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Top tips on applying for legal placements

View profile for Lauren Smallwood
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Top tips on applying for legal placements

Lauren Smallwood, Wills & Tax Solicitor at Frettens, provides her top tips for students looking to apply for legal placements and describes her own experience as a law student at Bournemouth University.

The path to become a solicitor

There is no denying that the path to becoming a solicitor is not straight forward.

However, routes to qualification are becoming more flexible and widely available thanks to the SQE and Legal Apprentice opportunities.

With that being said, the traditional method of studying the LPC and undertaking a training contract is set to remain for the coming years and is a popular route to qualification for many law graduates.

How to stand out from the crowd

Therefore, it is more important than ever to make yourself stand out so HR recruiters can pick your application out of a pile (of what sometimes can be hundreds of applications) and remember you.

Undertaking a legal placement is one way you can do this, and we are now delighted to offer the opportunity to aspiring legal students to undertake a placement at Frettens.

Why undertake a legal placement?

  • It will teach you the skills you will need to become a paralegal or trainee solicitor;
  • It will enable you to get to grips with office etiquette;
  • It can help you decide whether the legal career is right for you;
  • You will have lots to talk about in future interviews from experiences you have had whilst undertaking your placement;
  • As is the case at Frettens, undertaking a placement could lead you to securing a training contract at the firm in the future if you make a good impression!

How do I apply for a legal placement?

The first port of call in the application process is to submit a covering letter and CV.

I think this is the toughest part of the application process as you need to put your experience and personality down on paper.

 If you are shortlisted, you will then attend an interview before a final decision is made.

Tips for writing your covering letter

  • Keep it on one page (recruiters often do not have time to read through pages of writing and you want to make an impact in a succinct way);
  • Cater it to the firm you are applying for (look at the firms’ website and their values and draw upon your experiences and say how you would be a good fit);
  • Quality over quantity (rather than applying for lots of firms pick those that stand out most to you and focus your attention on those);
  • Spell check and proofread your letter (I would also ask someone else to read it through and sense check it).

Tips for writing your CV

  • Show off any work experience, volunteering or experience obtained during a gap year abroad which has helped you begin to develop the skills required in the legal sector;
  • Set out your achievements for any hobbies or extracurricular activities you have taken part in (i.e. music or sports or gap year).
  • Use section headings and bullet points to keep your CV concise and professional;
  • Again, spell check and proofread your CV!

Tips for your interview

  • Take a deep breath and talk slowly;
  • Prepare lots of examples of times you have demonstrated certain skills you need to work at a law firm (i.e. resolved a problem);
  • Prepare questions to ask your interviewer at the end so you can see if the firm is the right fit for you;
  • Be confident and most importantly be yourself!

My background and experience with my placement

I studied my law degree at Bournemouth University.

As a part of my degree I undertook a legal placement during my third year at Poole Borough Council, where I worked as a legal assistant undertaking child protection and commercial work.

I was able to see the law brought to life from my textbooks (I attended court with a barrister in my first week!) and experience the day to day life of working in an office environment.

What was my experience with my placement?

This confirmed to me that being a solicitor was something I wanted to pursue, and it put me in good stead for securing my first paralegal position after graduating from university. 

I then undertook the LPC/LLM in legal practice part-time online at the University of Law.

I opted for this type of course as it allowed me to study when it suited me, and I could obtain postgraduate funding to assist with the course fees.

I also continued to work full time as a paralegal at a local firm, so I was obtaining practical legal experience at the same time which has – thankfully – now led me to my current trainee solicitor role here at Frettens.

How did my placement help me?

Without legal experience from my placement it would have been much more difficult for me to obtain a fee earning role after completing my degree.

We offer placement and trainee opportunities here at Frettens and would love to hear from you!

Legal placements in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

We are currently looking for two placement students to join us for 12 months, starting in the summer.

As a law student, you will gain valuable experience in a progressive and modern law firm; initially working with our specialist residential property team.

Law students will have the opportunity to apply for a training contract to continue their learning at the end of the placement.

If you're a law student who wants to study in sunny Bournemouth, this placement might be for you!

For more information and application details, click here.

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