'Your Future, Your Legal Career' Student Conference
There are so many changes hitting the legal profession that it can be hard for students to keep up to date. With this in mind, Nottingham Law School organised and hosted the 'Your Future, Your Legal Career' student conference, in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, to highlight the employment opportunities available to future Law graduates.
What did the conference cover?
The conference commenced with an introduction from Professor Andrea Nollent, Dean of Nottingham Law School, in which she welcomed the delegates and visitors from other law schools.
This was followed by an overview of the changes envisaged by the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) research phase from Professor Jane Ching. Professor Ching was one of the lead researchers for the LETR, and illustrated the different types of 'law jobs' that exist, some of which law students may know very little about. She explained the difference between the eight legal professions regulated under the Legal Services Act 2007 and the unregulated parts of the legal services sector, and suggested to students that they may want to try to think about what their niche might be.
This session was followed by Alan Sinnett, a partner at Shakespeare's Solicitors, who spoke of his own career in law, the realities of the solicitors' profession today, and the future he saw for the current crop of students. He recommended the law degree as one of the most useful degrees that a student could do, simply for itself, but was cautious about the prospects for students wishing to train as solicitors or barristers.
Referring to the legal press, he explained to students that law firms were struggling to survive financially. He emphasised that today a typical law firm structure is one where a partner, working with perhaps two senior associates, oversees the work of a team of thirty or so people who undertake most of the client-related work. Despite the challenges of the market place, Alan nonetheless exhorted students to aim high and to be aspirational.
The conference was rounded off by a panel discussion made up of solicitors, barristers and careers advisers, and chaired by Paula Moffatt, Principal Lecturer at Nottingham Law School.
In the context of a discussion around 'law jobs', Paula Moffatt noted a significant point, made by Alan Sinnett and touched on by Alexia Binns, about the importance of maintaining one's reputation as a lawyer. Being a solicitor or barrister was about more than just doing a job; honesty and integrity were crucial elements in the role of the 'trusted adviser' that society has traditionally viewed solicitors as being.
She also noted that there tended to be much discussion around the concept of 'commercial awareness', but less around the concept of 'social awareness'. Students need to be mindful of the fact that not all clients will come from a commercial background: a lot of legal work is based on understanding the personal situation of those on welfare benefits. In this part of the legal sector, social awareness is just as important a legal skill as that of commercial awareness.
What can Law students do to improve their career chances?
- Be positive. The legal profession is undergoing a series of changes, but this also brings new opportunities. The impact of the LETR and ABS will instigate an expansion of legal roles outside those of the traditional barrister and solicitor. If you are adaptable there may be opportunities in areas you had not previously thought of.
- Know your niche. Find out what you enjoy doing and what kind of work you would like to pursue day to day. This will make it easier to focus your efforts and research the different opportunities available in your area of interest.
- Enhance your social awareness as well as your commercial awareness. The legal sector is commercially driven and most organisations will want you to display an understanding of the commercial context in which they operate, but it is important not to overlook the social side of legal work. Demonstrating personal skills and an understanding of the individual circumstances of your client is critical.
- Be informed. If you want to get ahead you need to be aware of the changes to the legal landscape. Keep yourself informed of the latest developments from the Legal Education and Training Review, and if you missed this conference, read the conference report and speaker presentations, and watch the conference videos.