Work Experience 2011

I worked in a regional London-based firm with another small office elsewhere in the UK specialising in no win no fee compensation claims. The firm had many paralegals because Read more

At university

There are many ways in which you can try to stand out on your CV and work experience is definitely in the top 5, if not the top one. Why?

Primarily, it shows the employer that you are interested in pursuing a career in law. It is a little bit like a person wanting to be a chef in Michelin star restaurant attending a culinary course. And of course, if you like that company and want to work there, you have to do so much less work than other candidates – you already know people you are going to be working with, you had a chance to impress them – once you put the foot through the door, it will so much easier to enter it!

But I cannot stress enough how advantageous it is to yourself, the list is literally endless:

Firstly, you gain invaluable experience in an office environment which you can apply whenever wherever even if you decide to do go on and do something else with your life after your degree.

Secondly, it gives you plenty of topics to talk about during the interview with other potential emplyers.

Thirdly, you have an opportunity to find out what it is really like to be a solicitor. What we do now is soooo different to what’s it going to be like in the office. This is the reason behind LPC – to actually prop us up with useful and relevant work related information!

Fourthly, there is an opportunity to find out which areas of law you like and which areas of law you don’t like. This is so useful! You can start reading up early to further your knowledge of that area and stand out during the interview even more.

Fifthly, you get to explore many interesting firms and find out which kind of firm you are interested in working at. Working in a large stressful environment – some people get kicks out of challenging environments; others really enjoy a normal ish working hours day… Some people would want to work in the country, others in the city. These also help reflect on client hours. Etc.

So, get your sleeves rolled up and start e-mailing. It is quite a scary thought – so many firms out there and the thought of being rejected! Many firms do reject e-mails like these, but mainly the big ones because they have a system in place and if they had people come in to do work experience, it will be a complete chaos. However, there are trillions of law firms out there, especially medium-sized and smaller law firms who are very reciprocal to such requests. Many solicitors are really understanding in your need to get work experience (at the end of the day they were there one day where we are now), glad that you showed interest in their company and quite a lot of the time it is not really a burden on them so they are quite happy for people to pop in for a week and give them things to do. The more e-mails you w you write, the more likely you are going to get something sorted – simple probability statistics! The way I plan it, I try to get at least one work experience sorted for each holiday – not too much, but over the course of three years, it will all add up :) Good luck, my friends!

xxX Savanna Xxx

The firm I worked with was a regional London-based firm with another small office elsewhere in the UK specialising in no win no fee compensation claims.

The firm had many paralegals because personal injury claims are not very hard to process and a few solicitors and partners who ran the firm and dealt with more complicated procedures. I worked with a group of paralegals who gave me many tasks and which I found absolutely fascinating.

In most cases a similar procedure is followed. The injured party contacts the solicitor firm and explains the accident. Then the evidence is gathered like notes from going to A&E, medical records, pictures of scars, any correspondence with your boss regarding your injury and basically everything that is relevant to your accident. Then the solicitors issue a claim and notify your boss / local authorities / person responsible for your accident and they have time to respond to the claim and issue the response. This litigation proceeds till an agreement is made.

Most of the time, the two parties come to a satisfactory conclusion. Several factors are taken into account when calculating the compensation. First of all, the requested compensation sum will be equivalent or similar to the sum that other injured parties won on previous occasions (precedents). Second of all, there are various measurements taken into account like the gravity of the disability caused. For example, if the compensation for a lost eye is say GBP 5’000, then if somebody who was already blind in one eye, would ask for a lot more than the GBP 5’000 as the loss of the vision in his only working eye caused him total blindness. The inability to work and medical expenses due to the accident are also taken into account and are usually compensated which obviously varies from person to person, from accident to accident.

Of course, the main reason why the negotiations come to a swift agreement is that usually the employer has an insurance cover for these kinds of problems and it will not be him paying the injured party the compensation. So techinically, it is not his money he is worried about. But the injured party is not a winner by default just because the insurance company is there. Sometimes the negligence does not actually fall on the employer and was the injured person’s fault; it is not in the interest of an employer to lose the claim, because his insurance premium will certainly rise and of course it is not good for his reputation. The accident has two sides to every story and that’s why the solicitors are there to negotiate the deal that’s more favourable to the party they are representing.

My routine every day was quite similar. I worked with a bunch of paralegals and my duties included calling the injured party and clarifying the story of the accident. A large amount of claimants are foreigners who are working in the construction industry and sometimes they find it hard to explain the situation clearly from the first time. It is of course essential for the solicitors to understand exactly how the accident happened so that when they enter into negotiations they will not pitfall into the obscurity of the story.

