*Cue in my previous post* So, now that you have successfully applied for a vacation scheme, it’s time for the tips on how to survive it, and walk out triumphantly with a training contract offer behind your belt.
– Don’t be afraid to ask questions! There is only so many things you can be expected to do on a vac scheme, work wise. No one will expect you to take on very difficult tasks. However there will be times, when one of the partners or senior associates asked you to help them with something out of your zone of competence. What to do then? On no condition should you go and try to do the task sloppily. If you don’t understand, ask! They are there to help! And of course, they are a busy lot, but they will always have a few seconds to explain the task. In the end, it is more effective to spend 3 minutes explaining than 3 hours redoing a wrongly executed task, isn’t it?
– Socialise! A vacation scheme is not only a valuable work experience, but also a chance for you to meet some incredible people. The graduate recruitment team will probably set up some events for you to get to know your fellow vac schemers, your supervisors and maybe even if you’re lucky some of the partners. Take as much out of these events as you can. Enjoy yourself while making useful contacts. Make sure to get to know your supervisors, after all, their opinion is probably the most important when it comes to your evaluation. Have a little chat, share a drink, show them who you are outside of the office. This will help them determine whether your personality will suit the firm, and whether you would be a good addition to the team.
– Make a good impression! The second you walk into that office, there is only so many things you can do right, and remember, the first impression is most important. All of the smallest things matter! Make sure you’re dressed smartly. Don’t underestimate the power of being dressed to impress. Clean cuffs, polished shoes or appropriate accessories are among the must do’s! Nothing looks worse than a sloppy suit or an unironed shirt. But clothes is not all. Remember to also wear a big smile! It will make you look friendly, and break the ice. An honest and wide smile can work wonders.
Now you’re packaged with a few of my tips it’s time for you to go and put them to use. Now off you go! Make Queen Mary University proud!
It has been a while since I last posted, I think my blogging duties must have gotten a little lost along the way in a sea of law books, dissertations and deadlines. BUT I have finally GRADUATED from Queen Mary with my Law degree and have successfully made it to the other side. The grass isn’t that much greener over here…
I am currently involved in what I like to think of as the Hunger Games for new graduates. We are all warned how tough and competitive the graduate job market is, but I don’t think it is possible to realise just how tough it is until you make it into the arena. I have applied for over 60 jobs at my last count and I have had 9 interview invitations. I have made it to the final 4, the final 3 and the final 2 (!) but I am still waiting to find the right opportunity for me.
I have predominantly been applying for jobs working for a Member of Parliament. My law degree taught me many things, including that I am not passionate about a traditional legal career. I have also applied for the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme, and beat out 600 other contenders to make it to the final 2 for my matched Member of Parliament, only to fall at the final hurdle. I also made it to the Assessment Centre for the National Graduate Development Programme before falling here too. It is extremely tough, but I am convinced it will be worth it in the end. Plus, every interview and assessment centre is experience gained and makes the next interview (slightly) less nerve-wracking.
It has only been two months since graduation, so I’m not resigning myself to the graduate scrapheap just yet! Hopefully my next blog will be about my first week in my wonderful new job!
It’s hard being a second year law student. From every direction we get bombarded with emails about what we have to do and how to do it, invitations to countless amazing events and other incredible options for involvement. But how to find the time to do it all? With all these amazing opportunities for career prospects and skill expansion it’s hard to pick the best ones. It’s important to note here, that I hate any kind of adages and maxims. The top of the list is graced by “having too many irons in the fire”. I have, consistently throughout my life refused to believe that there is such a thing as having too many things to do. With regards to all the amazing opportunities at uni I wasn’t going to change, so I marched to the nearest Ryman and got a fancy Moleskine calendar. If I was to squeeze the most out of all the possibilities I would have to learn how to organise my time very efficiently, almost to the second. And surprise surprise, I was able to attend all the events I wanted, get all my work on time and even fit in some leisure time. The advice is, if life gives you lemons make a hell load of lemonade.
BE THE NAPOLEON OF APPLICATIONS i.e. STRATEGY IS EVERYTHING
1. One of the best/worst things about being in your second year, is having to apply for vacation schemes and mini pupillage. Don’t underestimate the time and energy each application will take, this is really important. Open your Moleskine, which you should already have, and organise your time. I would suggest taking a few preparatory steps to get yourself ready:
2. Go down to the reception and get yourself one of those golden little books of miracles of all City Firms and Chambers.
3. Read it. I mean it. Very thoroughly. You’ll get a good idea of the entry requirements, types of firms, sponsorship opportunities and virtually everything you want and need to know before you put pen to paper.
