Placement Applications Made Easy

The month is upon us, and the top legal firms have now started recruiting for their Winter, Spring and Summer vacation schemes. This can be a worrying period for many as there are so many schemes one can apply for. In this piece, I am going to outline the whole process and hopefully make it all sound foolproof.

Step 1: Do your research

Click here to see a list of all present work placement schemes. You want to print this page off so you have a list of firms to start sorting through, this will come in handy later.

Next you need to think about what types of firms you are applying for. Luckily, LawCareers.net has a short description of each firm when you click the name. You need to look out for the a-level requirements. Most firms are AAB or equivelant (so around 340 UCAS points). Applications are often systematic, so you do not want to bother applying to a firm that is automatically going to throw you out. You might also want to consider the location; how far you are willing to commute? And what about the intake of trainees? After all the whole idea of the placement is so that you increase your chances of gaining a training contract.

Get your print out list and start ticking firms off, writing any relevant notes alongside. Think of any particular factors which might affect your application. For example, are they taking graduates or penultimates? Now once you get to the bottom of that list, you might feel a little swamped in the list of firms you have to research. My advice to you is to take advantage of the MyLC.N features. Create your account and use the “Add to MyLC.N”, this will help you organise your applications better when you start receiving responses.

Step 2: Do the research

Go into your MyLC.N firms and have a look at those you added to ‘Researching’. When you have a spare few hours, you need to start sorting through these firms by looking at them a little further in detail. You should be asking the following questions.

What areas of law do they specialise in?

What sets them out from other firms?

What type of trainee are they looking for?

These questions are going to help you prepare for your applications. But just remember, you will not find all the answers to your questions on the one ‘About Us’ page; you may be required to dig a little bit deeper.

Step 3: Start Applying

This step is easily one of the most complicated and focused step. Hopefully, you now have a list of around 6-10 firms you want to apply for, and you should have organised some notes that you made when you did your research. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as emailing in the same CV to different recruiters. The larger firms will be looking as far into you as they can, and most will even be asking for GCSE results. You need to get all your documents together ready for the data-entry aspect of this task. You need to be prepared to disclose any criminal convictions, any disabilities or extenuating circumstances which may set you back from others and you also need to have a CV that contains a list of module grades. But keep those grades to hand because you’ll also be asked to enter them into each firms system separately too!

Step 3.1: Cover Letters

This is the make or break part of the process. If you even managed to make it this far, you are going to need an excellent cover letter which really sells yourself to the firm. In your letter you want to spend a line or two introducing yourself to the recruiter.

On the second paragraph you need to explain why you want to work with that particular firm, whilst also considering the values and history of the firm. You need to show that you have read the ‘Who we are’ and ‘Our vision’ pages and that you share that same vision.

In the third paragraph, you should have a look at the type of people who already works there. Some firms have case studies of current trainees, they’re worth a read! You need to consider the type of work that is involved, and what skills you can bring to it.

Throughout this whole letter, you should not just be writing it to the graduate recruitment officer; you should be writing to yourself. If you can imagine yourself being the graduate recruitment officer for that firm, think of what YOU would expect from an applicant. If you simply cannot put yourself in that recruiters’ shoes, you have not done enough digging! Luckily, LawCareers offers a bio page about most of the recruiters from each firm, so make the most of that.

My last tips:

  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar has to be on point or your application is instantly thrown out of the window.
  • Do not use over the top words which make you look pompous, it’s not an application to BBC’s The Apprentice.
  • Be clear, concise and persuasive with your argument.
  • Use the word count, but not all of it. At least 95% of it.
  • Get your employability officer, course leader, tutor at university to have a look over it. It is likely that they are or were once solicitors in your shoes.
  • Have some resilience. You are going to be knocked back again and again by rejection, but remember that Rome was not built in a day!

Best of luck!

I know I am not the best source for information of this nature, as I too am currently applying for my work placement schemes. But, from what I have learnt so far from open days, placements and one-to-ones with tutors, the advice above appears to be the precise criteria expected. But of course if I missed anything, or you have any more suggestions, please comment below. Best of luck!

The Misconceptions of Aspiring ‘Lawyers’ in the UK

heads-in-the-sand

One thing that really gets on our nerves (collectively as aspiring solicitors) is the misconceptions people have of the legal profession in the UK. This is mainly due to media influence such as television programs and movies, which often overlap the UK and USA legal professions. Let’s set the record straight on the most common misconceptions I have dealt with.

Help! Can you advise me on X and Y legal issue?

Well we are delighted that you came to us for advice, you could have done worse. But please understand this, just because it says ‘Studying LLB Law at University of Central Lancashire’, it does not mean I can get your landlord to see sense, or get your ex-husband to leave you alone. We often feel that people assume that law is just one topic that can be put in one text book, but this is not the case. There are hundreds of areas of law which a person can go on to specialise in, from energy law to property law. We’re like ice cream; available in different flavours.

So do you have to wear a wig?

In terms of law, Section 49 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 abolished the requirement that barristers should wear wigs in court, and solicitors aren’t barristers. A solicitor’s natural habitat is an office or the courts of first instance (if even than). It is very rare that a solicitor is present in court, often because a barrister is instructed to do the dirty work litigation. The solicitor’s responsibility is to get all the facts and evidence together and build the case. The barristers can take it from there and use the information to persuade a court. So in summary, no we wont be wearing wigs, stop watching Law & Order, it’s rubbish and inaccurate!

Will you become a lawyer?

