Advice for aspiring law students from an NTU graduate

Advice for aspiring law students from an NTU graduate

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Emma Lawler, Partner at Langleys SolicitorsEmma Lawler, Partner at Langleys Solicitors

After completing her LLB Law at Nottingham Trent University in 2000, Emma Lawler has gone on to become a partner at Langleys Solicitors where she specialises in high-value family law cases. Whether you’re already studying Law, or plan to do so, Emma has these tips for a successful career.

Find practical experience

First off, work experience is invaluable for a law student as it gives you a better chance of securing a trainee contract after graduation. In between studying and any other work, it is important to dedicate plenty of time to finding a firm and clocking in as many practical-based hours as possible.

While securing a trainee contract is the traditional path to take after graduation, you could choose to become a paralegal first, then train in-house. This is a good option for those who want to get into law but either haven’t secured a contract, or took some time-out after university – such as a gap year.

Understand your future

If I could change one thing about my time in between studying, I would definitely have done as much work experience as possible. Getting your foot in the door is so beneficial for your career because it not only helps you understand how a law firm works, but it also provides you with key contacts in the industry.

Studying at Nottingham Trent University opens up a great law scene, with a number of firms offering structured training periods for one or two weeks. Getting to know professionals and business owners provides dozens of opportunities for you later on down the line, so always try to leave a lasting impression by staying professional, passionate and dedicated.

Make friends with office support staff

When you start your first role, be nice to your support team – the assistants and administrators that really make a law firm tick. They have seen it all and can be the key to your success as they will be able to offer advice and guidance. It can be difficult adjusting to the office culture straight away, so looking after those working directly alongside you can make the process easier.

A strong awareness of commercial challenges and opportunities is also extremely useful. While reputable firms want to practice law well, they also need to make money. New legislation might mean a change in practice that could cut revenue, therefore you’ll need to consider new services if that happens.

Advice to live by

Understanding the practice area you would like to specialise in early on can be a great help too – try to think about what interests you the most, whether it’s family or commercial law, for example. Knowing what you enjoy and find interesting helps steer your studies and work experience into areas that give you a strong foundation for a successful career

If you choose civil rather than criminal law, decide whether you want to work in a commercial or private practice and then identify the areas that interest you most, such as family or personal injury. Don’t panic if you don’t know where you want to specialise – not many people do at this stage – but understanding different practice areas will help you narrow down your options.

After that, having practical experience in each area can help you understand the common challenges that might crop up. A general understanding of law as a business is also important, as you may manage people’s finances and budgets one day as a partner, so it is useful to understand how practices are run.

It goes without saying that communication skills are essential in law, as is having the confidence to speak to those already in the industry. As you rise up the ranks, these skills become even more valuable as you will need to offer constructive feedback and advice to get the best out of your junior team members.

You will also need the ability to empathise so you can combine your legal expertise and experience with your capability to understand what a client may be going through.

Like any career, you will need to do your research and use your commonsense and initiative, whether you are on work experience or just started in your first paid position. A strong work ethic is also essential, as is staying on top of the latest legislation and case law.

Good luck.

visit www.langleys.com/careers for more information on the opportunities and work experience available at Langleys.

About the author

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