Law student Christianah Babajide describes her experience of working for a silver circle law firm during the first year of her degree
As a law student, I considered the location of my university important because studying in the city meant neighbouring with magic-circle law firms and barristers chambers.
Applying for a work placement can seem daunting at first. You may be discouraged because you don't think you stand a chance. I felt the same way, but I’m here to tell you it's possible.
You probably think if you apply, all you’ll do is sit in the office, bored out of your mind performing menial tasks and twiddling your thumbs. Although work experience typically involves dull, routine tasks, securing a placement is hugely rewarding and essential for some career opportunities.
I have found that work experience can really help demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for an academic subject and can present an individual as driven and hard working.
Making my application
Although I enjoyed learning case law and legislation in my law degree, I also wanted to witness first-hand accounts of the law unravelling before my eyes. My employability lectures had emphasised the importance of securing legal work placements, so I applied for a summer internship to discover what life in the legal sphere was really like.
The application process was pretty straightforward; it included a detailed online application form followed by a competency-based telephone interview. After that, I was invited in for a face-to-face interview. Before narrowing down the firm to apply to, I made sure to thoroughly research various law firms to find out if they matched my interests, skills and motivations. I wanted to be able to talk about the firm without regurgitating content from its website. Researching the firm will prepare you, boost your confidence and enable you to answer most, if not all, the questions that may be thrown at you.
I also had the support of my university’s careers service, which made a huge difference to my application. The career consultants assisted me from the initial search to the application process; they helped me shortlist the right firm to apply to, they proofread my application form, tailored my CV for the firm and provided me with useful feedback during mock interviews.
During the application process for this particular firm, to my relief, I didn’t have to attend an assessment centre, but that being said assessment centres are a good opportunity for candidates to prove themselves and showcase commercial awareness.
Days in the office
There was no such thing as a typical day at the firm. My day typically began at 9am and ended at 5pm but every day was different. Although the people were welcoming, it was a challenging environment because of the high level of responsibility given to me from day one.
As a first-year student, I found it overwhelming initially but I soon found I learnt a lot in a short space of time. The nature of work given to me was interesting and stimulating. Before I knew it, I found myself looking forward to coming to work every day, knowing I would learn something new.
The work – meaningful as it was – was only a small part of what made my experience so special. Everyone I met, from the receptionist to the lawyers, were very welcoming and many were open to being shadowed. The opportunity to meet different people from across the firm and gain real hands-on experience by sampling lots of different areas of the law was an enjoyable experience to say the least. When I wasn’t in the office drafting documents and carrying out legal research for associates, I was attending the Royal Courts of Justice or shadowing client meetings.
Generally, placements are largely enjoyable and there are plenty of opportunities available in London; you may choose to do an internship or your course might require a sandwich placement. Whilst on your placement, if you feel you need some assistance with the tasks assigned to you – remember there’s plenty of support available in the procurement of your placement and from your university’s careers service (they were with me all the way!). But most importantly, don’t forget to have fun – your time in London is about taking away new experiences and making life long memories!
In conclusion, it was a terrific learning experience. Spending the summer at the firm was hugely rewarding and allowed me to progress as a legal professional. The placement left me feeling prepared for life beyond the university, leaving me excited to take the skills I learned and use in future endeavours. It’s amazing what a few weeks interning over the summer can make!