Matthew Sharpe is a fourth year LLB student at the University of Glasgow.
The LLB (law degree) is first and foremost an academic undertaking, rather than a practical vocation. Doing an LLB gives you a great opportunity to learn the theory behind legal topics, but it doesn’t necessarily offer a real-world application for you to put it into practise. That’s why gaining experience in the professional or educational world of law provides a useful balance to your studies.
An obvious way of doing this is through a summer vacation scheme or legal placement, but big firms are unlikely to offer these until your third or fourth year at uni. That doesn’t mean you can’t get extended work experience in a lawyer’s office, though; sending speculative enquiries to smaller firms is a good way of finding administrative work or informal legal training in general.
I worked at an employment law firm in Glasgow who were happy to provide legal experience on a smaller scale. A lot of LLPs will advertise for secretarial and part-time work for law students too, so it’s a good idea to look out for these opportunities.
Other sources of work experience
Legal experience doesn’t have to take place in a law firm either; the Law Society of Scotland runs an excellent programme called Street Law. I was part of this last year and found it was really good for developing your legal thinking skills, and your ability to communicate them. You complete a training weekend with dozens of other students, with the idea being that you are then able to go out into schools and teach the pupils who are considering studying law about various legal issues. You plan and then deliver your own law-based lessons, so it’s a nice alternative to shadowing a solicitor.
The further along the degree you get, the more opportunities there will be to put your legal knowledge into practise in the real world. Having studied trusts and succession in second year, I was then able to do a legal placement at the National Trust, reviewing the endowment. It’s a small example of the wide variety of places that can accommodate and help develop your legal skills while on the degree.
You don’t have to find external legal experience, but it does offer a nice balance to the academic side of the LLB, and the Law Society of Scotland has plenty of resources to help you find it!
If you would like the opportunity to win three weeks' paid work experience at the Scottish Parliament (plus £500 in cash), enter our student competition.