4. Take out your highlighter and highlight all the firms you want to apply to. Don’t be too picky, each firm gets hundreds of applications. The bigger the firm the bigger the competition. Don’t limit yourself to a handful of firms. But certainly don’t apply everywhere either, you won’t be able to do it, and you’ll end up with a stash of bad applications which won’t get you anywhere. Decide on a fair amount of firms. I would suggest no more than 12.
5. Research every firm thoroughly. The most handy part of their website, is the Graduate Recruitment bit. Some firms even provide a pdf which will tell you everything you will need to know in order to apply, including core skills they will be looking for in applications. It’s spoon-feeding you success and guidance on how to write your application. Make notes on every firm you research. Get one of those mini notebooks that policeman have in mystery movies, make condensed notes, which you’ll use later on when applying.
6. Go online, and research how to write good applications. The internet is amazing, it will show you questions, helpful tips and tricks. Be prepared. Preparation and concentration are key.
7. Write your applications. You will be spending lots of time on this. Speaking from experience, each application will take you about a week. The process will get faster by the end, because many firms use the same service which will remember your basic details, like names, schools etc. This will save you lots of time. Look at the question, dissect it: what are they looking for? how are you going to demonstrate they you have all they qualities they are looking for? My advice: be a very confident, balancing on the verge of a little cocky. They want you and you know it. Make sure you tell them why you’re the best there is out there. Make sure you reference the firm a lot, show that you know the firm, and done your research. It looks impressive and you will come across as a decisive and determined candidate. NOTE! Some questions would be repeated, DO NOT be tempted to copy paste the answer you gave another firm, it’s very obvious when you do it.
8. Once you’ve written your applications, give them to you mum, nana, friend of a friendly Tesco cashier. Anyone who can read it, and tell you if it’s objectively good.
WHERE: Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, London, EC4M 7EH
WHAT: The Old Bailey is one of the famous courts in the legal world, featuring in many fictional books and movies. Magistrates’ Courts and Crown Courts can be found up and down the country but there is only one Old Bailey, where some of the most explosive headline cases are heard. Going to a court of this tenure can teach you a lot about how the law is applied, and allow you to see some of the best legal minds in action. More importantly going to court can be a good experience to see whether or not you feel a career in law is right for you.
WHERE: University fairs, law firm open days, career presentations, firm presentations etc
WHAT: Nearly all the biggest and best law firms in the world have their head office or an office in London. Being based in this city means you will have an advantage in gaining much more opportunities to get into contact with some of finest lawyers in the country. Often lawyers from different firms will come to your university in presentations or discussions, organised by the careers services. It is important to make the most of these especially in first year as before you know it, you will be a third year law student – where busy has a whole new definition!
HOW: Luckily within commercial law, there are a quite a few first year opportunities which you can make the most of. Getting into one of the first year schemes will put you in a good position ahead of applying for second year vacation schemes. Here is list first year schemes, open days which you could apply for. I have been fortunate enough to experience some of these myself at both magic circle and silver circle firms. My one tip therefore, would be to apply in good time and early, because in the midst of tutorials, revision and essay deadlines, it can be hard to do balance everything at once.
3. Access To Inns Of Court:
WHERE: Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple are all located within the same of area of London. The Inns with their grandeur buildings (often likened to the Harry Potter Hogwarts), are steeped with history, dating back to the 14th century.
WHAT: To be a member of Bar in England and Wales then it is a must that you become member of one of the four Inns of Court. During university studies you can have the opportunity to visit these in one of the many events that are held throughout the year for students.
HOW: Here in Queen Mary you can become a member of the Bar Society which hold many events, panel discussion and dinners with the Inns of Court. Simply become a member of the society. As an example, I attended an open day at the Inner Temple recently, and was pleasantly surprised about how much the roles and cultures of being a solicitor and being a barrister differ. Occasions such as these can entail discussions with some of the most acclaimed QC’s on topics which range from the skills of a barrister and increasingly since legal aid cuts, the changing landscape in the legal world. These events are definitely worthwhile in gaining a better understanding of the Bar, becoming a barrister and the role of the different Inns.
4. Connections – It’s Not What You Know But Who You Know:
WHAT: Networking – to interact with others, exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Something you’re going to hear a lot throughout your university degree is the importance of networking. There is no one place to get connections, but you can be sure through campus events, firm events and other activities you’ll someday meet someone who inspires you or interests you. This does not necessarily even have to be someone who works in your field of interest, but can even be a fellow student.
