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Husnara Begum, editor & career coach

If you’re feeling disheartened looking at endless social media posts from fellow students bragging about their summer vacation scheme exploits – fear not. Though participating in such schemes can add significant value to your ambitions of breaking into the legal profession, missing out doesn’t necessarily mean game over.

Relevant experience that can demonstrate a genuine interest in training to become a solicitor can be gained in numerous alternative settings and it doesn’t even have to relate to the legal sector. And as for discovering more about what different law firms have to offer, setting up informal 1-2-1 virtual coffees with contacts already in your LinkedIn network is arguably much more effective than participating in large-scale group events where speakers are more likely to sugar coat what they share with the audience.

Summer jobs / volunteering

A more astute way of looking at summer jobs is matching day-to-day responsibilities with transferrable skills that are highly sought after by legal employers, including time / project management, working in a team and not forgetting to mention the all important commercial awareness.

For instance, during the summer between the first and second year of my law degree I volunteered at a play scheme for children with disabilities. This obviously had absolutely nothing to do with commercial law but working in such an environment taught me about empathy and resilience. It was also an important lesson in discipline as I had to wake up early each morning to offer my services for free. Similarly, I also have students in my network who have worked in bars, restaurants and even shoe shops – all great environments for working in teams, dealing with difficult people and budgeting etc.

Alternatively, gaining work experience that’s closely aligned to an area of law you are interested in is also great experience as are most office based jobs, which will give you insight into office etiquette.

If that still isn’t enough to close any gaping holes in your CV, targeting smaller local law firms, law clinics etc might open up a few leads for you. Such organisations are less likely to apply rigid timelines on offering work experience / shadowing opportunities. Also, did you know that many law firms also recruit for temporary staff in their business services teams? This could be a cunning way of getting your foot in the door.

Hobbies & Interests

This is a given and you should, of course, only pursue activities that you love taking part in. Obvious ones for future lawyers include debating, mooting, sports etc. Again, pay attention to the skills you’ll be able to develop through such past-times. For instance, blogging is likely to help you improve your research and writing skills whilst anything related to performing is great for public speaking and confidence building. Related to this, experiment and try out new stuff as you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I wanted to improve my presenting skills to adapt to running training sessions virtually. So, last year, I produced a standup comedy sketch, which I delivered virtually to family, friends and indeed a couple of clients. It was hardly worthy of a slot at the Edinburgh fringe festival, but I thoroughly loved the experience and it definitely helped me to sharpen my presenting skills.

Virtual events & self-learning

The summer months play host to plenty of virtual events, including law fairs, open days and informal vacation schemes geared towards law students. Most are hosted by the postgraduate law schools, legal publishers and diversity outfits who don’t typically sent minimum eligibility criteria meaning all students are welcome to register.

Indeed, will also be hosting some of its own events, including a series of live fireside chats with partners at top City law firms. The next chat is with CMS corporate partner Gareth Saynor and is scheduled for 5pm on 29 June 2022 (thanks to the University of Law (ULaw) for sponsoring and Gareth for his time). Separately, I’ve also teamed up with Ulaw to run an in-person Commercial Awareness Explained workshop, scheduled for 14 July 2022.

Away from virtual events and webinars, I’d also recommend spending time simply learning more about the legal sector and the work handled by lawyers. Our learning hub is ideal for this, particularly the commercial awareness and business skills pages. Elsewhere, business podcasts, including Watsons Daily, Deal of the Week and the Commercial Awareness Podcast are also a must as are podcasts produced by your target firms.

Self-care and winding down

Finally, with so much pressure to be constantly learning and bettering ourselves it’s easy to neglect our mental and physical well-being. The pandemic has been a testing time for all of us so I cannot stress enough the importance of creating some ‘me time’ in your weekly schedule as this will help you re-charge and give you a boost for the next stage of your career / life journey.

Husnara Begum, editor & career coach