Although law school may provide students with many useful skills and the foundations of legal knowledge, there is rarely much focus on what life as a practising lawyer is like or how varied a legal career can be.
It can therefore come as quite a shock to the system once a student begins their well-earned training contract or pupillage. Below are 5 tips to help with the transition from law school to the legal workplace:
1. Get practical experience early on: Academic study of the law and legal practice are very different. You may find a subject fascinating at law school, but have you taken time to consider the realities of working in that area? It is really important to follow your interests but also be aware that different areas of law, can mean very different working hours, remuneration, working environments etc. Gaining work experience and making contacts in the industry will help to provide you with an understanding of what life as a lawyer in a particular area of practice is really like.
2. Be adaptable: We all know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, but your personal circumstances, interests and priorities at 20 will be very different at 35 (and onwards) and opportunities can come from the least expected places. Although it is useful to have a plan, it is crucial that you stay flexible and open to new ideas. This skill is also essential to ensure you are able to adapt to the different ways of work of your Supervisors and the varying needs of clients.
3. Think commercially: whatever area of law you go into, you will need to have a broader understanding of the bigger picture and both your firm and your client’s interests and long term goals. Success in the legal workplace cannot be achieved through legal knowledge alone.
4. Be nice: Assertiveness and ambition can be useful skills as a lawyer. But the legal world is a small one. Always be professional and courteous, you never know when you might come into contact with that person again during your legal career. And make friends with your training cohort. The people you train with can be fantastic sources of much-needed support and friendship when you are starting out.
5. Be kind to yourself: Yes becoming a successful lawyer requires commitment and hard work but you have to look after your physical and mental well-being or you will burn out, fast. This means having a life outside of the office and not putting too much pressure on yourself. Mistakes will sometimes be made, some days will be stressful, but things will start to click and get easier over time. Some of the best and happiest lawyers I know are those that are passionate about doing a good job for their clients but also able to draw a line under the working day.
By Anna Simmonds, Employed Barrister at The International Family Law Group LLP. Anna has had a broad and varied experience of working within the legal profession since graduating from the University of Durham in 2007 where she gained First Class Hons in Law. Prior to moving in-house as an Employed Barrister at a family law firm, Anna worked at the independent bar at an established London chambers and in publishing, managing a multi-million pound portfolio of legal publications and a team of editors and freelancers. Anna is also a trained Mentor and has delivered careers workshops and CV advice to young people.
For more information about The International Family Law Group LLP, please click here.