Getting experienced – Catch 22

“Catch 22: a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot avoid a problem because of contradictory restraints or rules”. Budding law applicants may be familiar with this position having attempted to attain that first legal placement.

Repeatedly being told by numerous law firms that they cannot offer you work experience unless you have prior experience leads to an impossible scenario. So what is the answer to this problem? Unfortunately the answer lies in shamelessly using any contacts that you have in order to get that first placement under your belt.

Regrettably the saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is still relevant in today’s legal profession. Whilst it may no longer be so in the context of attaining a training contract, as firms are adamant that each applicant is assessed on merit, it certainly remains relevant with regards to that elusive first work experience placement. It is for this reason that one must put aside one’s pride, belief in self-sufficiency and self-reliance, and seek assistance from friends, friends of family, or brief acquaintances from by-gone days. I can say from my own experience that you will be surprised with just how willing others will be in helping you make that first step towards the training contract.

Three years ago, I was the one sending email upon email requesting a mere couple of days experience at any firm in the City. I continuously found myself banging my head against a brick wall as I received that all too predictable response. It wasn’t until I was having dinner at a friend’s house that I plucked up the courage to ask the host’s father whether he would consider taking me on for a few days. He was more than happy to oblige. Whilst the work placement itself was priceless in exposing me to the inner workings of a commercial law firm for the first time, it was the effect that it had on subsequent applications that was equally as valuable, if not more so. For the first time in my short legal career, I felt that my CV was now granted the due attention and consideration that it deserved.

The importance of that first law placement cannot be understated: The contacts that you possess will provide you with that much needed leverage in order to progress in this testing profession.

Next week: The vacation scheme