Most universities have a law society. But with so much pressure on your time already, why should you get involved?
Simple – because joining your law society can help you to get where you want to be in your future career.
Good grades alone are unlikely to get you an interview for a training contract or pupillage. You need to be able to demonstrate a range of skills, and that’s where your law society can help.
Team working is an obvious example. Like many firms and chambers, law societies are inevitably collaborative. Running events, putting a mooting team together, compiling a newsletter – these things all require planning, teamwork and compromise.
You don’t need to be a member of the society committee to play an active role. In my experience, anyone showing some willingness will swiftly be welcomed and just as swiftly be given something useful to do.
I have been chair of the Open University Law Society since April 2014 and it has taught me leadership skills that I am sure will serve me well in my future career. Managing expectations and finding ways to translate ideas into action are crucial. As Henry Ford said: “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do”. My committee were incredibly enthusiastic when we were first elected. But I felt it was important to strike a balance between welcoming new ideas and coming up with a plan to start to deliver for our members as soon as possible. I believe we have done that. This year alone, we have welcomed speakers from the Government Legal Service, run two advocacy workshops and organised our own novice mooting competition. And we have published two newsletters with news, gossip and interviews from legal professionals.
The social aspect is a bonus. Many OU students only bump into each other at exam time. Being involved with the OU Law Society has provided me some great opportunities to meet people with similar ambitions in a much less stressful environment. And some of them are actually quite fun! Outside of the pub, meeting a wide variety of students in a similar position to you is a great source of career intelligence, CV tips and informal mentoring. I think this would ring true for students at traditional universities too.
Influence is another reason why it pays to be a member of your law society. I’ll say this quietly, but the fact is that university law departments aren’t perfect. There will inevitably be frustrations throughout your studies, or aspects of the degree programme that you think your department could improve on.
Providing you can persuade fellow members to agree with you (which is a valuable skill in itself!), your law society is a powerful platform from which to lobby your university. At the OU Law Society we have been lobbying for a new essay prize to give students another opportunity to stand out on their CV – and a chance to win some valuable cash.
Ultimately, joining your law society is a strong example of your commitment to the law. If you are serious about getting a training contract or a pupillage, why are you not involved?
Amy Woolfson is chair of the Open University Law Society
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