So I called, the clients, I also called witnesses and asked to either write a witness statement or made further clarification on what they wrote in their witness statements already because they can play a very important role. I also called various other organizations to speed up the negotiation process for example when we haven’t received an important letter or to chase up some lost documents. I did some administrative work as well which included photocopying and sorting out files into relevant folders. Standard! I also had plenty of opportunities to read some interesting cases and discuss with my colleagues the intricacies of various situations. For example, a gentleman who hastily crosses the street - not at traffic lights - in the early hours of the morning when it is dark and raining, he gets run over by the car driver who was not exceeding the speed limit – does he have a chance of recovering full costs? Etc.

Sometimes, when the two parties cannot come to an agreement, solicitors can in the first instance ask the court to advise them. The court clerks will look at the claim and from their experience will advise the firm whether they have a good chance of winning the case or not. This is a very easy step and a really good one, because they are drawing on the court’s wealthy expertise and if they advise them negatively, they will not be wasting the client’s time and money in pursuing this case in court. I actually drafted one of those letters which was pretty exciting!

Although I really enjoyed this work experience tremendously because I had a chance to do so many things and get this literally ‘hands-on’ experience, I don’t think personal injury is for me. It can be an exceptionally interesting area of law and of course, personal injury lawyers are essential to help the ducklings in distress. But as I explained, I can see how routinely it can get after a while and I would probably be interested in pursuing a career in an area where there is a variety of work. Although, at another point in life, I met a barrister who specialized in personal injury claims and he was getting the kicks out of it. So it is like most things - a unique preference.

xxX Savanna Xxx

There are too many law firms and too little time. Of course there is a lot on offer: international, big national, regional, small law firms. You should be considering the pros and cons of each directory and then researching firms in that particular directory. Things to consider are: working hours, responsibility you are given at different stages, firm reputation, promotion opportunities, location, contact hours with clients, who are those clients, etc.

Personally, I have been researching various law firms, mainly international, because I speak several languages and would like to intergrate this particular skill at my work place. I am still in the middle of researching, but I have selected a few companies already and I intend to send my applications there in order to get some vac schemes sorted for this summer. It is very advisable to send those applications in as soon as possible because sometimes if not often, it is done on first come, first served basis. And in order not to cut your chances unreasonably, get those applications sorted early!!

How are your researches going?

xxX Savanna Xxx

It's end of October and unless you are a first year, you need to start looking at law firms and whether they can offer you a summer placement.

A summer placement is an excellent way of finding more about the law firm and about yourselves as well. Some of you have grown up with the preconception that you will be whizzing around Clifford & Chance or Slaughter & May office after graduation, but actually after doing work experience in several various-size law firms, you find that in the long run you would prefer working regular hours in the countryside near the city rather than in the city... Ooh la la, opinions change! However,  it is good to position yourself and realize what is that you want ealier rather than later. And that's what summer placements are all about.

Not only that, if you find the company you have worked for was a very satisfying experience and you might want to do the training contract with them then it is a very good start. This is because many employers offer many summer placement students training contracts, upon application obviously. They had a chance to see that you are interested in their company, they got to know you - how you got on with work, how you worked under pressure, whether you got on with staff, did you learn from the mistakes that you made during the placement, and the list continues.

Many law firms I presume have already opened the application process for these placements. The deadlines are very tight - end of December / beginning of January in most cases. Hence, don't leave it to the last minute and get on with it! Research the companies you want to work for. We have recently been given 'The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook 2011' [free edition published by the Law Society]. This handout should be available from your university careers centre or law library. It is a very useful publication, obviously aimed at people who are looking for training contracts or pupillages; however, it gives very good overviews of areas of law. So if you have an interest in a particular area of law - very easy to sift through the companies that would suit you. It also gives explanations to different areas of law one can get involved in. A particularly interesting section is at the front of the publication where many students are given as examples - what they studied for degree level, where they had summer placements, their reflections on the experience and further information on the placements: renumeration, location etc. They also have company profiles where they describe the company and mention whether they do work experience as well. Brilliant.

As to the applications: it usually takes a while to complete one. People in the year above were quoting '3 full days' and various figures around that, so you need to leave yourself enough time to make several really good application, proof read them (or somebody else even better) and submit them in good time! Doing this in time shows how good you are at time management.

Another quick note, apparently, many people forget to change the name of the company when they apply, so they copy paste the same material from on application to another referencing a particular company and forget to change the name after they have done that. Obviously, a silly thing to do, so don't do it!

Make sure you research the company well and when filling in the application make it relevant to that company. Show them that you are interested in them and in turn they will be interested in you.

Enough blabbing for now - good luck with the applications. Any questions - please comment. 

Soooo I have been very bad with writing things up since I came to university - but you will find it that you have so little free time on your hands as you get involved with socities and clubs, not to forget lectures and work. My timetable is looking good - this term I have Thursday off and next term Fridays and generally I have my lectures well spread out. No essays for a while...

Savanna Tyche Gray

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