If your family tree includes a judge, a Queens Counsel, a barrister, a paralegal or even anyone who has watched a full season of Boston Legal, you can probably stop reading this post now. Sit back and enjoy the benefits of nepotism that pervade the legal profession. We’re really quite jealous.
But if you are descended from a long line of kindergarten teachers or park rangers and don’t actually know anyone with a law degree, you’re probably a little worried about your future career prospects. So what do you do when nepotism isn’t an option?
For most of us, the anxiety about our futures is probably compounded by the following shocking statistic about the likelihood of you getting a clerkship in your penultimate or final year of study. While researching this post, I spoke with a human resources manager of a law firm who revealed that they received 43,829 applications this year for their 3 positions… or it was something like that anyway.
Unless you’re a student with a high distinction average who volunteers for the United Nations in their spare time, the stream of polite but crushing rejection letters can feel endless.
Clerkships are still great experience (assuming you can get one), but consider the “Friends, Family and Fools” approach as an alternative. You can even do this in your second or third year of your degree. What is the Family, Friends and Fools approach? Simply ask everyone you know whether they have any contacts within the legal profession who would be willing to give you some work experience – you might be surprised by what you discover!
If you try asking everyone you know and still don’t find any possibilities, try emailing law firms and chambers in your town to see if there’s anyone who is willing to have an unpaid work experience student for a couple of days. Persistence is the key!
Most lawyers and barristers are generous with their wisdom and don’t mind a chat – even if you just meet someone once or twice, you can get insights into the profession which you’d never learn at uni.
Speaking from personal experience, even just spending a couple of days with a lawyer watching them in court can be a valuable learning experience. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to find a lawyer who doesn’t mind your coming into chambers for a day or two each fortnight over the course of your degree and assisting them with preparation for trials.
Sure, occasionally they get your name wrong and you may become intimately acquainted with the photocopier and local baristas, but you’re still making contacts and also getting the sort of practical experience that looks great on your resume when you apply for clerkships or your dream graduate job. You’ll also hear all the legal gossip and will know of job vacancies and employers to avoid before everyone else!
Good luck with your job hunt!
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