Confirm my choices, initially to study the LLB and then to commit to a career as a solicitor. It provided me with an important insight into different types of law firms and the various roles within them.
We hear from Brendan Collar, who took part in a work experience PRIME programme during his A-Levels, run by DLA Piper. Brendan is now an Associate at RPC.
Where and when did you do your experience?
I did my work experience with DLA Piper during my A Levels in 2011.
What tips would you give a student thinking of applying for work experience in a law firm?
It’s important to demonstrate your interest in the law and where that interest has come from. You might be, like me, studying A-level Law, in which case you can discuss various aspects of the curriculum on your application. Even if you are not studying law, you should read around the subject and focus on current issues that are being discussed around the profession. Research is important, to identify the opportunities available and also the different types of firms that are offering them.
What tips would you give a student preparing for their work experience?
Research the firm that you’ll be attending. Look for its strengths, identify the departments/sectors and the major clients that they look after. Use the news section of the firm’s website to discover what the firm has been involved in recently, and search the web for stories about the firm and its staff. Having an insight into the firm before starting your placement is extremely important because first impressions count.
How can a student get the most from their work experience?
Ensure you carry a notepad and pen and take notes throughout your placement so you can refer back to them at a later date. This will be useful when it comes to writing university applications.
Pay attention during presentations, again taking notes, and listen carefully to instructions when undertaking individual or group work. Ask questions when prompted and ensure you participate, but give others in the group the opportunity to contribute too.
If you make a good impression, then other opportunities may become available to you – I was fortunate to receive an invitation back from DLA Piper to undertake an additional placement.
What was the best part of your work experience and why?
I enjoyed meeting all the different people at the firm, from partners to the administrators, but the best was meeting the trainees. They gave me a real insight into the progression from A-levels and the LLB via the LPC to joining a firm, and what was required of me to be successful.
Also, working on actual scenarios and working with actual clients and attending meetings was fantastic and, for the first time, I was able to visualise myself as someone who could belong in the legal profession.
What surprised you most about your work experience?
The camaraderie! All the staff were extremely welcoming and supportive, something I was definitely not expecting. I anticipated that the atmosphere would be solemn and serious, but instead there was a feeling of togetherness. Instantly I could see myself working in such an atmosphere, one where people can have enjoyment and even share a joke while, of course, working hard and diligently.
Moving to now, what is the best part of your job as a solicitor and why?
I’m an associate in the commercial team at RPC in London and without doubt the best part of my job is the people and the variety of work. I work with the best in the business and advise a wide range of clients within the UK and across the globe. One of my specialisms is working within retail, which even before Covid-19 was a challenging sector, and I thrive off the constantly changing nature of the market and how my clients are having to react to the current and future marketplace.
I co-author a regular newsletter that addresses the key trends within retail and it is extremely satisfying when colleagues and those outside the firm cite the information that we provide.
What words of motivation do you have for a school student thinking about the law as a career?
You can make it! I was the first person in my family to study A-levels, the first person in my family to go to university and now I’m an associate at an internationally respected top-ranked law firm in London. It wasn’t easy – I worked every weekend during my A-levels and degree to make ends meet – and there were challenges to overcome, both while studying the degree/LPC and during my two years as a trainee, but the rewards have outweighed the sacrifices. I have a great job representing a variety of interesting clients and working with an outstanding team of colleagues in a supportive environment. If you’re interested in the law, then the law is interested in you.