Hey everyone, my name is Han and I’m currently a third-year law student at the University of Leeds. I’m writing this blog post to hopefully provide those of you international students with ambitions to pursue the route of a commercial solicitor in England with useful tips to help in your law firm applications.
1.Participate in extra and co-curricular activities
An incredible way to stand out as an interesting contender for an opportunity at a law firm amongst a sea of candidates is to have a robust selection of extra and co-curricular activities you’ve participated in during your time at university. These activities help build and develop core attributes such as confidence, teamwork and communication skills and will afford you an opportunity to become more involved with life at the School of Law and at Leeds. One great example of a co-curricular activity you can get involved with, is the School of Law’s Pro Bono or Community Engagement programme; pro bono is a legal term used to denote legal work provided at no cost to clients who generally aren’t able to afford legal advice. The School of Law offers a selection of projects within the Community Engagement programme such as the Welfare Appeals and Tribunal Clinic, and the Cerebra Research Programme to name a few. These projects are often aimed at helping alleviate social issues within the local community through the law and are a great means to gain a taste of how the law is applied in everyday life. Below is a group photo of everyone, including me, involved in the Cerebra Research Programme a few years ago, which aimed to compile data to be used to vindicate families of disabled children who failed to receive timely government financial support payments.
2. Gain work experience
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your initiative and experience of the legal industry is to gain legal work experience. This could, for instance, be in the form of an internship, a first-year programme or paralegal work. By adding legal work experience to your CV, you instantly become more attractive as a candidate—you’ve demonstrated that you’re invested and passionate in learning about legal practice and that you’ve made an effort to determine if this is the right route for you.
Aside from legal work experience, you shouldn’t shy away from gaining non-legal work experience. Part-time jobs such as being a cashier at a grocery store or a waiter at a restaurant are great forms of work experience you can leverage in your firm applications. Just because they aren’t related to the law doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable—many law firms in the modern era have had to take on roles not unlike those of business consultancy firms in addition to providing legal advice. This means that the modern lawyer isn’t simply a provider of legal advice; they require an understanding of the world of business, for instance, to be better able to provide their clients with the advice they need. Even a part-time job as a waiter can prove a useful insight into how a business works and how best to interact with customers. A useful site to use to be able to search for part-time jobs in Leeds is Joblink, an organisation with a focus on providing Leeds students with part-time job opportunities and advice, and which has a physical office within the Leeds University Union you can pay a visit to.
Any and all work experience you gain, be it law-related or not, will add depth and character to your application, so be open to all forms of opportunities that come your way.
- Manage your time
As a law student either at the undergraduate or the postgraduate level, you’re bound to face a heavy academic workload in addition to any other commitments you have, on or off-campus. All this makes for a rather busy schedule even without account of the firm applications you’re intending to do. It is therefore imperative that you manage your time well! Leave ample time to complete firm applications and avoid submitting them close to deadline day. Prioritise your academic commitments but don’t let them consume your entire week; it may be helpful to portion a few days a week for your studies, a few for your extra-curricular commitments and one or two for your firm applications. The skill of effective time management is one that can be applied throughout your life—not just at university.
- Limit the number of your applications
In your initial round of applications, it may very well be the case that you fell the urge to apply to as firms as possible. However, the likely outcome of applying to a great number of firms is that you sacrifice quality for quantity; if you applied to say, 30 firms, the quality of each individual application you produce may be far lower than if you had concentrated on tailoring applications to just 7 firms instead. Limit the number of your applications to improve the quality, individuality and originality of the select few applications you choose to work on. Personally, I would not advise applying to more than 10 law firms in any given recruitment cycle at the very most. The age-old adage holds true: if you can remove a firm’s name from your application and replace it with that of another, your application is too generic and isn’t tailored well enough to the specific firm.
Finally, it is an almost inescapable truth that you won’t get offers from all the firms you’ve applied to. Perhaps, you might not even secure a single opportunity in the current recruitment cycle. In spite of these unfortunate outcomes, the core thing to remember is to persevere and remain persistent. Many current trainees and associates haven’t succeeded in securing an offer in their first round of applications but have instead taken their failure as a valuable opportunity for growth and to learn from their mistakes—I personally have spoken to a number of such lawyers. Endeavour to follow in their footsteps and don’t give up. Continue to bolster and improve your CV and figure out what was lacking in your unsuccessful application in preparation to apply for next season’s round of opportunities. It is only through failure that we find success so don’t be afraid of failure and rejection, use them instead as fuel for your growth!
With that, this blog post has come to an end. For any law related enquiries, please get in touch! I hope this has been insightful for you and wish you all the best in your legal pursuits!