Pursuing a career in law is rewarding but challenging, with long hours and lots of study. The best way to see if it’s the right job for you is by doing work experience. You’ll gain an insight into what working in law firm is really like, and have the chance to develop your skills.
Having some work experience under your belt will also really help when it comes to applying to study law at university, or applying for a law apprenticeship.
But finding law work experience in school can be tricky, as most placements are geared towards university students. So in this guide we explore at the kinds of opportunities you can apply for while you’re in school or college, from Year 10 to Year 12, including a look at some of the law firms offering work experience.
Types of law work experience for Year 10 and Year 12
Some law firms may be able to offer school/college students the chance to ‘shadow’ their solicitors. This means you’ll be able to observe a solicitor as they carry out their everyday work. You’ll gain an insight into the tasks, skills and responsibilities of a solicitor, and see whether it might be the right career path for you. You’ll be able to ask questions about law careers and the qualities needed.
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If you’re thinking you might want to become a barrister one day, you may be able to approach chambers (offices which groups of barristers work at) in your local area to ask about shadowing opportunities there. As well as giving you an insight into the job, shadowing opportunities will give you a leg-up in any future job or apprenticeship applications.
Firms and chambers may have shadowing opportunities that they don’t formally advertise, so it’s best to make contact with companies in your local area. Write them an email explaining that you’re interested in gaining law work experience, and would like the chance to shadow one of their employees. Make sure that you don’t send the same email to lots of employers: personalise it for each firm and show you’ve done your research. And if you know anyone who works at a law firm, make contact with them to see if they can help.
Solicitors firms in your local area may be willing to give you a short work experience placement of a few days. This is a chance to see what a working law firm is like, and perhaps even carry out some small tasks like research or reading case-notes. Make the most of the placement by asking plenty of questions. This will help you narrow down what area of law you might like to work in. Like shadowing opportunities, these placements are usually not openly advertised by firms, so it's best to be proactive and contact companies in your local area.
You’ll also gain experience of how the law works in practice by visiting your local magistrates court, where some proceedings are open to public viewing. This will give you a chance to see various legal job roles in action, including barristers, legal advisors and judges. By observing the proceedings, you’ll develop your understanding of different legal processes, including committal, indictment, bail, remand and summons.
Another way to gain experience of a workplace is by volunteering. There are plenty of law-related charities which may be able to offer you some volunteering. Some organisations have age limits, so it’s best to approach them directly.
There are also several more formal work experience schemes aimed at Year 12 students, as well as law work experience for 16 year olds. You will gain an insight into the workings of a commercial law firm. We’ve outlined a few of these below.
Law firms offering work experience
Now we’ll take a look at a few specific law firms, barristers’ chambers and other legal organisations which offer work experience of different types to school or college students.
Exchange Chambers, a barristers’ chambers which has offices in London, Leeds and Manchester, offers two-day placements in the school summer holidays to students who are either in Year 12 or 14, or have already sat their GCSES.
Womble Bond Dickinson is a large firm with offices across the UK, as well as in the US. It has a number of different work experience
schemes for various age groups, including two-hour introductory workshops for students aged 14 or above, a one-day programme for those aged 16 and over that develops your skills and networking opportunities, It also has a multi-day work placement scheme for students aged 16 and above, where you’ll get to spend time with different teams in the law firm.
Another international firm that offers law work experience for 16 year olds is Pincent Masons. The week-long programme gives you a full overview of what it’s like to work at a commercial law firm, and looks great on your CV. You’ll be assigned a supervisor to help you develop skills, spend time in different departments, take part in a business group exercise, have a go at a mock employment tribunal and shadow lawyers on real client work.
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