Miranda Hughes is a second year graduate entry LLB student at Strathclyde University, having previously studied a joint degree in Politics and Philosophy. She hopes to go into public law and is eyeing up summer placements at the Scottish Government and the NHS.
When I started studying law, a part of me had chosen to do so to delay the inevitability of joining the work force with other recent graduates.
Studying the two-year graduate entrant course puts everything in fast forward; only a term in and my classmates were talking about summer placement applications. I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic, but here are a few survival tips that I have picked up from careers events, talking to solicitors and from my own personal experiences.
- Don’t underestimate how important a role maturity and experience can play in studying law. Law is a course that requires a lot of independent study and having studied a degree before can help prepare you for this commitment.
- You will need to develop new learning and assessment techniques. I studied Politics and Philosophy before and found that what is required in law assignments is very different. Lecturers and tutors will give you hints but make sure not to ignore these!
- It’s harder to get a good grade in law and teachers do not expect you to constantly be getting firsts! Don’t put yourself down if it takes some time to adjust to the subject; you will quickly realise that everybody is going through the same thing.
- There are a lot of opportunities to gain legal experience before you apply for summer placements and traineeships. University career services and here on the Law Society website are both good starting points for where to look and the Citizens Advice Bureau, a legal advice service, is always looking for volunteers. Mooting Societies can also be found in most universities and can really allow you to hone in on your advocacy skills and help you discover your inner-lawyer.
- There are two sides to volunteer work; you will get the opportunity to gain legal experience and the person receiving the service can gain access to justice. I am a volunteer for the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation and a Street Law trainer for the Law Society, offering classes to students at high schools aged 13-14. These experiences have taught me a lot about the law and allowed me to gain a great number of skills, but it’s the impact they have on other people that is the most rewarding part for me.
- Don’t take on too much. With so many different opportunities out there it can extremely easy to volunteer all your time away but remember that grades are just as important as experience when it comes to securing placements.
- Tailor your applications. They take a long time and the temptation to copy and paste is all too real. However, all firms will have a unique selling point and will be looking for different competencies so make sure you focus on these. Firms can normally tell if you have done proper research on them.
- Remember that most big law firms in Scotland operate as businesses; commercial awareness is paramount. What firms are often looking for is business students who can approach law; not the other way round. When it comes to placement applications, don’t dismiss your Saturday job experience as irrelevant if it shows an understanding of sales, customer care and potential cash handling.
- Proof read, proof read, proof read. Sending your application to a third party such as a friend or relative can really help to identify spelling mistakes or typos that you may have missed. Much of law is about attention to detail and with so many applications, firms will be looking for reasons to dismiss yours.
- If you’re not interested in commercial law – don’t despair! There are opportunities in criminal law, like with the Procurator Fiscal, and in public law such as with city councils and the Scottish Government. It may take a bit more research to find placements in these areas but they are out there, so don’t lose hope.
Hopefully these will prove of some help to people coming into law from another degree and trying to make the most of the two years. It’s definitely been a learning curve but one that I have really enjoyed so far and cannot recommend enough.