Rebecca Morgan provides some valuable advice for aspiring
lawyers on studying and seeking working experience
As someone who has just finished their LLB and will begin studying the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in September, I thought I would share with you a few lifehacks which I would recommend. This list isn't exhaustive and there are many other tricks and tips which are equally as valuable!
1. Work experience: Start doing it as early as you can. Don't be the person that leaves it to the last minute just before applications for training contracts and pupillages. Think outside the box with what you do, such as marshalling with judges. Try and get a variety of sizes of firms, different areas of law, and so on, so that you can put together a strong argument for why you want to work somewhere, why that particular size firm, and also why that area of law. Also, once you have one piece of work experience on your CV it is far easier to get others.
2. While I'm talking about work experience, don't forget about in-house counsel as well, whether that be solicitors or barristers. So many companies have their own legal teams and happily take work experience students.
3. Advocacy: Take part in as much as is possible. So many students who want to become solicitors or go into non-law related careers think advocacy is only for aspiring barristers. Wrong! Advocacy is crucial no matter what you want to become after university. Advocacy makes you a more confident public speaker, shows you how to present an argument, helps you to speak professionally with clients, give a presentation, and develop many more skills that are useful no matter what career you are in. Mooting, mock trials, and debating are crucial to get involved in and really will make you stand out. Plus, sometimes there are competitions and very often barristers and solicitors turn up to judge or network afterwards.
4. When tutors suggest at the start of each semester that you can write up the essays you sometimes plan and discuss in class and they will mark them, take them up on that offer! It is invaluable practice and will really help you in terms of feedback on essay structure.
5. Read those freebie magazines that universities often have by the reception area. These law magazines contain useful information, and some list pupillages, training contracts, and so on. They also contain case analysis and statute provisions, as well as talking about other areas of law which you may not be exposed to on work experience or while at university.
6. Highlighters and post-it notes will be your best friend for your entire degree!
7. When writing essays and problem-style exam questions, make notes of where you find useful information as it saves a lot of time and effort when trying to reference resources or put them into a bibliography. Speaking of bibliographies, make one as you go along (as much as you can) and then edit it at the end. Also, so many students seem to forget to include everything they have read in their bibliography, not just the resources they have referenced in their essay.
This shows your wider reading!
8. Read the news: It may sound stupid, but I can't begin to tell you how many people I know that study law (or any degree) and don't have any idea of what is going on in the UK or the world, or even just in legal-related matters. I know that the last thing you want to do when studying and having a life is read the news, but you can read it online, and even if you read just one news article that day (even if it is from the law section of newspapers) then you will have a better understanding of the wider picture of events, and what is shaping the world and legal system today. Plus, if you are ever going for an interview for a job or work experience, read the newspaper that morning (or the night before!) just in case they ask you to talk about something current.
9. Commercial awareness: These seem to be two of the most commonly talked about words at the moment for law students. Be aware of what is going on and what implications certain news stories have for the legal and commercial aspects and the wider picture (this links very nicely with point 8 as well). There is so much information available about how to make yourself more 'commercially aware' and with most interview questions containing the words somewhere, have a read up on what this actually means!
I could have written many more top tips, but these are just a handful that I hope are useful to you.
Rebecca Morgan completed the LLB at the University of Hertfordshire and is going on to study the BPTC at BPP Holborn. She also runs the Lawyer in the Making blog