When applying for legal internships showing transferrable skills from any experience is beneficial. A CV without law-related activities will not necessarily put students at a disadvantage. However, there are benefits to exploring this industry prior to entering it. Partaking in law-related activities can help in understanding the type and quality of work conducted by law firms. It can aid students in better preparing themselves for practice and could additionally narrow their interest to a specific field of law. Therefore it is worthwhile to explore ways to gain legal experience.
Following lockdown measures imposed in light of COVID-19, many law firms have decided to scrap their internship schemes. However, the magic circle and a few other firms have decided to run their vacations schemes virtually while firms like BDB Pitmans and Browne Jacobson have instead encouraged their applicants to apply for training contracts. As a result, students hoping to gain legal work experience this summer are left with their plans upended. This has led to a scramble to look for opportunities elsewhere, and most importantly due to the current situation, online.
Many platforms aimed at acclimating students to work conducted at law firms have existed before the pandemic. Now, with the increasing dependence on technology and the cancellation of internship schemes, these platforms have gained traction.
InsideSherpa is a platform that provides company-endorsed Virtual Work Experience Programs. It is open access and includes tasks and modules in programs from different industries that help students build professional skills. The programs mimic real-world experience of internships at a particular firm or industry. After completion of a program, a certificate is awarded. InsideSherpa allows top employers to view tasks completed by participants and this could serve as a leg-up for students in understanding firms they plan on applying to. Some legal firms providing experience on the site include Linklaters, Latham & Watkins, and White & Case.
In an effort to mitigate the uncertainty and disruption caused by the pandemic, Clifford Chance has recently decided to run its vacation scheme online in collaboration with InsideSherpa. With support from the University of York, Clifford Chance will provide a curriculum for the virtual experience created by lawyers from its offices around the world. This program helps students gain insight into working at an international law firm.
Bright Network is a platform established in 2013 that provides students with opportunities to network and gain insight into different companies and industries. The media tech platform holds employability workshops and recruitment fairs. It allows members to network with representatives from top banking, consulting, and legal firms.
In response to COVID-19, Bright Network launched Internship Experience UK, a series of three-day virtual experiences. The experience began on 29th June and each program ran over the following three weeks. The experiences were created by top firms in six sectors – Investment Banking, Technology, Business, Ops & Marketing, Finance & Professional Services, Consulting and Commercial Law. Members participated in skills workshops delivered by leading employers and completed a project that simulated real tasks undertaken in the role of an intern. The Commercial Law experience was delivered by trainee solicitors, partners and graduate recruitment teams from Allen & Overy, Clyde & Co, Herbert Smith Freehills, Sidley Austin and Slaughter and May.
With many summer internships being cancelled, it is important to not fall into idleness. Another opportunity to gain legal experience comes from understanding and exploring different areas of law. This could be conducted through taking online courses. There are various platforms in which this could be done. FutureLearn and Coursera are two examples. Taking part in law courses can enhance knowledge of the legal industry and could be beneficial for writing application and interviews. The lockdown might feign a hopeless atmosphere, but it is possible to stay active and pursue a legal career.
The adjustments and alternatives that we have had to use in order to adapt to working and learning during the pandemic has provided a plethora of inventive ideas for the future. Some of the temporary measures put in place may turn permanent. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that the lockdown measures have urged both students and law firms to be creative in getting jobs done.
One takeaway would be that it is now easier to gain insight into the legal industry at an early stage. With many open access platforms and online learning programs, students can start preparing for a career in law anytime, anywhere. By exploring different areas of law and by practicing tasks conducted at the internship level, students can hit the ground running when starting their vacation schemes. This also provides law firms with the opportunity to attract talent early. Being present in platforms like InsideSherpa allows students to learn more about the firm, and most importantly, the type and quality of work expected. Having an intake of interns who are familiar with the tasks given to them can fast-track the level of responsibility handed to them.
Additionally, law firms can now offer more internship vacancies remotely and not limited to the UK. This in turn, can increase diversity and inclusion in firms. For example, regarding the aforementioned Clifford Chance program, Laura Yeates, Head of Graduate Talent at the firm, stated that they “expect the participants to be the most internationally and socio-economically diverse group of students that [they] have ever welcomed.” Such programs can help to bring a fresh perspective of firms and provide opportunities for students who might be otherwise be unable to partake in internships due to geographic or economic reasons.
Methods of gaining remote legal experience as a result of Covid-19 have been highlighted. This spotlight on online tools has highlighted its efficiency and far-reaching capabilities which should be taken advantage of by both students and law firms alike. While law firms will soon move away from remote-working, the takeaways from the use of technology will remain.
~ Aathira Prakash, The Student Lawyer