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Work experience: a law student writes…

Meet law student Abigail Black, who is working with us until the autumn. She has already secured a training contract with a major USA law firm based in London; from what I have seen, she will go far.

Abigail was telling me about some of the challenges faced by law students in search of good work placements, and I suggested that she write a “guest blog” about her experiences. We hope that her advice will be of use to other students.

Forget the endless university exams, the demanding coursework and the time-consuming dissertation; one of the biggest challenges facing law students today is working out where to go and what to do after graduation. Faced with an increasingly saturated and competitive legal marketplace, it is becoming more and more difficult for law graduates to make informed decisions about which type of law firm holds the key to that elusive career.

I must admit that until recently, “work experience” was a phrase that struck dread and dismay into my heart. I undertook my first placement after my GCSE exams. Two weeks later, I had established a firm friendship with the photocopier and could recite the tea and coffee preferences of every member of staff – but I had learned little else.

Fast forward a few years and, armed with a 2:1 law degree, I was excited but nervous when the opportunity for work experience at Stowe Family Law arose. My expectations were high – but I feared that, once again, I would find myself left none the wiser at the placement’s end. Fortunately, this hasn’t been the case.

What follows is my own personal guide to gaining the most out of legal work experience. Perhaps my “top tips” can enable other law students to enjoy the same types of opportunities that I have been able to.

  1. Research, Be Selective and Do It!

A popular myth amongst law students is that by the time you graduate, you must know exactly what kind of solicitor you want to become. Wrong! However valuable those 9 am Contract Law lectures were, they don’t enable you to make informed career decisions. Your degree provides the academic foundations for a legal career; however, before you begin laying the bricks, it’s a good idea to draw up some plans.

This is where work experience comes in. There is no quick and easy substitute for first-hand experience, so it is imperative that you make the most of every opportunity available to you.

I am not suggesting that you should take out your Yellow Pages and pick a local solicitors’ firm at random. A selective approach, which involves thorough research, is essential.

Following Sir Paul McCartney’s high-profile divorce earlier this year, I decided that family law was an area that I would like to explore in further depth. I applied to Stowe Family Law, because it is a practice regarded amongst the national elite in this area. I researched the firm carefully and read an interview with Marilyn Stowe, who struck me as someone from whom I could learn a great deal. By exploring my options and applying to a firm with an excellent reputation in my chosen area, I could be confident that my work experience placement would be productive.

  • First Appearances Count

The importance of making a good first impression cannot be underestimated. Think long and hard about how you wish to present yourself and the impression that you intend to make upon the firm.

Law firms will not judge you on your fashion sense or your hairstyle, but remember that you are going to be representing that firm to clients. So dress smartly! This will help you to fit in. If you look the part, you will feel the part: it is much better to feel like a prospective trainee solicitor than just another “work experience student.”

Do your utmost to appear confident and enthusiastic. Although nerves are normal when you’re starting at a new place of work, remember that you’re there because you impressed the firm upon application. Now it’s time to show them what you can do!

On my first day at Stowe Family Law, I arrived at the firm’s Harrogate office at 9 am prompt, wearing my smartest outfit. I was slightly nervous, but I took a deep breath and decided to go for it. I reasoned that there was nothing to lose – and absolutely everything to gain. The greeting I received was rather overwhelming. Within minutes I was sitting at my allocated desk, surrounded by the firm’s solicitors and getting stuck into real work. My first day whizzed by. Members of staff were friendly and made an effort to get to know me; they asked me why I wanted to be a solicitor, what my interests were and what my career aspirations were. I did my best to get to grips with how the office functioned.

I’m certain that the welcome I was given had much to do with the way I presented myself. I did my best to show that I was dedicated, professional and ready to learn.

  • Make Yourself Known and You Will Reap the Rewards

You are not there to sit like a shrinking violet behind a desk for two weeks, waiting shyly for someone to approach you and ask you to do something. You are there to learn, and the best way to do that is by getting involved.

By the end of my first week I was completing work for some of the firm’s senior solicitors and I was sitting in on client meetings with Mrs Stowe, taking attendance notes. These responsibilities gave me my first valuable insights into what I will eventually be doing as a trainee solicitor. The experiences served to strengthen my confidence in my approach to my career.

