Missed the deadlines for a vacation scheme or mini-pupillage? Looking for work experience in other areas of law? There are alternatives for work experience and networking is a key way to unearth these opportunities.
In my time working with Queen Mary postgraduate law students it has become apparent to me how essential networking skills are and how challenging students find it. It is hard to communicate with new people and have to “sell” yourself. Sound like you?
Armed with a process and some tips hopefully your networking confidence can grow.
There are two main reasons to network when you are a law student:
- To learn more about the legal profession. It can help refine your search, provide insider knowledge about firms or roles you are considering and help prepare you for interviews.
- To identify actual internship or job opportunities
This post focuses on the second reason and on one possible approach to networking other than “in person” to help you get started.
Where are the opportunities for internships (or work experience)?
This is a matter of research, but here are some ideas.
- Mid-size to smaller firms and chambers with specialties. Search the Law Society’s “Find a Solicitor” directory (http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/) or the UK The Legal 500 (http://www.legal500.com/)
- In-house legal teams. They might not hire inexperience lawyers on a permanent basis, but might offer work experience.
- Non-legal work in a financial institution if you are interested in finance or banking.
- Charities or NGO’s like citizen advice bureaus, human rights advocates or youth legal advice services.
- Trade organizations representing the legal interests of industries, i.e. The Federation Against Copyright Theft
- Legal roles that may take advantage of your language skills
There are more alternatives and guess what? One way of finding out about them is through networking.
Okay I have identified some target firms, companies or organizations, how do I network to get an internship?
First check your university recruitment sites for opportunities, but as for networking your way in, start with your warm contacts. These are people you know like family friends, aunts, uncles, your parent’s business acquaintances, or anyone at the next party you go to. For international students find out who your contacts at home might know in the UK.
LinkedIn, as previously discussed, is also a valuable source, particularly for Queen Mary Alumni. https://www.linkedin.com/edu/alumni?id=12626&trk=edu-up-nav-menu-alumni
Do these contacts know someone who works in the areas you are interested in or are they involved?
Do not rule out too many people. You never know who someone knows.
So I have some contacts now what do I do?
Don’t ask them for an internship. Don’t send them your CV. At least not right away. Call or write them to tell them that you are seeking their advice about your career direction. You are after an informational interview. In your note or call, briefly tell them about yourself, what you are looking for and that you just want a short amount of their time to talk.
In my experience this is more effective than out right asking them for a potential internship. If they don’t have an internship at the time they might just say there isn’t one, ending the conversation. Most people like to help and give their advice. Less people are comfortable talking about a position right away with someone they don’t know.
If they agree to talk, identify a number of good questions to discuss. At the end of the conversation ask them two things.
- Can you keep in touch with them?
- Can you have the contact details of anyone they know who could give you additional insight?
Commit to getting at least one more contact. When you contact that person make sure to put the name of the person who referred you in your subject line if you email them. This will encourage them to open the message.
Send your original contact a thank you note telling them what you found interesting about your conversation and if it feels right let them know you are looking for work experience and attach your CV in case anything comes up. Connect with them via LinkedIn.
Do stay in touch to keep yourself top of mind, without being overly persistent. Update them about your search or send an article of interest to them.
It is a game of numbers in some ways. Meanwhile you are learning more about your profession and you are building your network for your long term career.
If this sounds like it will work for you give it a try!