What's the benefit of undertaking an internship or work experience placement?
If you're just starting out in a career in law, undertaking an internship or a work experience placement is a great way to develop your experience and knowledge of the legal profession.
Get to know a firm/organisation...
You have an ambition to undertake your traineeship at Firm X. Before you commit to them, find out what it's like to work there! Whilst you won't get the work you would as a solicitor, you CAN get a snapshot into the company culture and types of work they undertake. Plus you can speak to trainees, new lawyers and established solicitors about what it's like to work there and what opportunities might be available to you in growing your career.
... and make sure they get to know you
When it's time to apply for the all-important traineeship it can serve you well to have an established relationship with a firm or organisation. If you've done an internship or a work experience placement with them it might help prove your commitment and interest in the company, plus they will remember you if you did a great job and demonstrated the attributes and skills they look for in a trainee. Why would they pick someone they know nothing about over someone they know has proven they can do an impressive job and has shown their keenness to work there from an early stage?
Get some experience for your CV
Any legal work experience, whether you end up wanting to work for that company or not, will demonstrate your interest in the legal profession, show you're proactive and have taken the initiative to explore more about it. Your experience will also give you experiences to draw on in your covering letters or interviews - you can't blag concrete experience.
How do I find an internship or a work experience placement?
These opportunities are extremely competitive as it's widely understood that 'getting your foot in the door' at this stage can have a positive effect on your chances of securing future employment. You will end up going down one of the following routes when applying for a placement.
Some bigger firms or organisations offer structured work experience placements, usually over the summer holidays. Watch out for closing dates and research these early, as they can often fall before the winter break. Typically these opportunities will be advertised on their website.
This means applying without there being a specific advert for an opportunity, but getting in touch with a company to express your interest and highlight your abilities nonetheless. Smaller and medium sized firms rarely advertise their opportunities, so speculative applications are essential. Speculative applications should include your CV and a strong covering letter outlining what you are looking for, and making your case for why you should be considered.
Use the Society's Find A Solicitor function to identify which legal firms operate close to where you are based, or who undertake work in subject areas that interest you. Another online resource is solicitors.com, which makes applying for work experience easy through an online automated system. You can apply to more than one firm of solicitors at a time; just select your location and, if required, the area of law that interests you, the online form ensures you do not miss any important information out when applying.