Work out what you want
It is very different to be aiming for a magic circle trainee route, to being a high street lawyer, or even a charity immigration lawyer with a solely legal aid workload. It is crucially important that you try to get the experience to find out which of these would suit you best. As a legal aid lawyer, you are likely to have less demanding clients, a more interesting caseload and a much better chance of having cases proceed to the higher courts (many private clients simply cannot afford the legal fees of taking a case to the Court of Appeal, or Supreme Court.)
Maybe, you don’t even want to go down the traditional solicitor or barrister route, perhaps you would rather work towards your OISC qualification or perhaps it would suit you better to work in a court environment? There’s even a chance, shock horror, you might want to join the Home Office side.
What if you don’t know what you want?
Very, very, normal. My own experience was that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do law. Try it out. Try to get experience in law particularly in different areas, doing different things. You don’t necessarily need to work nine to five or commit to only immigration law. Some firms offer evening shifts preparing bundles and working when their day staff are asleep. Many firms would be happy for you to commit to volunteering on a regular basis, such as once a week.
Help with boring tasks
Many firms would be happy to have help with administrative tasks and this does give you a good idea of the work you’d be undertaking, at least in the beginning. Is it boring? Sinfully. However, the job needs to be done, and doing a good job is likely to mean you are not stuck at the photocopier for a long time. Furthermore, most employers making use of free labour, are willing to give you a shot at harder more ‘lawyerly’ tasks, provided you help them cross a few other tasks off their list. So, get the bundles photocopied, pay attention, don’t rush, get them right and then say: ‘I would love a chance to draft something’. Chances are, they have some legal representations, or a letter clogging up their to do list. This is a fantastic experience as it allows you to draft with impunity!
Experience, experience, experience
It’s the catch 22 of most career paths, you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. In reality, it’s not as hard to get experience as it seems. Keep persevering and try to show your face, sometimes walking into smaller law firms with your C.V. and an idea of what you want, is the key to getting the experience you need. Once you have that experience, you can start thinking about taking exams, such as the OISC level 1 exam or the CLT Trainee Casework Assistant exam. Once you have a qualification, your chances of securing a training contract are considerably improved.
Speak to people in the know
Met someone on the train who is at a law firm? Ask about their recruitment or work experience. There are efforts to reduce nepotism within law, however, it will always be there, so network, network wherever you are, the more you speak the more you are likely to be able to get the experience you need.