A lawyer is a very generic term, please don’t use it. Because of the tenuous relationship between solicitors and barristers, the professionals don’t like to be chucked into the same box. Yes a lawyer is someone who practices law, but they practice law in different ways. A solicitor is someone who ‘solicits’ with the client, and solicits drawing up wills, contacts, or instructing the barrister. In a medical context, they’re kind of like the GP, and the barrister is the Specialist Doctor. They try to find out what’s best for the client and they do the best they can to prevent a situation from escalating up to the need for litigation. Save for solicitor-advocates (who have done additional training to appear in court).

Why don’t you become a judge when you graduate?

Yes, why didn’t I think of that, a six figure salary sounds perfect! Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. In order to become a judge, you have lots of networking and dogsbody jobs to do. Not only that, but you need to have decades of experience behind you, you need to have been a lawyer (solicitor/barrister ahem), and you need to know the right people. Yes guys, I am afraid REED was lying to you when they implicitly told you that you could become a judge by putting up your CV online.

You’re scum of the earth, how could you represent a crook!

In a perfect world everyone has justice in mind. But in this very gritty industry, the more money you have the greater the injustice you can create. Solicitors are bound by codes of practice (click here if you’re really interested), that obligates them to represent their client to the best of their ability and in their client’s best interest. I suppose solicitors are like parking officers, except they are paid a little bit more. It’s a job that needs doing and it puts food on the table for many families. A good question to ask yourself – if a solicitor was to represent their client with bias, would it then actually be the solicitor doing the injustice, and no longer the client? And of course, everyone has their right to a fair trial. So you see, solicitors are just the messengers doing as they’re asked, so please don’t shoot them.

Summarily

  • They don’t do justice – they do what’s best for their clients.
  • You can’t job search to become a judge.
  • Barristers get called to the bar – Solicitors get admitted to the roll.
  • They don’t have to wear wigs, but they still have the black gowns.
  • Oh, and English Courts do not use gavels, come on we’re better than that.

Thank you Stephanie Lomas for helping me in the draft.

My Final Day

Today was the last day with the education team at Shakespeare Martineau, and I miss it already as I write this last blog entry on the abysmal Virgin Train service to Glasgow Central. Nether the less, onwards and upwards and back on with everyday life.

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For our last day, we decided to get the team a mountain of doughnuts from Greggs, and yes I did use my 50% discount. They seemed very pleased by this gratuitous offering, and it was cake for breakfast for the lot.

Today was very relaxed, and involved some research on the use of reasonable force (and we’re still not sure what is reasonable). It had seemed that a client had got themselves tangled in the legal twines of the common law that forms reasonable force. What exactly can a security guard do to remove a trespasser on the campus, and how would you identify a person as a trespasser?

Anyway, the day was also supplemented with regurgitating more regulations which constantly cripple and crush the management of higher education institutions. So that was very interesting.

We were diverted from the office to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. This was to celebrate our colleague’s birthday, whom has been a longstanding centre stone to the functioning of the education team. Lunch was on the head of the team, who we (unfortunately) only had the chance to spend the last day with. This was such a generosity and it was lovely to see the team out of the office as themselves.

It was a farewell to the team at five o’clock, and I will miss them so! They have been so kind and friendly to have us work in their team, keeping us on our toes. I just hope that they read this blog so they can appreciate how proud I am to have worked amongst them all.

Reflecting on my professional development, I feel more prepared for the obstacles I face on the path to academia. More importantly, now that I have a vision of where I expect to be in the medium term, I feel more secure about the profession I hope to enter. I am excited for the future and have the ambition I need to smash my way through the second year!

I hope you all found my posts useful, and (if applicable) I hope that you all have a fantastic time on your future vacation schemes, as did I.

With special thanks to Sheehan, Geraldine, Zoë, Karen, Smita, Joanna and Daniel.

Apologies for the delayed publication #SHMA

Birmingham is MASSIVE

Yesterday was absolute chaos, my train was diverted twice and thus had to change at Preston and Crewe; typical. But I have finally arrived in Birmingham, and I never knew just how large it actually is. My assumption was based on the fact that Manchester and London are the main economic ‘power houses’, but this is simply not true. When I left the train station with heaps of luggage for this one week, I got lost on Navigation Street (irony) while trying to find my lodgings for the evening.

So when I got back and unpacked, me and Alex (a friend from the course also doing the same placement) went out to find somewhere to get a pint in. We stumbled across this very decadent establishment, which charged £5 for a pint of Estrella!

It’s now morning and I feel energetic and ready to start my first day at Shakespeare Martineau! #SHMA

Finding Work Experience

It’s not an easy job coming across a work placement, secondment, ‘vac’ scheme – what with thousands of other like-minded students trying to find just that. I have been so lucky as to secure three placements for summer; and here’s how I did it.

Attending your nearest law fair is absolutely essential; it’s good for getting your name out and getting an idea of the industry you will soon be entering. But it’s also an opportunity for work experience, so turn up prepared. A CV and cover letter to hand will serve you well. If you have the chance, get to know which firms will be exhibiting at the fair and try to get some specific cover letters for those firms showing some background research into what exactly they do. If like me you’re keeping your options open, mail-merge could come in handy for creating personalised cover letters for each firm. You never know, you just might get a phone call a few weeks later with an offer for work! Find out more here.

Get to know the Graduate Retention & Employability Officer for your faculty. Now I don’t mean sitting down to afternoon tea, but know who they are, keep an eye out for their communication, and apply for everything they give you. Any experience is invaluable and will come in handy when you go to apply for training contracts.

Communicate with your faculty staff, especially your module leader and personal tutor. Both of mine are currently practicing solicitors, and I should hope this be the case for most law tutors in the institutions across the country. Point being, they know what they’re talking about and they are a very valuable source of information when it comes to leaping in to the legal sector. If it’s a CV being looked over or just advice about what tie to wear, a little advice can go along way.

Also, don’t be put off by rejection. Rome wasn’t built in a day is the phrase that keeps me going. I wish you all the best!