A Letter To My First Year Self: Law Student Edition

Dear First Year Self,

The time has finally come. You are about to embark on the most exciting (and potentially the most influential) three years of your life: the LLB Law degree. With your excessive amount of fairy lights and IKEA bought crockery you have definitely earned the title of ‘fresher’. However, cruising through the harsh waters of the LLB is not all plain sailing. As your somewhat-wiser-self from a year in the future, I am writing this letter to offer you some advice that I NEEDED to know when I started university.

First and foremost: first year DEFINITELY counts…

Midweek society socials may leave you pondering whether attending 9am lectures are really worth it; however, truancy is a dangerous habit to fall into. ‘Don’t worry! First year doesn’t even count’ croaks Rachel, who is still suffering from last night’s eighth vodka shot. Rachel is incorrect.

Although the marks you attain in first year have no influence on your final degree grade, they have a strong influence on applications to vacation schemes in your second year. Individual module grades will permanently brand your CV to prospective firms, so make sure these are truly reflective of your academic ability. Aiming towards a consistent 2:1 will put you in a great position to apply for the top firms.

This is easier said than done. You are not in sixth form anymore – Mr. Harrison is not here to give you a model answer at the end of the lesson. The transition to higher education is marked by the independence required of you within learning. Take advantage of the resources available to you: build a relationship with your personal tutor; make use of your lecturer’s office hours; put effort into your formative (practise) exams and stock up on Redbull for those late night library sessions.

Be active on campus…

In addition to the social benefits, getting involved on campus gives you a competitive advantage over others with a similar academic record to you. There are many transferable skills which can be developed when joining societies, sports clubs and partaking in volunteering. It is crucial to demonstrate these skills through experience and specific examples during applications to internships and training contracts. The University’s Law Society is almost a prerequisite for the CV of an aspiring lawyer – this would be a good place to start!

However, participation is the bare minimum. Firms are drawn to candidates who can illustrate their leadership and collaborative qualities through experiences such as being on a committee. Commit to societies in first year to give yourself the opportunity to apply for a more influential role during committee elections later in the year.

Become aware…

Commercial awareness is a term often thrown around but caught with little confidence. An understanding of current affairs and the implications of these for businesses is essential to becoming a lawyer. Build this into your everyday life by reading a few relevant articles a day, signing up to commercial awareness email updates and attempting to have one commercial based conversation with a peer daily (Rachel may not be the friend for this!)

Awareness of law firms is also crucial. There are a variety of firm types: Magic Circle, Silver Circle, US firms, City firms, National, Regional, and High-street. Get to know firms you are interested in by attending law fairs and applying for open days. Internship applications sometimes ask whether you have previously interacted with the said firm through events such as these.

Work experience opportunities…

You already know how highly experience is regarded in the legal career so why would you not start now? There is a variety of programmes specifically offered to first years, typically termed ‘insight schemes’. Many first years become aware of these schemes after the deadline has passed, so participation in these will greatly strengthen your candidate profile.  Becoming a campus ambassador is another great opportunity to interact with firms, network and demonstrate your organisational skills. Applications for this opportunity usually open during late Spring/Summer. Information on deadlines for the aforementioned opportunities can be found on Chambers Student.

LinkedIn…

Remember that LinkedIn account you created two years ago but never paid attention to? Welcome to your new social media. Spend a significant amount of time updating your profile because this is the first impression you will be giving to a range of legal professionals. ‘Aspiring Solicitor’ or ‘First Year LLB Student’ would make a great first headline before you find other legal opportunities to get involved with. [Click here for more advice on developing your profile].

Don’t lose sight of who you are…

The pressures of a law degree can be overwhelming but remember that your mental wellbeing takes precedence. Have fun. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Say yes to the party. Make friends to last a lifetime.

Prepare yourself: 2020 is a bumpy ride, but that is a letter for another time.

Lots of love,

You from the future

P.s. just in case you were wondering – you still can’t cook. Some things never change.

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