Whether you are in the first, second or final year of the LLB, hopefully you have completed all of your exams for this academic year and so worry not, you can now catch up on the loss of sleep you may have experienced recently, catch up on all your favourite TV programmes that you have missed and you can now finally relax (until the dreaded results day). However, I was thinking the other day that since I ever started my degree and my LLM course, I have not really had the chance to enjoy my summer holidays, but the reason for this is essentially because of the competitiveness of the legal world.
I believe that for law students, the summer holidays provides you with the perfect opportunity to chase many CV enhancing opportunities which in the long-term may provide you with a huge advantage when applying for a training contract, pupillage or any other legal job. For example, during my undergraduate degree my exams finished in June and then the next academic year commenced in October and therefore it is apparent that I and many other students had plenty of time off during the summer. Certainly, by all means relax, take a break, have a holiday but more importantly make positive use of the spare time that you have.
I have recently graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Law and I am currently studying for an LLM and in October 2013 I am due to start the BPTC. However, I am certainly not a career expert and I am not a perfect student with a perfect CV but nonetheless, through personal experiences and as a result of networking I have come across a lot of students, legal practitioners and professionals who have all emphatically highlighted to me about the importance of giving yourself the best chance of securing a training contract or pupillage (depending on your desired career path). A lot of people tell me that because the legal world is so competitive, why on earth do I share my ideas on how individuals can boost their CV, because for example essentially everybody is in competition with me for that elusive pupillage. However, I have come across many outstanding students who have an excellent academic background but who have failed to progress into the legal world and the reason for this from their view is because they perhaps lack the required experience. I became aware of the importance of putting yourself out there, meeting the right people and to build contacts ever since I started my LLB and I am thankful that many people have helped me throughout my education and so I thought if I could do anything to help others, by all means I should because who knows, the people I meet now may work with me in the future and consequently building contacts and helping others can be rewarding, not only personally but also socially.
It is now the summer holidays despite the awful weather as of late, but be assured that there are many opportunities for law students to sink their teeth in during these holidays. During the academic year, many people struggle for time with exams and coursework deadlines and even work commitments and so the summer becomes an essential seasonal period for all students. So what can you do? First priority I would say is look for work experience, find the firms/chambers you are interested in and look on their website for their application procedure. However, often enough many firms/chambers recruit for work experience/mini-pupillages well in advance, around February time so it may be too late to actually secure and complete work experience during the summer break if you have not yet applied. However, make use of the summer, complete the application forms thereby ensuring that once the academic year commences you can straight away send the forms and hopefully secure work experience for the following summer or Christmas period.
Alternatively seek to get involved in some voluntary work, preferably for legal charities and organisations if possible but notwithstanding this, volunteering in general is highly beneficial from a personal point of view. During my second year I volunteered for many international charities, whether through fundraising or through helping out in a local shop. Such experiences provided me with the opportunity to enhance many skills, my communication and organisational skills to be more precise. More importantly however, you are doing something for the benefit of society, you get to meet many people from all walks of life and such work can be highly rewarding. Also, during many interviews that I have had I have been asked about my voluntary work in a positive manner and I have been told that such work demonstrates that I have used my time wisely in ensuring that that I do not have huge gaps between dates in my CV. Additionally, I have within the last two years volunteered for numerous legal organisations in many different positions and I honestly believe that my voluntary work with charities in the past demonstrated that I am committed and willing to devote my time and this is perhaps how I actually secured valuable experience with many legal organisations.
Do not forget the benefit of part-time work also, not only for developing new skills but also with financial commitments in mind. It is clear that studying the LPC or BPTC is by no means cheap and so every penny you can gain from work will undoubtedly assist you financially and perhaps reduce a bit of stress.
On the side-note, it is also worth noting as a general tips that if for example you are due to start your final year and have a dissertation due during that year; during the summer months it could be advantageous for you to actually start the research for your dissertation. The reason for this is because any student will tell you, writing a dissertation can be extremely long and stressful in combination with the fact that the third year is extremely stressful within itself anyhow. Therefore, if you can reduce your workload during the summer months for the following year, why not? Alternative, if you are due to commence your second year, why not take a few textbooks out of the library to read during the summer for the modules you are due to study, by doing this you can really get a heads up on the material.
In conclusion therefore, I would say make the most of your summer, get involved with many organisations and apply for work experience. Securing a training contract or pupillage in modern times is extremely competitive, but make sure you never fail to secure an interview because you lack experience or cannot demonstrate that you possess many vital legal skills and personal attributes. Make the use of your time during the summer and ensure that you do develop the necessary skills and that you have the required experience.
I have made reference to legal firms/chambers/organisations/charities without explicitly stating who because I thought it would not be appropriate to name them without their permission, but if you have any questions or are after some advice that I could possibly give you, just drop me a tweet @msbasi17.
(C) M.S. Basi, 2013