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Having jumped out of a plane I know about your worst nightmare coming true – your main parachute failing. I also know the relief that Irwin Mitchell trainee, Cheryl must have felt when the reserve kicked in and she stopped falling through the sky.
Perhaps the lesson learnt from this: Preparation is key, for both Plan A and Plan B (and even Plan C).
Training contracts are akin to gold dust and as the market and recruiters demand excellent commercial awareness, you really need to be one step ahead of the rest.
At the crux of things, legal work experience is a must have on your applications. I noted with interest that Reading University is considering a four-year sandwich LLB depending on student feedback. Adding an industrial year to your law degree is a no brainer.
This is great for new and existing undergrads. Having undertaken a four-year sandwich law degree at Brunel University, one of a handful of universities who currently offer this, I know that a year’s experience provides a much better foundation than a two week work placement. The experience you gain is more solid from seeing through a matter from start to finish and you have the time to develop and refine skills.
Many law grads won’t have had this opportunity at university, although without doubt will have already gained invaluable legal experience as paralegals, legal assistants and other fantastic roles.
BUT, whilst Reading University highlights the necessity of legal experience, it also strikes at a more subtle requirement; that perhaps legal experience should not be the only space filler on your CVs and application forms. Remember the demand is for commercial awareness. Businesses want lawyers with practical business knowledge and sense as well as the ability to provide the legal framework.
I deliberately sought a placement with the in-house team for a US company to develop my business skills, to think the way a company thinks. A company that ultimately is a valued client to a law firm. I learnt how to think like the client, how to empathise with their problems and embrace their vision.
I decided to take on a project management/team leader role at my current workplace instead of working towards joining the legal department as a paralegal. Why? I hear you say (some of you may even squeal in frustration). Because I have never project managed within an organisation before; it’s not the same as managing a student society, and it will allow me to use my commercial acumen on a scale that I have yet to try.
It is part of my preparation and I would urge candidates to consider widening their experience base too. Soon having extensive legal experience will be as common as England players being injured pre-tournament. What will make you stand out as opposed to being left out like poor Rio?