So, you’ve finished school, passed your GCSEs and now you’re moving onto sixth form – but what subjects are you going to choose? Education at this age gives you the chance to focus on the subjects you enjoy while also exploring something new, such as Law.
The subject has a number of opportunities and career paths to becoming a solicitor, whether you choose to study law at university, or take the legal apprenticeship route to qualifying.
To help you understand what a typical day looks like, Aleksandra Flack, an employment law solicitor at Langleys Solicitors talks about her experience as a law student and shares her advice for those aspiring to a legal career.
Why did you want to study law?
When I finished school, I wanted to choose a subject I had not studied previously at GCSE level and law was the one that grabbed my attention. After a while, I realised I had a natural talent for the subject, but most importantly I enjoyed learning about it. This gave me more than enough reasons to apply for an undergraduate course, even if at this point, I didn’t know a career in law was possible for me.
How was your student life?
University was brilliant – even if it was slightly different than my friends’ and housemates’ experiences. While a law degree is challenging, with lectures and seminars on every day in your second and third years, it’s all worth it. The course helps you prepare for life in a legal practice by placing a big focus on your independent study. Through this, you will be able to understand how to properly research and prepare for your cases.
You will also take part in what is called ‘mooting’ – pretend court cases that allow you to put forward legal arguments. This not only helps you to understand how court proceedings work, but allows you to harness your research and presenting skills.
A piece of advice I always offer is to make sure you find time for yourself. A law degree can be high pressured, so it is crucial that you find ways to switch off, focus on something else and take your mind away from your studies.
What skills are needed for a career in law?
Alongside the obvious ability to research and be organised, those in law need to have excellent interpersonal skills because, no matter what role you have, you will always have to deal with people. In employment law, you get to work with a wide range of clients, from managing directors of multinational companies, to small start-up business owners, so good communication skills will help you build strong, trusting relationships with all your clients.
Other legal areas will see you regularly speaking to members of the public, especially family law, where you will have to have the confidence and capability to look after and guide a client during a very emotional time.
Whatever your specialism, attention to detail is critical from day one as everything you write has to be checked and cross-referenced to ensure you are sending out the correct information.
What is a typical day like in employment law?
Generally speaking, an average day will have a variety of client contact and independent work. This could be advising on any plans they have, drafting employment contracts, preparing for hearings or dealing with other requests – over the phone and face-to-face.
Law isn’t like how you see it on TV, it’s not necessarily about winners and losers with people shouting “objection”, it’s helping your client achieve the best outcome possible. While your client may win the case, they could lose a lot of money at the same time – which obviously isn’t good.
The legal landscape is constantly evolving. You will often find your working day requires chunks of research time so you can keep on top of everything. You can have your head in the files or your to-do list and forget about the outside world, so it is important to give yourself some time to step back from your cases and read up on the industry. Practices will have legal databases, so dip into these when you have a spare half an hour or so and subscribe to law websites to get updates on topical cases. This is just the start though – if you want to be successful in law you need to be proactive and search for the changes that may affect your clients.
For those looking for a career in law, I will always offer this advice when it comes to applying for training contracts and vacation schemes – make what you do now relevant to your application. When I was at university, I had a weekend job as a florist, so I wrote about how I dealt with a vast number of people with different needs – handling everything from weddings to bereavements. With this, I was showing how I could be professional, organised, and responsible at dealing with sensitive subjects.
So always look at what you do, whether that is a part-time job, sporting club or hobby group and think about how you could translate it into professional experience.