Be the one to offer to help, to contribute to discussions and to ask for work. If you feel that you are are gaining too little from your placement, say so. There is no point in wasting such a valuable opportunity. If nobody knows you are there, how will they be able to keep you in mind when those good opportunities arise? My own experience has taught me that if you are enthusiastic and keen to get stuck in, your colleagues will be more inclined to send good opportunities your way.

I am certain that it is because of this “can do” attitude that I have been able to derive the maximum possible benefits of my work experience placement at Stowe’s. One highlight was when I was asked to accompany two of the firm’s solicitors to London, to meet with a client and one of the country’s top family law barristers. This was a prestigious opportunity, for which I remain extremely grateful.

A second highlight was when I accompanied Mrs Stowe to Manchester, to view the firm’s new office in Hale. We discussed Stowe Family Law’s expansion plans and ambitions, and I gained some useful – and unexpected – insights into legal practice management.

  • Acting Skills Will Take You Far

As much as you’re there to learn about a legal career, you’re also there to get a good idea about the sort of work you would be doing as a prospective trainee solicitor at the firm. Of course, a trainee’s work is not always glamorous. There will probably be times when you must grit your teeth and help out with tasks such as filing, legal research and proofreading. This may not be the most riveting work in the world. However, even the most basic tasks play a vital part in the larger legal process. I encourage you to put those rusty acting skills into use: put on your most convincing smile, show enthusiasm and…happy photocopying!

I have been rather fortunate at Stowe Family Law, in that I have not been asked to complete many routine tasks. However, I think it is important to approach every task on the understanding that the legal profession operates on a “work your way up” basis. Another lesson I have learned is that a small “thank you” can go an awfully long way. Whenever I spent time doing the less exciting work I was always rewarded with a heartfelt “thank you” and that was more than enough to keep me motivated and make me feel appreciated.

  • Questions Will Give You Some Answers

My final piece of advice is to find out as much as you can while you are with the firm. Stopping just short of turning into a young Sherlock Holmes, make sure you ask lots of questions; the answers can only serve to help you in your career. Questions such as “Why did you choose this firm?” and “What do you enjoy about your work?” will give you an inside view of other’s career choices, and may help you to confirm your own thoughts and rationale.

However, you must also remember that you’re trying to impress this firm, so make sure that your questions are intelligent and considered. If you know relatively little about that particular area of law, demonstrate your eagerness to grow and your enthusiasm to learn.

During my first couple of days at Stowe Family Law, I was slightly hesitant to ask too many questions for the fear of becoming the “office pest”.  However, I soon discovered that my new colleagues were receptive to questions – in fact, they expected and encouraged them. I gained a lot by spending time with the firm’s current trainees. As they had recently been students themselves, they could relate to what I was hoping to gain from my placement. One memorable conversation was when I chatted to a trainee about my limited understanding of family law. Within half an hour she had delivered a pile of her old law school text books onto my desk, to help me gain a deeper understanding of the subject! I was overwhelmed by the amount of help and support I was offered from within the firm. By my second week there I had no hesitation in firing questions at any member of staff, including the firm’s principal.

In retrospect, had I not seized the opportunity to ask, discuss and challenge the firm’s staff members about different issues, my work experience would not have been as valuable. I encourage all work experience students to get past that initial hesitance – and to fire out those questions!

Although I have been fortunate to gain a work placement with such a friendly firm, I believe that the principles I have outlined can be applied successfully across various sectors of the legal profession. My time at Stowe Family Law has been a refreshingly steep learning curve – despite my initial nerves – and I don’t doubt that my determination to get the most out of my placement will prove invaluable in the future.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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As the UK's largest family law firm we understand that every case is personal.

Comments(88)

  1. Ms Amira Ali says:

    I am interested in a work placement.

    • Sitara Manoj says:

      Hi,

      I am a second-year law student at the University of Bristol. I am studying family law at university and would love to gain some work experience at your firm over the spring/summer period.

      Kind regards,
      Sitara.

