your understanding of certain areas of law which you’re unsure about. If your study partner is a civil law guru they can help to explain the principles of sentencing for example, far better than a text book. In return, you could help them with an area of law they are struggling to grasp, making study partners a vital part of your learning.

Studying alone

Whilst social studying is great, you will have to learn to enjoy your own company too. Expect textbooks and online learning resources to be your new evening entertainment and don’t be surprised when you swap Coronation Street and Eastenders for British crime dramas!

Academic expectancies

In terms of exams, every question which comes up on the end of year papers will have been covered in the curriculum at some point. The only problem is, the point may not have been touched on since the beginning of the academic year. Continually running over areas of law which you studied a few months ago is the key to passing your A Level exams. Memorising case studies and debunking legal jargon is key; if you want to succeed in law you need to have a fantastic memory or train your brain to be less forgetful!

Law can be an incredibly rewarding career path, but it isn’t for everyone. If you decide to study law but choose a different career path, you will definitely benefit from the skills you learnt when studying law at A Level and can prove valuable in all areas of work and education. Not least it’s always helpful to know your legal rights in certain situations!

This article was written by blogger Steph Staszko who writes on behalf of the expert legal team at Gray and Co Solicitors. Steph particularly enjoyed studying criminal law at college and loves a good detective novel!

The Role of a Judge

Lord Neuberger describes the role of a judge and his career path. It’s very encouraging to know that even a judge as respected as Lord Neuberger didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do at university. Even two years after he didn’t know he wanted a career in law. Once he knew he wanted a career in law he didn’t just easily waltz into the profession either.

It took hard work, persistence and determination.

I’m sure many of you are in a similar position. You don’t know exactly what to do with your career and are maybe feeling a little lost. Or maybe you know exactly what you want to do but aren’t there yet. Give the video a watch – things in your life can turn around so quickly.

5 Tips for Researching a Firm

research a firmLaw firm research is crucial. You could be doing this because of an interview, potential career prospects or because you’re meeting someone from a firm at an open day. Not knowing at least the basics about a firm will make you look worse than a barrister who arrived in court without pants on. 

The research doesn’t take too long either and can look really impressive if you do it right. There’s so much information available on the internet; it’s like having your own private investigator. Depending on whether you’re doing big research (for interview preparation or because you’re thinking of hiring the firm) or little research (for an informal meeting) you can do all, or a few, of the following:

1. Social media

Did you know social media isn’t just for posting pictures of your friends vomiting? It really is. Before you leave the site in disgust let me give evidence for this admittedly far fetched remark. Using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn you can really get a good insight into what is currently on the mind of the firm. Where are they looking in terms of promotion and marketing? What services are they pushing at the moment?

Let me give you an example. Years in the future Space Law will probably exist right? Now let’s say this isn’t a big legal area, not taught at Uni, but you see a Facebook post by a firm sharing a new piece of legislation. It points out a small section of a new Act to do with Asteroid mining. You then see a tweet about a job opening for someone who knows about “Non earth based mining”. Space law is obviously a key issue for the firm. Now if you get an interview at the firm during the process you can say something like “Oh and I definitely think Space Law is a great area to expand into right now.” They will be impressed with the forward thinking you show. Just don’t go too far and turn into some weird law firm stalker.

2. The homepage

The site of the firm is an important source of information for research. But it’s the bare minimum you should do. Just browsing the site of a firm is OK if you just want to know the basics before an informal meeting, but for employment it’s not enough. You’re just telling them things about themselves they already know. It will be much more impressive if you tell them something that wasn’t on the site.

Also the firm won’t say anything bad or critical about themselves on the site. So you may not get a balanced view. Therefore you should just use the home page of a firm to start off your research. Just use it to understand which areas of law they specialise in and maybe a little bit about their history.

3. News & press releases

If a firm submits a Press Release, or gets put in Google news you can be sure it’s going to be important. They’re not going to be telling you they just got a new coffee machine on floor 2. Much of the time they will be mentioning their expansion into a new legal area. So you can combine this with the social media point above to get more detail.

So using the first example you could check Google news or PRweb for any recent news on the firm in regards to Space Law. This press release or news would go into more detail than social media. Eventually it would be picked up by legal news websites too. Imagine how awesome you would look if you got there first. Using this method you can also try and spot patterns in the press releases. Maybe it’s mentioned that they have invested in a company which “aims to build a large Death Star moon base”. You can be sure the firm are really putting everything they have into Space Law. Tailoring your whole CV and application to Space Law is now obviously a great idea.

4. Google & search

You can undertake further research by simply using Google. You could search for the exact firm name like this – “Firm Name” (with quotes) to get some great new results. You can also narrow the results down to recent events by looking to the left of the page, clicking on more search tools, and then clicking past month. This will give you a range of interesting news articles, blog entries and forum posts. If you type in -site:lawfirm.co.uk this will remove any results from the home page of the firm. So the full Google query could look like – “Firm Name” -site:lawfirm.co.uk

If you have access to WestLaw or Nexis (or http://www.bailii.org if you want a great free version) you can also try searching for the firm there to see what sort of cases they have recently been involved with. If you can follow a firm in this much depth it’s going to be very impressive. Especially if they ask a “what can you tell me about [Firm]” question. Even if they don’t you can usually slip it into the interview. Just make sure it’s at least semi relevant to the current topic of conversation. Don’t just blurt it out when they’re asking about your work experience… unless you’re a segue master that is.

5. Firm research sites

The Legal 500 and Chambers Student Guide are two amazing resources. Chambers Student Guide gives some incredibly detailed information on certain firms. Firms supply a list of their trainees to Chambers who then randomly select several individuals to interview. Everything is confidential; the firms don’t know which trainees have provided an interview. They don’t see the interview before it’s published either so trainees really can speak freely. The Legal 500 is good for students but also individuals undertaking more professional research. It has a full overview, lawyer profiles and even a collection of press releases for many firms. Obviously these sites only feature medium – large firms.

We would recommend going through this full list for your training contract interview.