Applying for a training contract is a daunting process, and a common misconception is that legal work experience is an essential requirement. This isn’t the case – any work experience provides valuable skills that are transferable into the legal sector. Below are a few examples of skills that work experience gained in any industry can develop and demonstrate.
Gaining work experience gives you the opportunity to practice time-management, multi-tasking, and juggling the many demands that a working day throws at you. The structure of academic study teaches us organisation and routine from the outset, but there comes a point where everyone has to learn how to keep pedalling without the stabilisers. Working alongside others in different sectors allows you to experience different ways of working, to organise your own time and keep up with the varied demands of a team.
Having the opportunity to meet new people helps to develop your confidence and communication skills. Increasingly, in the hybrid working world where colleagues aren’t always in the same building, open lines of communication are key. Work experience will help you to refine your approach to different methods and styles of communication, such as face-to-face interaction, phone calls, video, instant messaging and email. Exposure to any or all of these communication types will stand you in good stead for preparing to be a lawyer.
Learning to work with others collaboratively towards a common goal is essential to becoming a great lawyer. Non-legal work experience presents the opportunity to develop the skills needed to listen and take on others’ points of view (from different sectors and industries). Teamwork is a sure-fire interview question topic, so having a practical example of a time during which you demonstrated that you are a team player is a great card to pull out of your pocket to impress.
Though daunting initially, approaching work experience with an enthusiastic attitude is the best way to get as much out of the time as possible. This is a great mindset to develop when applying for a training contract, as a passion to learn and do a great job will set you up for success. For tips on developing a proactive, can-do outlook see fellow trainee Tegan’s article here.
Many of the skills above are exactly what our trainee supervisors consider to be key ingredients for a standout trainee (see fellow trainee Sophie’s recent article here.)
Varied work experience also provides interesting anecdotes and makes you memorable at the interview. Some of our current trainees have work experience from sectors such as estate and land agency, public sector work, childcare, retail and hospitality, engineering, and logistics. They all used example scenarios to demonstrate their skills of communication, teamwork and organisation gained from those areas at their interview.
Entering the legal profession from other industries brings with it a different perspective, a diverse mindset and deepens your commercial awareness. That can only ever be a good thing, and is something to capitalise on in your applications, during your training contract, and beyond.
In addition, pro bono, volunteering and other extra-curricular activities (such as positions of responsibility at university or in the community) are invaluable additions to your CV to make your application stand out and give you the best shot at securing a training contract.