Student timeline

Autumn

First year: You might think that now you’ve got to university you can relax a bit. After all, you won’t have to apply anywhere until next year. Well, that’s true up to a point. Just make the most of your time, join the student law society and start thinking about your CV.

Second year: This is the big one. If you’re looking for a traineeship or a pupillage, you may be able to apply now. Deadlines range across the year and some firms claim to have no deadlines at all. How you decide which firm to apply to is up to you, but as a rule it’s much better to focus your efforts on a limited number of targets than to send the same letter to, say, the top 50 firms. All firms are different and it is important for you to understand how firms differ so you can decide which of them is best for you.

Third year: This is the end of interview season, so brush down your suit and keep thinking of suitable questions. Remember, it’s not academic knowledge they’re looking for – that’s a given – it’s intelligence, intellectual creativity and an understanding of business. You should be reading the business press and thinking about how commercial lawyers fit into that world. If you’re not a law student, now is the time to apply for your CPE course and for traineeships (see second year, above).

Spring

First year: Start to think about the future. Wander round any law or careers fair at your university and chat to the representatives from firms and chambers.

Second year: This is when you really have to build up your knowledge of specific firms. Much more chatting with those in the know, wandering round law fairs and the filling out of application forms is required. Don’t be afraid to talk to students in the years above. Take advantage of the careers service before the mad rush – ask careers advisers for help with application forms and CVs and get some interview practice in early. Check when application forms have to be in and leave yourself plenty of time.

Third year: The big thing for the final year law student who wants to be a solicitor is to apply for membership of the Law Society. If you don’t have a traineeship yet, try to set up as many vacation placements as possible. Would-be barristers should continue to find out as much as possible about the strengths of specific chambers.

Summer

First year: Don’t flunk your exams. You’ll regret it later. Although a bad mark in your first year will not sink you, it’s best to be able to fill your application forms with solid 2:1s and firsts from your entire course.

Second year: Check out the deadlines for all the application forms for commercial law firms.

Third year: One word – finals. You know they’re approaching. So forget any other marks from the year (they’ll either terrify you or lull you into a false sense of security), and concentrate on working as hard as possible. If you have yet to accept your place on the LPC/BVC, get your skates on. Even if you have a first you’ll be scuppered if you miss out because of a bit of dopiness.

July and August

There is always something useful to do in your vacation. Of course, many students will have placements and mini-pupillages to attend. Whatever you choose, remember a CV also includes the time between June and October. It won’t look good if all you have to show at the end of the summer is a good tan and no work experience.