Hannah Leslie, Group Lawyer at Springfield Properties Plc, talks about why students who don't have legal summer placements don't need to panic about how this might impact their job prospects.
As we approach the end of the summer, we also approach the end of many of the summer placement schemes run by several (mostly large) law firms in Scotland. The end of summer placements is usually marked with a slew of social media posts from placement students celebrating their offer of a traineeship with the firm they have spent the summer with.
Whilst this is brilliant news for those students, these posts can be disheartening for students who were not able to secure a summer placement or for those who, because of personal circumstances, a summer placement wasn’t feasible. This will be exacerbated this year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and general unease in the wider graduate job market.
As a student who had to work part-time to support themselves through part of their school and their entire university education, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell all law students in a similar position that it’s going to be okay. A summer placement isn’t a prerequisite to becoming a successful lawyer. If you have had to work all summer in a paying job because you can’t afford to lose your part-time position during the university year, don’t stress about it. Don’t underestimate the experience you are gaining by working or volunteering for a company that isn’t a law firm during your summer. Traditional part-time or summer jobs in the retail, hospitality or customer service sectors can provide you with invaluable skills that you might not have got if you spent three months in an office not engaging with the public.
Not all traineeship vacancies at large law firms are filled by their summer placement students and even if they were, there are a plethora of other options out there for you from high street firms to in-house roles. Even if working for one of the big firms in Scotland/the UK is what you're dreaming of, I’ll bet you’ll find many solicitors working at those firms right now that didn’t spend their summer or even their traineeship there.
It's also worth saying that if you were lucky enough to secure a summer placement but didn’t get a place on a traineeship programme, you shouldn’t be disheartened by this either. It can seem like there is a mad rush to secure a traineeship at this time of year because so many traineeships, mainly at the larger law firms, start in September. It can also seem futile even applying because so many firms fill their traineeship programmes years in advance but again, this is mainly the larger law firms. Traineeship vacancies are advertised all year round and can start in January or July just as any other job would. Not all firms have an established traineeship programme that runs every year with many seeking trainees as and when the need arises, which can be any time of year! If you haven’t already it’s worthwhile subscribing to Scottish Legal News and checking out their jobs section for vacancies. It’s also worth considering featuring in their “Lawyers of Tomorrow” section.
The Law Society of Scotland is an invaluable resource for you at this stage in your career and well worth engaging with. They have a dedicated careers team who run lots of great events for you to join and get some great information on how to best secure your dream career. Their online student associate portal is the best place to start and will lead you to dedicated resources specifically aimed at students.
Most importantly, try to enjoy your last years or months as a student!