The idea that you need legal work experience to get into law is a complete misnomer. There are a variety of things you can do to build up your experience and skills that jobs are looking for, even if you did them in environments which aren’t directly related to your career choice. The kind of skills you gain from different experiences and situations are are transferable skills.
How can I get work experience to show on my application?
- The projects you work on and assignments at uni can be a great talking point for applications and interviews
The best way to show you have acquired certain skills is by discussing situations in which you’ve had to develop them. Generally, legal work experience at firms varies from a 2 day insight scheme to a 2 week placement, which is great for getting to understand more about law and having first-hand insight into how law firms work and showing you’re motivation for law. However, as a means of developing transferable skills like those listed above, it non-legal experience is a better option if it was for a longer period of time where you were able to focus on developing different skills. If you worked on a group project at uni, this is a great chance to show how you delegated tasks, worked with a range of different people and worked towards a goal. Maybe you managed your time and prioritised your workload with writing a successful dissertation, or ran for secretary for a uni society. All of these things are a chance for you to show you are a well-rounded, interesting person who balances both the motivation and academic side of things, as well as working well with people and deadlines.
2. Tell grad recruitment all about your part time job!
One of the jobs I did whilst at uni was working as a project leader running after school clubs for a charity for disadvantaged children in East London. This was one of my main experiences that helped me develop a huge range of skills. As a project leader I learned to be organised, to be able to talk to anyone, to handle difficult situations and to use and develop my leadership and creativity skills. Long term jobs enable you to both learn new skills, develop old ones, and to demonstrate that you have mastered these skills. A lot of people have part time jobs these days to fund going to uni so use it to your advantage. They will be impressed you manage your studies whilst also working part time.
3. Take up volunteering!
Another great way to develop new skills is to take up a volunteering opportunity. I volunteered for a mentoring charity, and later I spent a year volunteering for the Citizens Advice Bureau. Volunteering for the Citizens Advice Bureau also counts as legal work experience and can give great insight into how the criminal justice system works as well as into legal advice clinics. My volunteering experiences have undoubtedly been my favourite – I made the nicest friends, I was involved in work that made a difference to things that mattered to me, and above all it gave me so many happy memories. The more passionate you are about something you have been involved with, the better it will come across when you talk to other people about it.
When I got involved with volunteering I hadn’t made my mind up about what career I wanted to pursue; I loved volunteering because it gave me an eye into different kinds of jobs, situations, and a chance to meet different people and do different things each week. University can be great at developing certain skills, such as academics, organisation and working under the pressure of deadlines, but jobs and volunteering give you a chance to develop ‘soft skills’ like creativity, communication, maybe even leadership.
My volunteering role and my project leader job are just two examples of ways you can develop skills and learn more about how you work and what you enjoy, but there are lots of other ways you can do this too. Joining clubs or teams or taking on extra-curricular opportunities whether they are academic or not can all bring benefit. Developing yourself as a person and being self-aware about where your strengths and weaknesses are make up a big part of being successful in any career, and life experience no matter how small can help you work this out!
If you want to know more about the kind of skills you need to demonstrate on your application, check out my post on The Skills You Need to Show in Applications