We are almost more than halfway through the academic year and if you are in your first year of studies you might be having second thoughts. Some are now reassured that law is their forte and some may be beginning to doubt if they have chosen the right course of study. If your case is the latter of the two there is no need to panic.
If studying law has been a dreadful experience for you until now and it has disappointed you, it is not late to think about what other programs you would enjoy more and apply to switch. However, if you enjoy studying law but what you have learned about being a lawyer scares you or doesn’t impress you then you would benefit from reading this post.
On the 11th February once again the Career and Skills Development Service at City University held a helpful and successful event called Careers with Law Degree. A self-explanatory title, the evening showcased successful individuals with law degrees that had either chosen the path of becoming a lawyer or used their law degree in a different direction. If you missed the event below is an overview of each individual and the career path that they chose:
1. Ed Hall: Senior Lawyer – Crown Prosecution Service:
• B.A in English Literature
• Joined the CPS as an administrator and became interested in law
• Completed GDL & BPTC at City Law School
• Returned to CPS with a law degree
• Started as a Trainee Crown Prosecutor and went to become a Senior Crown Prosecutor
• In 2004 decided to specialise
• Continues to work in the special casework unit
Example of previous/current work:
• Football riots
• Prosecuting individuals involved in 2010 student riots
• People trafficking
• Armed robberies
• Forged passports
So you’ve recently graduated, or on the track to this year. You’ve studied law and are eager to get the ball rolling on your future career. Unfortunately, you’re entering into a level of competition in the work-place that is unrivalled by generations past. Nowadays, your CV needs to be perfect, concise, relevant and professional; but also engaging. You need qualifications alongside work experience, and most importantly, you need to spend the next few years working hard to secure the position you so desperately seek.
Tomorrow is promised to No-one!
Law is a very serious game, and too often those engaged in it forget that they are, in fact, not just a body of legal utility. The seriousness of the profession – the stress, the hard work – it can be a difficult thing to adjust to. Though, the rewards are certainly worth the toil, why don’t you weigh up your options and consider ways to get professional experience, life experience and qualifications all while utilising the most important characteristic freshest graduates have at their disposal: Youth.
International internships are a great way to fulfil all of the above criteria and have a great time in doing so! You can earn money, travel, meet new people and learn things about the world and yourself, whilst in the meantime still maintaining the thread you want to pursue in the future.
Many legal practices take on international interns, and, if you were to secure one you would have a stand-out, unique addition to your CV. Something that’s certain to put you ahead of the curve in the job market.
Now, don’t be fooled, an internship is not a free ticket to travelling abroad. They are hard work and can provide little in the way of immediate benefits. For example, The Hague is currently recruiting for a round of interns through a cross section of their legal departments. However, none are paid positions. The interns are informed from the beginning that they must meet all personal and financial requirements themselves. Moreover, accommodation is not provided, travel is not paid for and visas are requirements are the responsibility of the intern, not The Hague. However, thanks to the beauty that is the EU we can now travel freely through member countries, and take up residence and employment without the need for a visa or permit. So, whereas working at the Hague for free may sound like a bit of a raw deal, it is, in fact, a great opportunity for fresh graduates with a bit of money saved up to open their wings and get their first taste of a professional legal environment.
What internship did you do?
I spent three months in the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) at the United Nations in New York. The Office of Legal Affairs is part of the UN Secretariat. The Codification Division works to encourage the progressive development of international law and its codification (one of the key aims of the General Assembly, as set out in Article 13 of the UN Charter).
The Codification Division provides legal advice and support to a number of bodies established by the General Assembly, including the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the General Assembly and the International Law Commission. These bodies discuss the current international legal issues facing the global community with the aim of producing effective solutions and international consensus. The Codification Division is also engaged in a number of projects aimed at enhancing understanding and dissemination of public international law. Such projects include the preparation of a number of legal publications, courses and seminars, as well as the establishment of the United Nations Audio-Visual Library of International Law.
What work were you involved in?
As an intern, I was lucky to be involved in a number of different projects. I helped to research and write procedural histories of major international instruments. This involved conducting research into how these instruments came into being. These histories become, themselves, valuable research tools for those interested in particular treaties and conventions. I was also involved in the preparation of a number of legal publications.
Dilara Alibayova is an undergraduate student at The City Law School who has got involved in a wide variety of pro bono work, in this interview with Emily Allbon she speaks about these different experiences and what they have added to her life.
1. You've had a great deal of success securing far from run-of-the-mill pro bono work - could you tell us about how each came about?
It was not down to my skills at the time, I think I was just lucky. The first one, internship at Reprieve, was thanks to your tweet back in April 2011. Ever since I moved to the UK, I wanted to practice my Serbo-Croat and put my knowledge of the region to use.
My letter of interest was pretty much three bullet points on why I want to do that job. The success of securing my place in the Death Penalty team came from motivation to do more, willingness to contribute to the team efforts, and learn.
2. Have you found that the post at Reprieve entailed quite a steep learning curve? Can you tell us what kind of work is involved...
Yes. In fact it still is a learning curve, just perhaps not as steep. I am part of the Death Penalty team, which is one of the three main teams at Reprieve. I work on cases of European nationals (or those who have ties to Europe) on death row in the US. This involves doing the background research on important issues in cases, looking into family history, and mostly collecting records. Sometimes I help with translating documents to/from Russian and Serbo-Croat.
For instance last summer I was allowed to go on an official visit to Croatia. My job was to plan the trip, which although it sounded very straightforward at first, was far from an easy task. While in Croatia my colleague and I met with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, for which we were especially briefed by our supervisors, and spent the rest of our time looking for documents at the archives or trying to find them through various institutions.
