My name is Alexia Savar and I am a fourth year Masters in Law student at Northumbria University whilst also a working part-time as a Paralegal at Bailoran Solicitors in Leeds. For 2 years I have travelled from Newcastle to Leeds every Wednesday to gain this legal experience in addition to my studies. Over the summer and Christmas holidays, I work 2-3 days a week. I am paid for my time working at Bailoran.
From the age of 15 and prior to starting at Bailoran Solicitors I had completed over 6 work experience placements at different law firms up and down the country ranging from 1 day to 6 weeks, both paid and unpaid. The firms varied in size and specialisms and in all honesty some I enjoyed and others I did not. However, experiencing this variety allowed me to understand the following:
- That I definitely wanted to both study and gain practical experience in a law firm;
- That I liked the working environment of a small to medium sized firm;
- That I enjoyed civil areas of law such as litigation and commercial and I did not enjoy criminal.
I initially started working at Bailoran Solicitors as an Administrator and Legal Assistant and then as my experience grew I subsequently started work akin to fee earning with live clients under the supervision and mentoring of experienced solicitors. Since working at Bailoran I have also obtained a Relationship Based Selling Certification and taken part in networking events such as BNI and Leeds Business Network which has really helped build my confidence and improve my face to face networking skills.
There are many pros and cons to studying and working in the Legal Profession simultaneously and my advice to any student is to seriously weigh them up before committing. These are the main pros and cons based on my experience:
- Gaining first-hand experience of the Legal Profession.
- It encourages a student to be organised and teaches you to manage your time effectively.
- A student will experience the structure day to day workings of a law firm.
- It enables a student to apply the law understood in University whilst acquiring the comprehensive skills of a solicitor in practice.
- It allows a student to learn from their mistakes whilst supervised, minimising the risk of making similar mistakes later on in their legal career with potentially more serious cases and consequences.
- It encourages a student to be more confident personally and within a legal environment.
- Paid legal experience allows students to earn extra money whilst learning.
- It enhances a student’s Training Contract applications – obtaining legal experience whilst studying is rare thus it looks great to future employers!
- Working in a law firm introduces students to networking and allows the student to increase their base of contacts.
- Working in the Legal Profession promotes maturity and professionalism.
- It massively helps a student to undergo their LPC modules like writing a letter, talking with clients etc.
- Finally, it introduces students to a wide variety of people which builds up social & business skills that in turn help you be client focussed from the outset of your career.
- It is very difficult to balance a work life and the work load from University. Students need to bear in mind how time consuming doing both could be as this can lead to some days being stressful and tiring.
- Everyone works differently, including letter style etc. Learning from someone in a law firm compared to the lecture hall is different and the University obviously prefers a student to adopt the University’s style. It can be difficult absorbing multiple versions of how things are done when only one style is correct in terms of passing the course.
- The law a student will learn in a law firm can often be practical and may not help with more academic subjects where they need to know the detail of the law and its principles rather than how to apply it in practice.
- A lot of pressure to do well!
- Whilst working in a law firm students need to be strong enough to take on board and react to constructive feedback as they will inevitably make some mistakes along the way.
- It can potentially be distracting for a student as they are not concentrating 100% on their studies.
- Some Universities do not like students working more than 8 hours per week as it can be of detriment and a distraction to their studies.
- It can be expensive if the work experience a student is gaining is unpaid. Therefore, a student must take into consideration the cost of expenses such as transport, dinner, etc.
Overall, I believe I have gained great confidence and professionalism both inside and outside of the office and legal environment. A great work ethic has resulted in the M.D. of Bailoran Solicitors, John Bailes, agreeing to become a certified training provider in order to offer me a training contract. This just shows that with a mix of hard work and determination, balancing work life and University studies to the best of your ability can potentially get you where you want to be at the start of your legal career.
Overall, I strongly recommend that students obtain some kind of legal experience to enhance their legal CV and get their foot in the door to be a successful training contract applicant. It can really make a difference.
If you would like any more information feel free to contact me at: email@example.com