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Studying law during a recession

If you are considering a career in law have you thought about how the recession will affect your prospects? Read on to discover top tips to help you rise above the economic downturn and beat the competition for placements.

As a former lawyer and current editor of magazine Lawyer2b, Husnara Begum knows only too well the challenges trainees face. She graduated in 1996 at a time when the economy was also troubled and law firms highly selective.

However, she believes budding solicitors and barristers should not despair about legal training during a recession. Husnara said: “What’s happening is the top firms are paying trainees to defer start dates. It’s not just an issue of cost. Companies pride themselves on offering really good training. The concern is if a trainee starts they might not have enough work for them and that affects the quality of training.

“There’s no doubting it’s very difficult. But don’t despair! Think about your career from the earliest possible opportunity. Get work experience and when you need to apply, thoroughly research every firm you apply to. In this industry, there’s no room for even an apostrophe to be out of place.”

Husnara’s top tips on beating the competition

1. Be realistic

When there’s so much competition, firms look at both your academic background and which university you went to. They can be very selective, the onus is on the student to stand out as barristers or solicitors. Be realistic about your own prospects. If you don’t think you can beat the competition, apply to firms further down the pecking order.

2. Work hard

Make sure you do get the grades. If you are doing you’re A-levels you have plenty of time to get your act together.

3. Get some work experience

It’s never too early to start getting work experience. Sure, most big firms won’t offer placements to anyone not at university. But, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go to a local firm and shadow someone or sit in the public gallery at your local law courts.

If you’re at university, you can get work experience through the vacation scheme. Whatever you do, get a good range of experience as it shows you’ve really thought about things carefully.

4. Get a life
Life experience can’t be underestimated either. You could be a real book worm and get fantastic grades but if you’re nervous talking to people then you’re not really going to cut it as a barrister.

Extra curricular activities are very important. Sport is always highly regarded but you could have an interest in anything if it demonstrates key skills like time management, communication and team work.

5. Specialisms

Think carefully about the type of law that would suit you. A common mistake students make is that they have a misguided view of what lawyers do.

I thought lawyers helped people buy houses or get divorces, but in commercial firms, a lot of clients will be big corporations. If you don’t like the idea of working in that environment, think about areas where you will work more closely with a client.

6. Firm size

Lastly, think very carefully about the type of firm you want to work in. High Street firms are smaller and may have only three partners. In contrast, the bigger firms will have around 200 partners and 130 trainees. Both have different benefits so it’s important to work out what’s best for you.

Your job-hunting tool kit

  • The Lawyer2b website can keep you up to speed on new and nonbiased careers advice.
  • Look at a directory like Chambers where there are write-ups about all the firms. If you don’t know where to find a directory speak to your careers service.
  • Look up law firms online. Check out their press releases to see what deals they are working on.
  • Current affairs. It’s really important to keep an eye on all general or press anyway. I can’t stress the importance of keeping up to date with current affairs. As well as teaching you about law, it makes you a more interesting person.

Work experience

Lawyer2b offers work experience placements to students interested in law who are studying at university. To apply, email your CV and cover letter to husnara.begum@thelawyer.com

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