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Work Experience Ideas for First Years

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You’ve most likely heard the worrying news that now is one of the toughest times in recent history to be searching for a graduate legal job. However, the time we have at uni before we emerge as hotshot lawyers presents an opportunity to gain the crucial skills we’ll need in the workforce… the kind of skills you can only get through work experience!

If you’re thinking about lining up some work experience, here are a few ideas to get you started…

Why look for work experience?

The real reason to do work experience is to gain the day-to-day skills you’ll need to work in an office or firm environment; the kinds of skills that law school doesn’t focus on teaching you, but employers will expect of you when you graduate, such as interpersonal and time management skills.

This means that in reality, you don’t have to land a law-related job during uni to land that clerkship or dream law job in future! Law-related experience will definitely set you up extremely well, but don’t feel disheartened if you cannot find any work in a law-related role, or even any paid work – a wide variety or work experiences will be valuable to you.

Law-related work experience options

Law clerk or paralegal – law clerks and paralegals assist lawyers with tasks such as research, drafting, document preparation, and planning. It’s a great way to get insight into how a law practice runs.

Legal secretary, receptionist, office junior – even if you’re not undertaking paralegal tasks, you’re being exposed to a law firm environment and dealing with lawyers and clients alike. These roles can be a good way to get your foot in the door at a law firm if you haven’t completed enough law subjects to be able to apply for a law clerk or paralegal role yet.

Research assistant – smaller practices, sole practitioners, and barristers in particular often need assistance to research very particular points of law, which is invaluable experience for a law student.

Community legal centres – There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with community legal centres and assist with administrative work, client interviewing, and research.

Research institutes, government departments, etc – working in public policy offices gives you insight into government and law-making.

Uni-based work experience options

You can even find a host of work experience opportunities right on campus!

Tutoring – one day, you could be teaching the law! Crazy, right? Many unis employ senior law students with good grades to work as peer tutors. Keep your notes and textbooks from previous years if you’re considering this option!

Student legal advisers and advocates – some unis have student-run legal advice services, which are supervised by experienced solicitors.

Working with your LSS or Union – why not stand for election or work on a sub-committee? Navigating student politics means honing your communication and negotiation abilities and is bound to create supercharge your networking skills.

Research assistant to an academic – as with barristers and sole practitioners, academics may need help with their research from time to time, and some offer paid placements.

Work experience in non-law roles

Corporate – while it might not be entirely relevant to your degree, any corporate-related experience will set you up with useful work skills. Companies, banks, and accounting firms might be worth applying to.

Politics – positions such as electoral assistants or researchers will give you rock-solid interpersonal and time management skills, and your legal knowledge and research skills may come in handy too.

The humble retail or hospitality job – don’t turn up your nose at it! Skills in dealing with different people and juggling multiple tasks are highly regarded by employers.

How can I find out more?

  • Read your Law Students’ Society/Association's careers guide.

  • Utilise your uni's careers resources, and keep an eye on the jobs noticeboard.

  • Speak to some senior students and find out what work experiences they had in their early years of uni.

  • Don’t be afraid to cold call! Most people are very happy that you have interest in their practice/business, and will still be able to offer you some advice if there are no jobs available.

  • Check Survive Law’s jobs page for internships and work opportunities.

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