It’s a difficult time for students to get work experience at the moment, particularly within law as social distancing measures make internships difficult to implement, and restrictions mean that many legal professionals are working from home wherever possible.
I know first-hand that when it comes to starting a career in law, connections are everything so getting work experience and receiving mentorship from those working in the industry is really important. When the pandemic started, I was concerned about how I would gain experience. With no family or friends working in law I had no access to the profession. Like me, I think many students will be worrying about how they will be able to boost their CVs and stand out from the competition in future university and job applications given the current climate.
I’d like to make other concerned students aware that there are opportunities out there. I was lucky to be part of Seren – a scheme designed to support students at state schools like me to fulfil their higher education ambitions. Through Seren, I took part in multiple university-level law masterclasses and sessions which boosted my knowledge.
Seren also put me in touch with LEDLET, which runs an annual summer internship jointly with Legal Wales. The programme helps young people in Wales interested in a career in law to get experience, education and mentoring. While pandemic restrictions meant it had to take place virtually last summer, the scheme still offered the same level of insight, training and mentorship and I found the experience invaluable.
During the programme, I spoke with solicitors, barristers, legal executives and judges, hearing their insider advice about a career in law. I had my own personal mentor and participated in training sessions in specific areas of law like ‘plea in mitigation’. I also received guidance on university applications, including advice from admissions tutors at Oxford and Cardiff university on the dos and don’ts for personal statements, and tips on how to do well in the LNAT – the university law admissions test.
As applications are now open for the 2021 virtual summer scheme, I want to encourage any students interested in law to apply. The experience taught me so much, boosted my skills, helped me feel more confident with my UCAS applications and played a key role in me getting my university offers.
If law isn’t for you, definitely look at other schemes and summer schools your school or chosen industry might be offering. Seek out your own mentors and contact a company you’re interested in and see what they might be able to offer. Suggest a zoom meeting if you can’t attend their offices. Being a part of the LEDLET/Legal Wales scheme made me think outside the box; I urge you to do the same.
If you’re a business reading this, please remember how important work experience was for you and your career and consider how many previous interns you might have gone on to employ. Work experience is critical for young people, so if you can help in any way, please do.
Ryan Lenihan, 17