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Three solicitors share their advice on how to get work experience and progress your legal career
14 May 2024

Three solicitors share their advice on how to get work experience and progress your legal career

Published on 14 May 2024

The College of Legal Practice held a virtual event in November 2023 aimed at providing insights about the solicitor profession to help those considering it, understand whether it is right for them. You can watch the full session here.

Three solicitors attended the panel, hosted by the College:

  • Sophie Shaw: Sophie is a solicitor specialising in restructuring and insolvency, she was non-law graduate who took the GDL before the LPC and a training contract.
  • Sana Saddique: Sana is a qualified family specialist solicitor who has launched her own law firm, and runs The Lawyer Network in Birmingham.
  • Fiona Bledge: Fiona is now a module leader at the College, prior to that she was was a clinical negligence solicitor.

In the panel session, they discussed their own career progression which wasn’t always straight forward and tips for progressing in the sector.

Sophie Shaw’s legal journey

“I started making my first attempts to apply for training contracts largely, unsuccessfully. So, in the years after that, I spent some time working in the marketing team at a law firm to really finesse my applications and get more and more experience. I did vacation schemes and lots of informal work experience. I did pro bono networking you name it, I did it, and I finally got my training contract and started training in 2019, at a different firm to the one I'm at now and spent 2 incredible years there training.”

Read Sophie's blogs on becoming a solicitor here.

What are the different ways for undergraduates to gain legal work experience?

Sophie suggested attending court sessions, shadowing at smaller law firms, and participating in structured open days at larger law firms. She also talked about engaging in virtual pro bono opportunities and the importance of networking and proactive engagement with potential employers. Sana spoke about her experience of securing work experience by directly approaching smaller law firms, having one-on-one discussions, and offering specific contributions to their practice.

Lastly, Fiona recommended using university careers and employability services, mooting opportunities and law clinics, to gain relevant experience and enhance your CV. The good news is that the panel felt that today, there are increasingly virtual, diverse and free ways for undergraduates to gain practical legal experience and network within the legal profession.

How important is it for undergraduates to articulate their interest in a specific area of law when applying for work experience or training contracts?

Some of the questions discussed by the panel looked at the research candidates might benefit from carrying out prior to applications or interviews. The panellists felt that articulating an interest in a specific area of law is important when applying for work experience or training contracts.

Sophie felt that it was important to recognise a firm's specialty and demonstrate an understanding of their practice areas. She advised that while it's essential to show openness to various aspects of law, it's equally important to acknowledge a firm's expertise and demonstrate a willingness to support the business in different practice areas. This balanced approach allows applicants to convey their open-mindedness while also showing a grounded perspective and passion for specific areas of law.

Sana highlighted the value of hands-on experience in various legal matters, and felt that it was good to be open to different practice areas while also showcasing passion and interest in specific fields. The panellists were keen to encourage students to effectively communicate their genuine interest and passion for specific areas of law when pursuing work experience or training contracts.

How can students approach smaller law firms for work experience opportunities?

The panel encouraged students to approach smaller law firms for work experience opportunities through engaging in direct communication. Sana suggested one-on-one discussions with the firms rather than emails. This might include visiting the office in person or making a phone call to explain who they are and what they are looking for. It's important to be specific about the type of work experience being sought, whether it's a one-week placement or a longer-term opportunity.

Students should also be prepared to articulate the value they can bring to the firm during their time there, such as assisting with administrative tasks, managing social media, or preparing documents. By demonstrating a clear plan and proactive approach, you can make a compelling case for yourself and secure work experience opportunities with smaller law firms.

If you found this article helpful, you can watch the full webinar for more tips and advice.

The College has a wide range of career resources and articles available to support aspiring solicitors on their Access to Law Hub.

Looking to hear more tips and advice from solicitors and graduate recruitment teams on becoming a solicitor? 

Download our become a solicitor guide