For today’s post, I wanted to chat a bit about my first legal placement. In this post I chat a little bit about how I secured the placement, what area I sat in, what kind of firm I went into and some tips and tricks that I learnt along the way. Let’s jump straight in …
- How I secured the placement?
This was rather a simple process. Essentially, I responded to an advertisement on my university page. This is a great resource that I don’t feel is utilised enough. Often, the university will work in tangent with local firms and offer legal placements to students. Our university had a Facebook page that was a really great way to stay in touch with the latest opportunities. By chance, I stumbled across such a placement and was successful in my application. In terms of the application process, although it was some time ago, I believe all that was involved was sending off your cv and completing a short form. Subsequent to that, I had to answer some short questions. I found out a few days later that I was successful and I started almost immediately.
- What area was the placement in?
The firm that I went to specialised in mainly family and criminal. This was perfect for me as at the time I really wanted experience in both areas as I thought I wanted to specialise in both areas upon qualification. It was a 5 day placement and I really got stuck in to some meaty tasks and learnt an awful lot not only about the law but about myself. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the firm, I knew that maybe criminal wasn’t for me. That is the beauty of undertaking short legal placements if possible as it shows you the type of work that you will be involved in as a trainee and what life is truly like. No textbook or professor can show or tell you this.
- What type of firm did I go to?
I actually undertook my first placement in a local firm. It was a small but an extremely busy firm that I felt boded well with my personality. The firm gave me quite a bit of responsibility in my few days there and I really felt part of the team and that my work was appreciated. I think that is the greatest pro of going to a smaller firm, you get to know every single person and you feel part of a closer knit team. This concept has given me sleepless nights as I equally love the benefits of working in a bigger team. I guess the future will tell – I’m still learning what I like and what I don’t like so maybe in the coming months I’ll discuss this topic in greater detail.
- Tips and Tricks
1. Be proactive – I vividly recall on one of the days that I was working, my supervising partner got called in on an emergency case and so wasn’t in the office in the morning. I went to other members of staff that was working at the time and asked them if I could assist them in anyway. Don’t get me wrong I was pretty nervous as it’s always hard introducing yourself as a junior to senior members of the team however, upon the partners return he praised me for this saying that it was exactly what he expected a trainee to do. Further to this point, instead of waiting to get work from the team, research the cases and ask them if you can sit in on a matter or work on a case that you are genuinely interested in. It makes all the difference.
2. Bring a notepad and pen with you everywhere – often things will crop up that require you to make notes – for example client meetings, office meetings and court appearances. I cannot tell you how useful it is to carry around a little notebook with you so that you can jot down ideas, comments and revert back to them later. Equally it shows initiative and an eagerness to learn and improve. Skills that are imperative in the legal industry.
3. Be prepared to work later – especially in criminal I found that this area of work demanded later shifts and working more hours due to police station appearances and the uncertainty of cases and in fact well to say it bluntly criminals. In this placement I got told in the late evening that I had to prepare for a court hearing the following morning by summarising papers and providing initial thoughts. What made it worse was that it was halloween and I had made plans with my friends to go out. However, these things happen in law. It is an unpredictable field that requires you often work beyond your contracted hours. Remain positive and don’t have an attitude about it. Just take whatever is thrown at you in your stride.
- Wear comfortable clothes – I think this one goes without saying and maybe I was just naive to the situation but I wore clothes that looked great but just weren’t practical. This placement involved lots of court hearings and running around to different locations. Picture this, baby Evangeline running around in six inch heels, an extremely tight pencil skirt, grey blouse and tights that meant my shoes kept falling off. Needless to say that I have now learnt that comfort is everything. Working in Manhattan made me realise that it’s okay to wear trainers on the commute and to carry heels in your bag otherwise it is a recipe for disaster.
I hope this short post helps some of you starting out your legal career and gives you confidence when undertaking your first legal placement. As always please feel free to reach out either through here on on any of my social media platforms with any questions.
Thanks for reading x