HOW: Networking, if you have never heard of it, done it or are shy, may seem like a daunting prospect at first. Not to worry! Here is an effective checklist put together by CIO.com so you can check if you’re doing it right.
5. Best Universities:
WHERE: University of London
WHAT: To quote from the people themselves ‘The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. The teaching is carried out by the 17 Colleges and Institutes that comprise the University. When studying with the University you belong to a particular College as well as the University of London itself. This allows students to have access to a wide range of facilities and services.’’ This includes Queen Mary, Kings College, LSE and UCL who are all in top 10 for Law.
HOW: When making applications to universities in your final year of studies be sure to include these top universities. I may be biased but Queen Mary’s School of Law really is one of the best and I believe is quite underrated when it comes to both teaching and what it has to offer to students. Luckily you can come and see for yourself, click here for more details.
6. Choice Of Libraries
WHERE: In addition to the dozen or so local libraries you’ll have whatever borough in London you live, this city also has some award winning libraries you can go to. This includes the British Library, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library, Senate House Library + your university library.
WHAT: You will soon find that as law student (if you’re doing things correctly) that the majority of your time should be spent in the library. However sometimes a change in scenery, without losing the revision in between, can actually do wonders for your learning. London has some of the best libraries and one should make the most of them, especially since they are free.
HOW: Check the opening times and criteria (e.g whether they require membership), of each library, as they may differ.
Query Mary School of Law 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Guild Hall 2015
With my final year at Queen Mary coming to an end, I would now like to reflect on some of the most memorable social events I attended during my time as a Queen Mary law student. Even though social life at Queen Mary is varied, I would like to briefly describe just a few social events – the ones I was the most impressed with.
Having just arrived to university from abroad, I didn’t have many friends in the UK and couldn’t imagine how beautiful London was. Soon after settling in, I attended a fantastic night out with other Queen Mary freshers just as excited about starting university as me. During the Freshers Ball, I very much enjoyed a cruise along the Thames, admired London at night, socialised with people from around the world and was lucky to meet some of my best friends at university. The atmosphere during the Ball was relaxed and my first ever London cruise was simply unforgettable.
The Queen Mary Law Ball
During my second year, the Queen Mary Law and Bar societies organised the Law Ball – a great event held at Lincoln’s Inn and attended by QM law students and alumni, QM professors and other inspiring people. During the official part of the Ball, I socialised with fellow students and heard some of the QM alumni success stories. Afterwards, I attended an after party – a cruise around Thames at night. Remembering how impressed I was during my first Thames cruise during the Freshers Ball, my second cruise was just as unforgettable – London was breathtaking! Also, being able to spend more time with my good friends and meet new people made the night fantastic. Given the success of the event, I hope the societies will organise it for many years to come.
The Queen Mary Christmas Formal
During my third year, the Queen Mary Law and Bar societies organised another great event – the Christmas Formal – held at the Law Society of England and Wales. I really enjoyed this event as I could dance to live music with so many other students which made it a fun experience, enjoy beautiful venue and had an opportunity to catch up with my friends in a more relaxed environment.
The Queen Mary School of Law 50th anniversary dinner
The highlight of my final year at Queen Mary was attending the School of Law 50th anniversary dinner held in Guildhall. The event started with drinks reception and was followed by a formal dinner during which I listened to students’ and professors’ reflections on the School of Law. Smiling people and beautiful dinner hall created an unforgettable atmosphere. I once again realised how happy and proud I am to be a part of the QM School of Law and how rich my experience at Queen Mary has been.
I spent a weekend at the world’s largest arts festival and over 3 days managed to squeeze in a hilarious cross-section of the event’s 2700 shows. Across the month of August Edinburgh’s labyrinthine bars, pokey comedy clubs and shoebox theatres host an array of emerging, acclaimed and (occasionally) questionable comedy talent. The atmosphere is brilliant as hundreds of entertainers and thousands of merry-makers flock to Edinburgh’s beautiful, grey-stone surroundings.
Our first show of the weekend, Liam Williams ‘Capitalism’, was undoubtedly my favourite. Rather than the lefty, anti-establishment polemic the title led us to expect, Williams’ self-effacing and uniquely fragile show explored themes of mental health, aspiration and England’s dwindled world cup hopes hilariously. Capitalism was one of 360 shows featured on the ‘Free Fringe’ that runs off audience donations collected at the end of the performance. The calibre of entertainment on the Free Fringe is amazing and seating space often limited, so make sure you arrive at the venue early especially if a show has been hotly tipped.
