Week 3 – Work Experience
Getting an apprenticeship with a law firm can seem daunting and so we are sharing some useful tips to help you kick start your legal career. So far we have looked at:
- Week 1: How to identify the right role and register for vacancies.
- Week 2: CVs and covering letters.
This week we are looking at work experience.
Before we start though, key points to remember:
- An apprenticeship is not a course; it is a job with training.
- To be an apprentice you need to get a job.
- A specialist legal apprenticeship provider can help, but can never guarantee, to get you a suitable job role.
- Apprenticeships in popular sectors such as law and accountancy are over-subscribed, making competition fierce.
- There is no apprenticeship funding for graduates and so if you are a graduate an apprenticeship is unlikely to be for you.
- Almost all law firms are looking for good GCSEs (at least 5 A* to Cs) and many look for good A levels as well.
- Think about a backup plan if you are not successful. This can make you feel less stressed and actually help you during the application process.
For most firms, legal apprenticeships are very new. This means that:
- They may not have a vacancy for a legal apprentice... yet!
- They might not know how the programme is structured and tailored to fit the needs of the firm and the apprentice.
- They might not know about the other benefits (eg Government funding and, for some, grants for recruiting apprentices).
- There may be some apprehension about taking on younger employees.
One way to get a firm interested in having an apprentice is for them to see who you are and to give them a sense of the contribution you could make. Unfortunately, for some employers, “work experience” can sound a bit like hard work. However, if you ask a firm if you might be able to come and “shadow” one of their fee-earners for a day or so you might have a better chance of success. This could involve sitting in on meetings with clients, “conferences” with barristers, attending court or simply sitting with the lawyer as they work. As well as giving you a flavour of what working in solicitors' firm is really like it gives the firm a chance to see what you are like...
So, how to get a day or two's experience in a law firm...
First, follow the advice that we gave in week 1 about finding law firms – and don't forget to use any connections you, your family and friends, your school or teachers may have!
Second, follow the advice we gave in week 2 about getting a really good CV together and making sure you have the right contact name at the law firm.
Third, write a really good covering letter to the law firm, using the advice we gave in week 2. In particular:
- If your handwriting is good write it by hand. If it's not, use a computer.
- Drop the covering letter and your CV off by hand if possible (make sure you are dressed smartly). If it's a small firm don't be afraid to ask for the recipient by name – you have nothing to lose!
- Tailor you letter and, because the firm might not know about apprenticeships, mention some of the key advantages. You might want to say something like:
“I am writing to see whether it might be possible to spend a day shadowing one of your fee-earners during [the Easter holidays, which this year are from [date] to [date]]. I am  and am currently a student at [school/college] and am hoping to do a legal apprenticeship when I leave [school in July 2013]. I am particularly interested in [criminal/family/personal injury] law, hence my approaching your firm].
If you have not come across legal apprenticeships before, they are a new way for firms to recruit ambitious people into support roles and then receive training that can enable them to progress to fee-earning positions in the future. The initial training costs are usually met in full by the Government and I believe that a grant of £1,500 is also available in some cases.
A copy of my CV is enclosed. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any queries.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely ”
NB – you will need to tailor this, particularly the bits in square brackets!
If a firm that you contact has any questions about legal apprenticeships by all means put them in touch with Damar – we would be happy to speak to them or let them have further information.
If you don't hear anything within a week or so, don't be afraid to call and check that you letter has been safely received.
Next week – Preparing for interview
Week 4 – Interview technique
Week 5 – Becoming an apprentice if you already have a job in the legal sector.