By Giorgio Desouza, City, University of London, Alumnus of The Young Lawyer Programme 2016
I was offered the opportunity to gain work experience at a regional law firm in Chelmsford. I was extremely enthusiastic, because it would be my first ever type of experience in the workplace. I had just finished my first year, reading Law, at university, and I intended to research internships or work placement opportunities for the summer. When I was offered this placement, I did not hesitate to accept. Such placements are rare as law firms perceive first-years to be too inexperienced for the ‘fast-paced’ legal world.
During my placement, I covered several areas of law, and was given the option of choosing my preferred area to cover for the final day of my placement. A solicitor was assigned to act as a personal liaison and was also able to answer my questions about pursuing a legal career i.e. what the academic and other specific requirements are, the level of graduates’ starting salaries and what job security they possess upon becoming solicitors, their overall employment prospects and the overall competitiveness of the legal industry.
The work involved the respective solicitors assigning me a substantial amount of reading to cover in all the areas of law covered. The main areas where the research was most concentrated was in commercial, employment and criminal law. During the criminal law placement, I visited the local Magistrates’ Court, where I attended a full pre-trial hearing. This enabled me to better understand why some judges and magistrates reach the decisions they do, because often when the media report on a trial, the reasons given for a verdict are either incorrectly reported or not reported at all. Though the criminal law placement was undoubtedly one of the highlights, my supervising criminal solicitor informed me his department has had its budget cut several times since the LASPO Act. Personally, I find criminal law to be fascinating, but although I intend on becoming a solicitor, my specialised area of law would not be criminal because of the lack of funding in the system and the potential lack of further opportunities for criminal lawyers.
The other areas of law I covered were residential property, family and private client. The solicitors I spoke to were intelligent and well-read and such was the enthusiasm they all exhibited for their respective fields, I felt I was able to widen my options for areas of law to specialise in once I qualify. With family law and private client, I discovered empathy, emotional detachment, respect for privacy and the ability not to judge is necessary. All of the areas were extremely interesting and I enjoyed all of them.
One of the unwritten rules of pursuing a legal career is employers place a heavy emphasis on one obtaining any form of legal experience before applying to a law firm. Having successfully completed a week’s legal experience, I have managed to gain this very benefit whilst also making and maintaining contacts, which will eventually be essential to gaining employment in the highly-competitive legal industry of the UK.