Since you are reading this, I am going to assume you have been accepted into law school so congrats! All I did the summer before starting my law degree was work full time and enjoy the time I had left with my friends and family. Although I had a lot of fun, I ended up being pretty unprepared and these are just some of the things I recommend everyone do the summer before starting their law degree.
1. Build up your commercial awareness
Commercial awareness is essentially understanding how businesses and industries work and the issues affecting them. The first time I heard of this was in a lecture theatre a week into my law degree and I wish I’d heard of it earlier, considering it is tested at every interview level.
To get a good overview of everything business related check out Know the City by Christopher Stoakes and watch the business news for half an hour a day. I started building my commercial awareness by looking at CityAM and subscribing to Finimize before getting into The Economist and Financial Times.
Every interview I have had since starting my degree has asked me to describe a current issue and why I’m interested in it and so I recommend using the Finimize approach to understand articles. If you find this confusing at first, there is loads on the internet about improving your commercial awareness and my favourite article on this is an AllAboutLaw one.
Also, once you start your degree, get involved in the Aspiring Solicitors Commercial Awareness Competition which is amazing for helping you show all your commercial knowledge in an interview setting.
2. Get some work experience
Work experience is absolutely vital. Go for a varied approach and use any family or friend connections to get legal work experience in a firm or chambers or in-house.
If you don’t have any connections, try sending a CV and cover letter to local firms or chambers. You can always go and sit your local court and experience law in practise that way and pop this on your CV as independent court visits to start building up legal experience. In the UK, you can ring the court in the morning to see if there are any plea and trial hearings you can have a look at, which will give you a wider exposure to law than sitting through a whole trial.
Once you have some work experience lined up, have a look at applyshinewin’s blog post on vacation schemes to make the most of your experience.
You don’t have to stick to the legal industry, doing some work experience in finance or business will allow you to compare industries and improve your commercial awareness.
3. Make a couple of CV’s
No job will be asking for the same qualities and so it is definitely handy to have different CV’s ready for firms, chambers and part time jobs.
I used this article to build my legal CV and having a CV already ready to go will save you a bit of time. Also the careers team at Queen Mary is absolutely amazing so definitely book a appointment for them to have a look at your CV once you start.
Making a LinkedIn account and filling in your education, work experience, skills and accomplishments so far will also save you some time and following firms, chambers and businesses on there can help improve your commercial awareness too.
4. Research firms, chambers or businesses
Research is key! There are so many law firms, chambers and businesses in London and although it is pretty early, some do networking events early in the school year so I recommend looking into them now and see which ones take your fancy.
Check out Chambers Student’s True Picture for a good overview which will tell you the work a firm or chambers does, how well it’s doing, it’s culture, structure of the training contract and the social life. Also using the main Chambers and Partners directories will let you know about the firms or chambers main strengths in different areas.
For regular information about what is going on at firms, have a look at The Lawyer, Legal Week and The Law Society Gazette. And for more helpful career advice subscribe to Target Jobs, Law Careers Net and Lawyer 2B.
I definitely advise keeping an open mind and attending as many networking events as possible when you start including for different industries. If you can, sign up to Aspiring Solicitors, Rare and SEO London which are diversity platforms, to get access to a lot of events and career support.
5. Get a job
Along with getting legal work experience, get a part or full time job in a retail or hospitality industry. If, due to circumstances, you have to work all summer, like I did, embrace it. Not only does this give you good competency answers you can set out in the STAR format, but it also gives you evidence of providing a good customer service which is vital to succeed in the legal industry.
I will cover most of these topics in more detail later in the year but I hope this helps and leave me a comment for any other topics you want me to cover. 🙂