Like any other job, experience is essential for aspiring lawyers. It is also essential to build a catalogue of relevant activities and experiences that have given you legal exposure. I was well advised by sites such as LawCareers.Net and Chambers Student that as a Non-Law student this was especially important as I had to show a dedication and commitment to law outside of my degree.
Before final year, my legal experience didn’t involve spending much time with barristers. I had done a summer of volunteering in Citizen’s Advice and work experience at a Family solicitors firm. I was determined in final year to add more experience to my personal profile and make sure it was clear how interested I was in the law and the bar more specifically.
Use your law society to help gain professional legal exposure.
From term one I stayed active with Warwick Law Society and Bar Society. I was lucky enough to visit three top chambers and attend a dinner at my future Inn of Court. I participated in the commercial mooting competition (difficult, but rewarding) and a witness cross-examination competition too.
Staying active with the society was good for me in two ways. Firstly, it made it easy for me to get valuable legal exposure and face-time with barristers and recruiters. Secondly, it placed me around like-minded people who would help push me. Having people around me with similar ambitions helped me feel that little bit less of a loser when I would stay behind from nights out to complete applications or do more work.
Interviewers want to see that you have spent time getting to know the law in action (pun intended).
During a GDL scholarship interview in June I had briefly panicked when a question about exposure to the Bar came up. It was something along the lines of – “have you spent time with any actual Barristers?” Fortunately however, I’d secured a mini-pupillage at a top commercial chambers and work experience with Criminal defence Advocates in Bristol. This was because before the end of the Easter term, I prepared applications for various summer vacation schemes and mini-pupillages. Preparing ahead is important and you should work ahead to make sure your summer involves legal experiences.
Far after the interview, I looked back on the situation and realised that I had done well to spend final year networking with either practicing or aspiring barristers and throwing myself into every relevant opportunity to gain exposure to the law. I was glad I kept reading up on Chambers Student about different chambers and areas of law and signed up to the LawCareers.Net weekly newsletter. I subscribed to email updates from different law magazines and wrote key deadlines in my sacred orange ‘Law’ notebook. I also religiously listened to Radio 4’s ‘Law in Action‘ when I had free time, something I’d recommend to every aspiring lawyer. Joshua Rozenburg will keep you on top of every important legal development in the United Kingdom and beyond in a fun and interesting show, and it also helps you learn how the different areas and figures within the English Legal System work together and interact.
Exposure to the law makes it easier to network with lawyers.
It was ridiculously easy to bump into barristers at events and chat to them. I had underestimated how often that was seen as relevant and quality exposure. By keeping up with different legal developments, I found it very easy to make conversation and significantly less nerve wracking. Networking is much more pleasant when you have something legitimate to talk about that fall in line with their interests. Having something interesting to say is always better than asking, “so what made you want to become a barrister?” for the millionth time.
I understand now that it’s important to demonstrate that you cared enough about what you wanted to do that you made the effort to actually go and spend time with people doing it already. Maybe you spoke to someone in that profession, or watched them do their job (for example going to your local Crown Court to watch barristers in action). You could have read some of their work or articles and maintained an opinion on it. But if you don’t show that you actually wanted to literally peer over their shoulder and see what their work entails, how can you demonstrate that’s what you want to do in the future?
Help present yourself in the best possible light!
Another important point to consider is that, you are the company you keep. A question to always ask yourself is whose company have you chosen to be keeping? Where have you been peering over shoulders and taking notes? Will it work to demonstrate what your target firm or chambers want to see from you?
I also must note that my chambers were the only one out of five who responded to me. Later, by chance, I bumped into a girl who got a mini I had been rejected for. It was a really stark reminder that at any point, and for any reason, someone else could take your spot. So invest in yourself; don’t let a lack of legal exposure work against you.