Thursday, October 11, 2012

How I became the 'Law Undergraduate of the year 2012'

As promised Robin Morris, this year's winner of the Law Undergraduate of the year is back with his third and final tip for applying to the 2013 awards

What are they looking for (part two)

3) Don’t be afraid to be a little unorthodox

It comes as no surprise that the already competitive market for positions at law firms has worsened because of the economic crisis. According to the Law Society’s most recent Annual Statistical Report the number of training contracts offered by law firms fell by 18% in 2011. As the perturbing level of competition for training contracts intensifies, so too does the rush for the elusive vacation placement and dwindling work experience opportunities.

My advice? Be unorthodox in your approach towards your studies (within reason) and more importantly, towards gaining those extra-curricular experiences. Since an increasingly large amount of candidates continue to apply to law firms via the ‘official’ application route there is almost a need to adopt unconventional methods. My position as a reporter for the International Law Association (ILA) at their bi-annual conference in Sofia recently arose after contacting the chairperson of one of the ILA’s working committees. I emailed the chairperson expressing my interest in the work of the committee along with a copy of my CV. Two months later I was working in Belgium for the committee, and 8 months after that I was working for the ILA in Sofia - all because I sent one email expressing my interest and offering my time.

I’m not advocating anything particularly radical here. Hand-delivering or emailing a CV and covering letter to a partner at a law firm directly can sometimes open more doors than you would expect. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? They reject your offer or politely inform you that it would not be possible to undertake a period of work experience outside the official vacation scheme placement. Never mind – dust yourself off, raise your head high and approach the next law firm or legal organisation! Having confidence in yourself and the self-assurance in what you have to offer is all it takes. Displaying personal initiative can sometimes bring big rewards.

So there you have it: work hard, make the most of the opportunities given and adopt some unconventional methods. As mentioned at the outset, this may not be the winning combination the judges are looking for - I cannot guarantee that this is how you will win. But I hope that as you read this it will make you pause to consider your own situation if not for the sake of the award then for the sake of applying for a vacation scheme or training contract.

Ask yourself: could you be the Law Undergraduate of the Year 2013?