May 14, 2020 9:28 am
The process of becoming a lawyer requires you to complete a lot of academic work, and whilst research skills and knowledge of the law are key to being successful, law firms want law graduates who are confident in speaking with clients, being in the courtroom, and working in a professional environment.
This also means that there can be a lot of competition to get work experience in law, so getting on top of applications and volunteering is key to finding some great experience in interesting workplaces. We’ve put together the best ways to find legal work experience as a law student or graduate, to help you navigate into your career in law.
Work experience within your law degree
All law schools will be pushing their students to look for legal work experience throughout their final years at university. This can be one of the easiest ways to gain valuable legal experience, as your university will have strong connections with different law firms and community centres that they can get you in touch with. A key asset that universities have is connections to businesses as well as legal firms, and they may be able to help you get industry placements where you will gain strong exposure to many areas of law. This kind of legal work experience will give you insight into a workplace as a whole, not just a legal office , which is very important when deciding what area you are interested in.
Many law schools also offer clinical legal education subjects which contribute towards your degree while also giving you a taste of legal practice in a community legal setting.
Your lecturers and law societies will be great connections into this world, so make sure you use these connections to find legal work experience.
Legal work experience outside of your law degree
There are also plenty of opportunities to apply for legal work experience outside of your law degree. This can also show to future employers that you are a self-starter and motivated to work in your chosen area without being forced by a university credit.
One of the best places to find legal work experience is to apply to a community legal centre (CLC), where students and law graduates can work with community clients and gain exposure to real responsibility for court matters. While there are many CLCs covering a variety of areas of law, family and criminal law tend to be a focus for many of them, and you will gain valuable exposure to these areas as a legal volunteer. You can apply directly to a CLC to go onto the waitlist as a volunteer in your local community. We would encourage you to sign up for these centres as early as you can as the waitlists can be long, but are worth the wait.
Another great way to get legal experience is through clerkships, mostly in commercial law, many of which are governed by the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV). All the firms connected with LIV provide 3 – 4 weeks of legal work experience in a law firm offered to law students who are in their second-to-last year of their law degree. A lot of these legal firms will also choose their graduate lawyers from their pool of clerks.
The recruitment process is highly structured and selective, but there are lots of firms offering legal experience. You can find key dates and more information on the LIV website.
Clerkships with large commercial law firms are not the only way to gain legal work experience. Many smaller firms also offer opportunities. While they may not offer larger-scale clerkships, many small and medium-sized firms are open to receiving direct requests from law students to do some work experience. This can be a great way to get exposure to non-commercial areas of law such as personal injury, criminal and family law. The LIV website has a directory of law firms to help get you started.
Getting work experience is one of the best ways to build your skills for your career in law, as well as building your CV for potential jobs when you’re ready for an entry-level role.
Does Leo Cussen help with work experience?
Yes! All PLT students do a work placement as part of the course, and Leo Cussen provides lots of support to help secure that placement. This provides a chance to hit the ground running and build your confidence with the support of your mentor and instructors. This can be a great way to gain work experience in law, whilst also not jumping into the deep end of being a lawyer without having built up your legal workplace skills. You can find out more about our PLT and legal work placement on our website.
Are there online options available?
There are a multitude of places that will take students and law graduates for work experience, even in the current COVID-19 situation. Many firms are also set up to offer remote work and supervision.
There are a few firms also offering online work experience placements through the Inside Sherpa website, where you are able to complete free legal work experience programs with various companies.
At Leo Cussen, our PLT students currently have permission to complete an online module instead of a placement. The module is completely online and includes a simulated work placement which gives you the skills to be an exceptional lawyer, whilst keeping the flexibility to be at home or working.
There are plenty of options available for you to complete your work experience in law, whether it’s with a law firm, during your PLT, or virtually. Whilst there can be a lot of work involved in applying for the placements, it is one of the best things you can do for your career in law. If you have any questions or want to know more about our PLT placement programs, get in touch!