  2. Faith Wasa says:

    Hi, I am interested in work experience or shadowing .

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Faith. Thank you for enquiring about work experience. I have passed your details to our People Team who will be in touch. Kind regards.

  3. Emily Patterson says:

    Hi – is there any sort or work experience or summer internship placements for 2022 at Stowe Family Law ?

  4. Eliza says:

    Hi are there any opportunities in 2022?
    Thanks,
    Eliza

  5. Amelia says:

    Hi, Are there any work experience opportunities for a Year 12 student ?

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Amelia – thanks for your request which I have passed on to our recruitment team to respond. Best wishes

  6. Sophia says:

    Hi,
    I am a first year law student looking for work experience opportunities. If there is any contact details I could take to look further into this it would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Sophia. Thanks for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes.

  7. Hannah Davies says:

    Hi,
    I am a second year Law student and I am interested in getting some work experience with this firm. If my details could be passed onto the relevant department that would be much appreciated.
    Many thanks

  8. Fatima Waseem says:

    Hello,
    I have just completed my first year at The University of Law and looking for work experience. Do you have any options available for summer 2022 in Manchester?
    Many thanks,
    Fatima

  9. Marnie Quantrill says:

    Hi, I have just completed my first year studying Law at the University of Leeds and I am interested in getting some work experience with this firm. If there are any contact details I could take to look further into this it would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks, Marnie

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Marnie. I’ve passed your details to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  10. Jannat Asghar says:

    Hello,
    I have just completed my second year of studying LLB Law at the University of Manchester, and I am looking to gain experience with your firm during this summer. If there are any available opportunities I will be ever so grateful!

    Thank you,
    Jannat Asghar

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Jannat. Thank you for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  11. Aranyaa says:

    Hello,
    I have just completed my second year of studying LLB Law at Cardiff University, and I am looking to gain experience with your firm during this summer. If there are any available opportunities I will be ever so grateful!
    Thank you
    Aranyaa Gupta

  12. Eve says:

    Hello,
    I would be very interested in gaining some experience your firm this coming spring/summer. I have just commenced my second year of the LLB undergraduate programme at University of Exeter. I would love to know who to contact with my CV and a covering letter in order to register my interest in your firm.
    Many thanks,
    Eve

  13. Eve says:

    Hello,
    I have just commenced my second year of studying LLB Law at the University of Exeter. I am looking to gain work experience within your firm. Please may I be notified on who I should contact with my CV and covering letter in order to demonstrate my interest.
    Many thanks,
    Eve Sheasby

  14. Harriet McCarthy says:

    Hi,
    I was wondering if you have any work experience opportunities or summer placements available for first year LLB students, perhaps in summer 2023.

    Many Thanks
    Harriet McCarthy

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Harriet. I’ve passed your request to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

      • Maymunah says:

        I am a year 12 student, I am currently studying A-level law as one of my A-levels as well as Economics and Psychology. In addition I also have an EPQ question surrounding the jury/court system. I was wondering if there are any placements left for the 10th-14th of July 2023.

        Thank you.

  15. Poppy Davey says:

    Hi,
    I am very interested in law surrounding how domestic abuse victims are protected and completed my EPQ on this topic. I was wondering if there are any opportunities for me as a university of Leeds first year LLB student to gain work experience in this sector since this is what I wish to pursue.

    Thank you

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Poppy. Thanks for your enquiry. I’ve passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  16. Elizabeth Phillips says:

    Hello,

    I am a second year law student at Keele University and I am really interested in work experience in in family law. I am wondering if there are any places left for Summer 2023?

    Thank you.

  17. Iris Assuncao says:

    Hi there, I am third year law student in Solent University and I am interested in doing work experience in the Southampton office if possible. Within this, I was wondering if I could get an email for the recruitment team so I can send my CV and Cover letter.

    Thank you

  18. Sameera Shahid says:

    Hi there,

    I am a second-year law LLB Law student at Bournemouth University and I would love to seek any work experience or placement opportunities from summer of 2023 at Stowe Family Law.

    Thank you.