Also really enjoyed the sketch comedy duo The Pin at the Pleasance Courtyard – a bustling fringe venue with outdoor bars and seventeen stages. Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen should win prizes for the use of an OH projector in their show (a stand-up trend that can be really annoying); they seamlessly chat to their past selves in London on a time-looped video link. The Pin is a really slick sketch comedy with some of the funniest audience participation I’ve ever seen (props to my friend Kate for narrating the murder scene like a pro) and the duo’s performance more than lives up to their long list of endorsements.
Oscar Jenkyn-Jones’ debut solo show, Thomas Pocket Presents: Me (Oscar Jenkyn-Jones), is a bewildering, character-based lark and the only performance that made me cry with laughter. The surreal ramblings of Jenkyn-Jones’ unabashedly weird persona, Thomas Pocket, are perfectly crafted observations of not much in particular that, at the same time, seem bizarrely poignant. Thomas Pocket is the kind of show it would be great to go back and watch again, to see the level of improv involved and how much it develops over the festival.
Congratulations, you now have a mini pupillage! But, now what do you do when you are on it? How can you make yourself stand out? There is an endless list, but these are the most crucial to ensure your mini goes smoothly.
Do take notes – not only is this useful to you for future references and applications, but they may even be relied on by the barrister, who said what and what questions were asked.
Do ask lots of questions – the barrister will be keen to know you are interested, but make sure you ask them at the right time! If they are talking to their client, don’t butt in and ask how they funded the bar.
Do take down the name of the judge, the case, the court and the time – it is attention to detail Inns and Bar Schools will be asking you about in interviews, if you don’t know these things, they make take it that you weren’t paying attention.
Do follow like a shadow – always be close to your barrister and see what they are doing at all times, don’t wander off as your case may be called in without you knowing.
Do tell chambers what you would like to see – it’s your mini pupillage, if you tell them what you are interested in, they are likely to be accommodating.
Do ask for work on the case – this shows an interest to get stuck in as well as to get a good understanding, it is especially useful if you are halfway through a case.
Do expect to travel – on a mini you will be sent all over London, or if you are outside, potentially all over the county, so be prepared for expensive travel tickets, and usually chambers won’t pay for your expenses, so mini’s are quite a costly experience.
Do show you have knowledge in the law – if something doesn’t add up with what you have studied, do query it, but do it in the right way rather than saying to your barrister you’re wrong as they may have a reason, there are always caveats in law!
Do wear a suit – in fact always wear a suit and blazer. As a barrister you have to look smart, so why shouldn’t you as a mini? For ladies, always dark tights and a skirt below the knee, and don’t wear revealing shirts!
Don’t leave the bundle – if you are in charge of your barrister’s papers, don’t leave them around as the opposition may get a sneaky look!
Don’t suffer in silence with work – if you are given a task such as research and are struggling, don’t just sit there and look like you are working, ask questions. It’s better to do that than admit when asked about it that you didn’t’ know what you were doing.
Don’t read in court – cases can be long and sometimes a bit dull, but this doesn’t give you any excuse to start reading fifty shades under the desk! It has happened and often, you are caught out. If you take down notes constantly, this should stop your mind from drifting.
Don’t sleep in court – judges and jurors have been known to do it, but you will face probably a much harsher reprisal if you are caught doing it.
Don’t walk in when a judge is talking – whenever the judge is addressing the jury, defendant or when anyone is taking an oath, never enter the room or even move, it is a legally binding oath and there must be no distractions.
Don’t talk about the case – you would have signed a confidentiality agreement, don’t talk about the case with your barrister outside the court, a juror or even the other side may hear you and it could jeopardise the case.
Don’t take selfies – they know you are excited, but don’t take selfies in the court or anywhere really, they look unprofessional and chambers do look on social media and if they find an embarrassing selfie in your wall, you can count yourself out of pupillage
The most important thing is to enjoy it and above all – learn something!
How to apply – I have done about 6 mini pupillages so far and by far the most time consuming part is the application process. Not only should you apply for mini’s at least 6 months in advance, you should also expect your printing bill to go through the roof!
Unlike solicitor internships, mini pupillages are very ad hoc and usually they only want your CV and cover letter. Sounds simple right? It’s anything but! The problem is, if you write a CV in September when you just start university, but the time the mini comes around, you are bound to have done countless more things than what you put down. It is a constant updating process, so make sure your CV is always up to date: if you go to any event or achieve an award say, your CV should be your first port of call!