As you can see, the work volunteers do depends on their skills as well as their interest.
Competition for jobs in the legal marketplace is high and there is an increasing need for candidates to stand out. Therefore, having completed the BVC (now known as the BPTC) I decided to combine my desire to do something different, with my need to stand out in applications. I decided to travel to Houston, Texas as a legal intern where I worked on death penalty cases and appeals. This article is designed to give the reader an insight into my experience.
Legally, the law in Texas is completely different to that in England and Wales. I have no experience in American law, and nor do I have any experience with death penalty work. The prospect of working on cases where the client has a real prospect of being executed is daunting, however, I soon discovered that many of the skills I had learned and developed on the BVC were transferable and useful on my experience. I was provided with thorough training on the legal bit!
During my experience there was no typical day and I had the opportunity to undertake a wide variety of tasks. The tasks I completed included legal research, specific case related research, writing motions, interviewing a witness, and conferencing clients on death row. I believe that as a result of these tasks I have been able to use the skills which I learned on the BVC and apply them practically, which will hopefully assist in my career.
I personally believe that one of the great aspects of the British criminal justice system is the access to free legal advice. During my experience I felt that this was a feature that was missing from the American system, and many of those on death row have never really had fair legal representation. Therefore, non-profit legal organisations, like the one I worked at need as much help as they can get. I was always made to feel that the contribution I made was worthwhile and in return for gaining a unique legal experience I was able to assist in assisting people on death row.
Amicus and Reprieve offer legal internships with a focus on death penalty work, however, they weren’t suitable for me. Therefore, I contacted the Texas Defender Service directly and having been accepted onto the programme, I made the necessary arrangements. In terms of cost, the placement was unfunded and it is worth noting that you will need sufficient funds for flights, accommodation, travel to work, visa’s and the associated documents, food etc. Whilst the costs associated with the programme can add up quite quickly, I felt that the experience I gained made the expense worthwhile.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Texas and was thoroughly supported by all members of the Texas Defender Service and I feel that completing this placement has assisted me in my current legal employment, and will hopefully make me stand out on pupillage applications.
If you are genuinely interested in participating in a similar programme (or would like to make a donation to assist them in their running) and would consider being based in Texas you may wish to have a look at the Texas Defender Service’s website. Alternatively, my supervisor Kathryn Kase may be contacted by email.
David Lang completed his BVC in 2010 at The City Law School.
Great opportunity for September start - the Access to Justice Foundation is a registered charity who receives and distributes financial resources to help get pro bono legal assistance to those who need it most.
The post is for 3 or 4 days a week over a 6 month period. The job spec notes:
- Very good organisational skills;
- Excellent interpersonal skills;
- Strong IT skills;
- Ability to be flexible, work unsupervised and take the initiative;
- Reasonable understanding of law, including ability to understand pro bono costs and client account rules, and
- Commitment to the values and aims of the Foundation.
Closing date for applications is August 15th - full details available from the Law Society International pages.
Notting Hill Housing Group are on the lookout, check out their message:
Our customers deserve the very best service. When they need help with their homes we want them to receive a professional and high quality service.
We are looking for exceptional Law Graduates to work with our Legal Caseworkers to provide specialist legal support to our housing teams. You will gain valuable experience and on the job training dealing with cases related to: ASB and community safety, breach of tenancy matters, rent recovery and disrepair. This is a great opportunity to learn more about relevant housing legislation in action.
You will be a recent Law Graduate (or similar) with a 2.1 or higher, able to commit to working at for at least three months and interested in working in Housing. We will pay reasonable expenses.
To apply please email email@example.com with your CV and a covering letter stating what you can bring to this role and why this is the perfect opportunity for you.
Almost every student or trainee searches for legal work placements, with good placements being regarded amongst students almost as highly as their degree grades.
The amount of time spent searching for, and subsequently applying for work placements often surpasses the amount of time students spend on coursework, study, and dare I say it, even clubbing…
The first work placement can often be pivotal; it can lead to open doors for further placements, or can put students off entirely. At an early stage in a students’ life, obtaining a legal work placement can almost feel like obtaining the Holy Grail.
But how do the organisations feel towards work placement interns?
Many of them are extremely welcoming, especially on face value. Placements are valuable in terms of meeting professionals and being exposed to legal practice. Such an impact at an early age, or at an early stage, can be vital to you.
Practically however, most interns would be given little to do, and rightly so. Legal work requires legal expertise, and it would be detrimental to the client, not to mention just plain wrong, to make an intern responsible for complex casework. It would be unfair to place such a huge weight on their shoulders, no matter how keen they are. In some cases, predominately with the larger firms, interns may be given timed assessments throughout their placement, however the majority of cases will involve students doing pretty menial tasks.
I always had a great interest in the environment, wildlife and the countryside, and a deep-rooted belief that the natural world needs us to work to protect it from the impact of modern life. I had also always intended to qualify as a solicitor, and when it came to taking my GDL at City I really enjoyed learning about the law and meeting fellow students with a wide range of interests. I met a handful of other City students with an active interest in the environment and the law in this area, and we quickly began to discover ways of gaining practical experience in environmental law.
I discovered the E.L.F. (Environmental Law Foundation) internship and applied. I simultaneously began working on a booklet outlining ways in which citizens could protect green spaces in their local area alongside fellow students who had taken the internship at E.L.F. the previous summer. I had been involved in environmental law as a member of UKELA (UK Environmental Law Association), through which I attended talks and seminars, and through Campaign against Climate Change as a legal observer and campaigner. I felt now was the time to deal with environmental law cases hands on, to meet clients and practitioners, and to learn about environmental law in practice.