Developing your Legal CV
A legal CV is slightly different from a general purpose CV, in that it offers an opportunity to illustrate that you have the core skills and experience specifically relevant to a career in law. Two of the best know roles in the legal sphere are the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions, and since Inner Temple supports barristers, the advice below relates to the Bar.
Your success in gaining legal work experience may depend on a number of factors: for example, some organisations prefer to offer opportunities to those who are in the second or third year of a law degree or the GDL, so don’t be disheartened if you aren’t offered work experience initially, keep trying. If you do your research now, you can carefully plan your journey to the Bar instead of trying to cram in some work experience at the last minute.
The kinds of legal work experience and activities outlined below are by no means exhaustive and should not be considered a box ticking exercise. Remember, gaining law related experience should be seen as a means of helping you decide whether you want to pursue a career as a barrister and also to accrue skills and valuable experience.
A mini-pupillage involves spending 3-5 days shadowing a barrister to find out what their role entails. You are probably familiar with seeing barristers in fictional TV series, and more often than not they are depicted in the court room, but a great deal of their time will be spent preparing for cases in chambers or perhaps in their Inn of Court’s library. A mini-pupillage shouldn’t be a passive experience with you simply observing from afar. You may also get a chance to do things such as: see a trial in court, complete some challenging legal exercises and discuss some cases with the barrister you’re shadowing. Some chambers will offer assessed mini-pupillages, which might be a requirement if you intend to apply for pupillage with that particular set.
If there’s a particular area of law that is of interest to you, you should do some research to find out which chambers specialise in that area and target them for work experience. This information is relatively easy to find online or in hardcopy publications like Chambers and Partners.
Gaining relevant legal work experience is an important step in your journey to becoming a barrister, although it can be a daunting process if you don’t know where to start. The Inner Temple’s, Pegasus Access and Support Scheme, aims to help second or third year university students and those on the GDL from backgrounds underrepresented at the Bar, to gain a mini-pupillage. To be considered for PASS you will need to complete an application form and meet additional criteria. Please refer to the section of the website that relates to this scheme for a description of our criteria and to find out how to apply.
Work experience at a law firm/ vacation schemes
We mentioned earlier that if you’re not quite sure which legal profession to pursue, you should try to get different kinds of experience to help you make informed decisions. For this reason you might also want to apply for a placement at a law firm to contrast against your mini-pupillages. Just like a mini-pupillage, work experience in this context is likely to last a similar number of days. You might do things such as help to prepare bundles, attend court and sit in on meetings with clients.
Vacation schemes also provide insight into the solicitors’ profession, however, such placements tend to be lengthier and may also be geared towards providing insight into undertaking the training contract with a particular firm.
Marshalling involves shadowing a judge in court, and these placements tend to last a week. Marshalling is a wonderful way to gain insight into the way that various elements of the legal system come together in the context of the court room. Since many judges have also practised as barristers, sitting with one offers a chance to learn from somebody that has broad knowledge of the profession. This kind of work experience can also be interesting for demonstrating court room etiquette, while watching barristers in action can be a great way to gain tips on advocacy.
The Inner Temple offers a marshalling programme to its student members but there’s no harm in applying for this kind of experience independently, via your local Crown Court.
Visiting a Crown Court
A relatively simple way to take a closer look at court room dynamics is to visit your local Crown Court and watch a trial. This is another useful way to see advocacy in practise and to see how barristers interact with witnesses. If this sounds interesting, your first step will be to locate your local Crown Court, which you can do here: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/
Widening Access Programmes
The modern Bar is doing a great deal to shed its reputation as elitist and is providing opportunities for bright students from all backgrounds to develop the skills required to pursue a career as a barrister. For example, the Inner Temple’s Schools Project provides sixth form students the chance to work on legal exercises under the guidance of barristers.
Achievements, Awards and Positions of Responsibility
Aspiring barristers should bear in mind that while academic achievements are important, you should avoid the trap of downplaying your other successes. If you have won awards for academic attainment at school or college, this information should feature alongside any accolades that you have earned in areas such as: music, sports, voluntary work and community projects.
Things you can do while at university
The advice in this section might be best suited to those who intend to pursue a law undergraduate degree, as some of the organisations mentioned might require that you have some legal knowledge. Those intending to study a non-law degree might need to wait until they are completing the GDL before they have access to some of these opportunities.
- Relevant student societies: universities offer a range of societies that are a lot like extra-curricular clubs at school or sixth form. Participating in debating, mooting and law societies can be an excellent way of building confidence in public speaking, constructing arguments and finding out more about legal careers.
- Volunteering with a pro-bono unit: this involves offering free legal advice to those who may otherwise be unable to afford access to legal assistance.
- Volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau: Volunteering with the CAB provides a chance to interact with members of the public who will be contacting the organisation to obtain information in relation to a variety of issues, some of which might be legal. The CAB offers a variety of volunteering opportunities, click on this link for more information: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/support-us/volunteering/about-volunteering-with-citizens-advice/volunteer_roles/