I had to send out over 40 applications just to get my 6 mini’s, but, in the first year, my CV was quite empty, but it is never too early to start. As a general rule, once you get one mini, others will follow.
Also, don’t be afraid to go for the highest chambers you can, all they want is to know they are giving a good opportunity to someone who deserves it and is interested in it. Even if your CV isn’t brimming with things, your cover letter could make up for it.
A few chambers may allow you to send your application via email. In this case, be aware! It is quite easy to send an email without attachments or for things to go wrong! Take your time, just because it is an email, don’t get complacent, always be polite and respectful, these people might be the ones to offer you pupillage in the future!
How to set out your CV/cover letter
As a general rule, for a cover letter, make sure it is a letter, with addresses and dates – presentation is everything! Your first paragraph should be what you are writing for i.e. to gain a mini pupillage and why. The second should go on to say why that chambers, so do your research. Chambers are constantly annoyed by having people coming up with excuses rather than reasons as most information about a chambers is on their website. They do realise you have probably sent a lot of applications, but tailor make each one to that chambers – there is no point saying they are a world class international specialists in business crime when they only do local white collar crime.
The rest of your letter should demonstrate you have the skills needed to make the most of your mini pupillage, show off your volunteering, your achievements in academics, and your ongoing goal to go into that type of law. Or, if you are unsure, say why you would be interested to learn more.
Finally, close with your dates you are available and a polite line like I look forward to hearing from you etc. Always end ‘yours sincerely’.
A structure for a CV is quiet simple, what most inns and barristers recommend is to first forget a personal profile, chambers hate this and with so many applications this could be the only thing that gets yours put aside. Start with your education, then your legal experience, then your other experience, then mooting – this is essential! Then go on to state your volunteering experience or positions of responsibility, then awards and finally, your interests and references.
On CV’s it is most important to be succinct. Your CV should be no longer than 2 pages. For each aspect put down, try to have only one or 2 lines of explanation. It should be a short, easy to read list. Bear in mind, chambers will go through it in about 30 seconds. Make sure it stands out and makes you look as good as possible.
Try and send as many as you can and try to get about 4 mini pupillages in an area you like, but also have a range of areas. Good luck!
It’s not often that UK grime artist Wiley inspires me, but I’ve got to acknowledge his tweet this morning as the catalyst behind this blog post.
I’ve never been to Dagenham market (I’m sure it’s lovely), but London has many, many brilliant markets to explore. So, I’ve complied a couple of my favourites that are great to check out over the summer, or later on in the year for quirky xmas presents.
Colombia Road (Sundays from 8am ’til 3’ish): This is what I think of as a proper East End market (Wiley would probably disagree). Stalls on this tiny Dickensian street are piled-high with tiers of cascading flowers and shrubs, punters squeeze by whilst stallholders shout ‘TWO FORRA FIVAhhh’ and other classic ‘Laahandan’ market catchphrases at them. There’s a massive variety of beautiful plants and flowers and the stallholders genuinely know their horticulture, so if you’re looking to buy more than a bunch they’ll be able to advise on where/when/how to plant them. Be sure to buy something though as the vendors tend to get annoyed with people only interested in taking photos.
Portobello Road (09:00 – 19:00 Friday and Saturday): Portobello has everything and it’s correspondingly huge. The market snakes all the way from the North African cuisine on Goldbourne Road, under the fashion lined West Way flyover and down to the Antiques stalls near Notting Hill. There is lots of great food to be had on route, both fresh and pre-prepared, and it’s the only place I know of where you can buy a second-hand cashmere jumper for a tenner. I like to spend a whole Saturday wandering down Portobello Road, rifling through piles of ‘vintage’ clothes, picking up some tasty fruit and looking at the amazing costume jewelry in the covered antiques market.
Spitalfields Market (Saturday Style market 11-5pm): In E1, between Brick Lane and Liverpool Street station, lies Spitalfield market. It’s great for lots of reasons, a big one being that it’s a covered market so good for exploring on a wet weekend. The once dilapidated structure has been renovated over the past decade so now stalls and shops remain open Mon-Fri as well as on a Saturday. However the Saturday market is the best and showcases 60 odd designers, artists, bakers and antiques dealers under one roof. I like heading to Spitalfields for jewellery presents as you can often find unique pieces sold by the designers themselves. There are also lots of established cafés and restaurants to have lunch in if you get peckish looking around. At five, when everyone starts packing up head round the corner to the Water Poet, on Fleur de Lis Street, for a pint and an evening of live music.
In the wise words of Wiley ‘god bless all markets.’