How to get Legal Work Experience?
The overall aim of legal work experience is to check your assumptions regarding a career in Law. It will never provide the conclusive evidence on whether Law is the right choice for you. However, if you plan it wisely, it may prove to be the experience that truly ignites your passion for Law. This guide will discuss the various types of work experience available and consider the merits of each type. Undoubtedly, an important criterion to consider is the difficulty in arranging given work experience.
This is probably the easiest to arrange and the most beneficial form of work experience you may undertake. Court hearings are usually public, and give you an opportunity to witness the legal system at work. However, no court and no case is the same. You should try to sit on cases in the Higher Courts, as these will provide the most stimulating environment for discovery of Law.
If you, for example, go to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, you may be lucky enough to observe some of the greatest advocacy skills on display. The Courts usually publish daily cause lists, which allow you to choose a specific case that is of interest to you. Remember that Law constitutes numerous areas, which vary widely in substance and style. Some of you may dread the idea of a case regarding a boundary dispute, and others may be fanatical about human rights issues. Therefore, follow the news and legal websites for information about upcoming court cases, and choose the dispute that is dear to your heart.
Alternatively, the Supreme Court publishes video recordings of their cases. Naturally, you will not manage to recreate the atmosphere of the Courtroom, and it may be more difficult to follow the argument (particularly as you do not possess any specific legal knowledge).
Firms & Chambers
The ever-elusive dream is to land some form of work shadowing at a prestigious law firm or barrister chambers. This is not an easy task, in part due to the prioritisation given to the students who are already studying Law.
On the other hand, some legal practitioners may indeed run a very small shop, and thus your work experience may turn into doing odd-tasks that seem somewhat pointless.
Therefore, it is advisable to do research into firms or chambers that at least specialise in the area of law that is of particular interest to you. From there, send well-written emails/letters to appropriate persons. Remember that etiquette is essential in the legal world, and you should tailor your communication accordingly.
A bulk of legal work is done on a pro-bono basis; namely, the client is not a payee. There are certain organisations, such as Free Representation Unit, which manage the process of connecting claimants/defendants with appropriate legal help. Arranging work experience within this field may be easier, since your work will be genuinely appreciated.
Consider contacting your local law school, which may have a student-run Pro Bono Society. You could additionally benefit from meeting Law students, and picking their brains on what it is to study Law.
Mooting, Negotiations & Essay Competitions
If you wish to become an advocate, there is no better thing than mooting: arguing hypothetical legal cases in a competitive format. There are local and international leagues, some geared towards sixth-from students. Mooting will not only test your advocacy skills, it will also give you a vital insight into legal research. Daunting at first, many find it extremely enjoyable at the very first try. If that is the case for you, then you should be confident that you’ve made a great choice by choosing Law.
We can recommend a terrific book on the topic of Mooting: “How to Moot: A Student Guide to Mooting” by John Snape.
If you are more inclined towards the commercial sphere of Law, then Negotiations may be ideal for you. This competition format considers your ability to negotiate your client’s side in a hypothetical legal conflict.
Essay Competitions present invaluable opportunity to practice your written skill. Often, these competitions attract only a handful of entries, so your chance to achieve recognition may be better than you expect. Consider researching the websites of the Inns of Courts and Professional Legal Associations (for example, Property Bar Association) to find available essay competitions.
Your local university may offer public evening lectures, where a distinguished speaker is invited to argue a specific proposition. For example, LSE holds a very rich programme of evening lectures: research online to find the legal topic that is of interest to you. Attending such lecture may be a catalyst for some personal analysis of the issue, providing you with material for your personal statement.
If you do not find the idea of Justice totally captivating, then you should probably reconsider the study of Law. “What is Justice?” or “What should be Justice?” are some of the most fundamental philosophical questions, with various theories arguing through very different means to very divergent ends.
Find a book to develop your knowledge in this area. It is advisable to pick up a classic. Authors like Hayek, Hart, Nozick, Rawls, Adam Smith, Thomas Aquinas, Locke, Lord Hewart will provide for stimulating reads.
Legal Work Experience is only one dimension of your application. It may be practical or academic in nature. Use it to assess your motivation to pursue a legal career and make it valuable by engaging in personal evaluation of the experience, which you will share in your Personal Statement.