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Sameera. I’ve passed your request on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  19. Sharon Ng says:

    Hi there, I am a 2nd year law student studying at Durham University. I would love to seek for any work experience opportunities in the Leeds or Harrogate office, thank you so much.

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Sharon. I’ve passed your request on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  20. Jahanzeb Iqbal says:

    Hi there,

    I am a final year student at Middlesex University and wanted to gain experience of working in a law firm. My preference would be over the summer period. Could you please forward my details to the relevent department?

    Thank you
    Jahanzeb

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Jahanzeb. I’ve passed your request to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  21. Eleanor Sibley says:

    Hi there,
    I am currently a second year law student at the University of Leeds and I was wondering if there are any work experience opportunities available at your offices in Nottingham or Leeds? If so, please could my details be passed on to the relevant department ?
    Thank you in advance!
    Ellie

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Eleanor
      Thanks for your enquiry. I have passed your request on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  22. Anisa says:

    Hi I hope you are well.
    I am a current second year law student at the university of Leicester. I am interested in pursuing a career in family law, and after extensively researching Stowe Family Law, I feel confident saying that working alongside your firm would be a privilege. I am inquiring as to how I would seek to apply for work experience in your Nottingham Office for summer 2023.

    I would also like to send my CV and Cover Letter and request the email address of the recruitment team to send this.

    Thank you and take care
    – Anisa

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Anisa. Thank you for your request for work experience which I have passed on to our recruitment team. Best wishes

  23. Li says:

    Hi there,

    I am currently a BPC student at The University of Law and I am wondering if there is any work experience opportunities available. I have a passion in family law and have taken family law as my final year undergraduate module. Besides, my pro bono and marshalling experience will also be helpful if being offered this opportunity.

    I would also like to send my CV and Cover Letter to the recruitment team.

    Thank you.
    Li Ming

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Li. Thanks for your message. I’ve passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  24. Alice says:

    Hi there,
    I am currently a third year LLB Law student at the University of Exeter, due to begin my LPC LLM at the University of Law (Exeter) this September. I have been studying family law this year which I have found extremely interesting, and have completed work experience at two local firms over the past few years which has included experience in the family departments. I know this is an area I am keen to learn more about and potentially go into when I eventually qualify, and would really appreciate the opportunity to complete some work experience at Stowe Family Law if possible! I am happy to send in my CV and any other required details to the recruitment team.

    Thank you in advance,
    Alice

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Alice. I’ve passed your request on to our recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  25. Alina says:

    Hi there,
    I am soon to be a third year politics and philosophy student at the University of Manchester and am greatly interested in pursuing law in the future through the SQE. I have also taken law modules whilst at university to get a better understanding of what it studying law entails. I wanted to ask if there were any work experience opportunities over the summer in your High Wycombe office? If so, please could my details be passed on to the relevant department?

    Thank you,
    Alina

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Alina. Thank you for your enquiry. I’ve passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes with your studies.

  26. Olivie Kalejova says:

    Hi there,

    Hope you are well.

    I am a third year law student at the University of Sheffield and I am currently on a year abroad in Spain. I am very interested in gaining some experience at Stowe Family Law in Summer 2024 in your Manchester office.

    Please do let me know if this is possible. I look forward to hearing from you

    Best regards,
    Olivie Kalejova

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Olivie. Thank you for your request. I’ve passed this to our recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  27. Madelaine says:

    Hi, I am a third year LLB student at Leeds Trinity, looking to gain work experience, do you have any opportunities avaliable?

    Much appreciated,
    Madelaine Ologbenla

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Madelaine. Thanks for your request. I’ve passed this to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  28. Isobel says:

    Good afternoon, I am hoping to undertake some form of legal work experience this summer at Stowe. I am a second-year LLB law student undertaking my studies at Swansea University and I would be so grateful for the opportunity, please let me know if this is available.

    Kindest regards,
    Isobel McNab

  29. Georgia says:

    Hi, I am a second year law student at University of Bristol with a keen interest in family law. I am highly interested in gaining some work experience at Stowe in Summer 2024 at your Manchester office, is there any way I can have my details passed on to the relevant department.

    Kind regards,
    Georgia Barnes

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Georgia. thanks for your message. I’ve passed this request on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  30. Freya says:

    Good evening,
    I am currently in Year 12 studying my first year of A-levels and hoping for a career in Law. I have a work experience week coming up in June 2024 and would love to spend some time with this firm gaining experience. I would really appreciate it if I could have any contact details to inquire further.
    Many thanks,
    Freya Davidse

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Freya. Thank you for your enquiry about work experience. I’ve passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  31. Molly says:

    Hello,

    I am currently a third-year law student at Solent University Southampton who is about to begin studying Family Law, which I am also currently writing my dissertation on. I am highly interested in gaining some work experience or shadowing one of your solicitors during any time you have available. I was wondering if my details could be passed on to the appropriate department.

    Kind Regards,

    Molly Atkins

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Molly

      thanks for your enquiry. I’ve passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  32. Mireia says:

    Hello,
    I am a second-year law student at King’s College London.
    I am very interested in the opportunity to gain work experience at Stowe in Summer 2024 at the London office.
    If it is possible, could my details be passed on to the relevant department?
    Kind regards,
    Mireia Montané

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Mireia. Thanks for your enquiry which I have passed on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  33. Molly says:

    Hello,

    I am a third year law student at Solent University Southampton. I was wondering if you had any work experience/ other opportunities available. I am currently writing my dissertation on family law, so it would be a privilege to work at such an established firm.

    Kind Regards,
    Molly Atkins

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Molly. Thanks for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  34. Rose says:

    Hi-
    Are there any work experience opportunities for a Year 10 student ? For one week in May 2024

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Rose. Thank you for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  35. Hannah says:

    Hello,
    I am a second-year law student at Queen’s University Belfast. I was wondering if you had any work experience/ other opportunities available. It would be a privilege to work at such an established firm.
    Many Thanks,
    Hannah K

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Hannah. thank you for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  36. Apeksha Saraf says:

    Hello,
    I am in my second year of Law at the University of Leeds. I am looking for some work experience at your firm. Are there any vacancies available?
    Regards,
    Apeksha

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Apeksha. Thanks for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  37. Lara says:

    Good morning,

    I would like to enquire about how to attain work experience as a university student, or if there is a recruitment email I can contact?

    Many thanks in advance,
    Lara Robb

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Lara. Thanks for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our Recruitment team who will be in touch. Best wishes

  38. charlotte says:

    good afternoon,

    im a first year law student who is looking to gain work experience in your law firm and was wondering if you have any places left.

    many thanks in advance,
    charlotte pease.

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Charlotte. Thanks for your request which I have passed on to our Recruitment team. Best wishes

  39. Abigail says:

    Hello,

    I am in Year 12 at Stroud High School. I was wondering if you had any work experience opportunities available for July 2024 or around then. I have had previous work experience with two other law firms in 2022 however they were outside of the UK so I am eager to obtain legal experience here.

    Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing back from you,

    Kind Regards,

    Abi

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Abigail. Thanks for your request which I have passed on to our Recruitment team. Best wishes

  40. Alyssa says:

    Hello,

    I’m currently a university student, located in Brighton, with special interest in family law and the work your firm does. I wanted to inquire about whether there are any available opportunities to undertake work experience and gain insights into the practice of family law as well as your firm?

    Thank you,
    Alyssa.

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Alyssa. Thanks for your enquiry. I have passed this on to our Recruitment team. Best wishes

  41. Susan says:

    Hello,

    I am currently in my first year of university in Newcastle. I have a keen interest in family law so I was wondering if you have any work experience opportunities in June or in August.

    Many thanks,
    Susan

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Susan. thanks for your request which I have passed on to our Recruitment team. Best wishes

  42. Lucy says:

    Hello,

    I am a second year law student at the University of Nottingham, and would love the opportunity to gain some work experience at Stowe Family Law. If you could pass my details on to the relevant department that would be much appreciated.

    Kind regards,
    Lucy

  43. Nma says:

    Hi,

    I’m a first year student in Aston University with an interest in family law, I would like to inquire about work experience at your firm if there is any available and I would love the opportunity.

    Thank you in advance,
    Nma.

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