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Fresher’s Blog

02 / 10 / 20

Kenzie Berry, 2nd year Scots Law with French

I’m acutely aware that I cannot hope to write a blog post on the average fresher’s experience for a number of reasons. First, and most obviously… we’re living in a pandemic. Second, I spent all of my First Year aged 17. My heart goes out to everyone living in halls this year, who will undoubtedly have a good time – just not the one that uni perhaps is expected to be.

I arrived at Dundee in September 2019 and thankfully, fell into a brilliant flat with a great living dynamic. Although, since my flatmates felt considerably older, I often at times in my first few weeks found that I shrunk into my shell at moments. I hadn’t stayed in school for sixth year. I’d never been on a proper night out. For all intents and purposes, I was still very young. Frankly, what a difference a year makes. Don’t get me wrong, I was never quiet in school. Quite the opposite in fact. But here, I felt like a small fish in a very big pond. I’d say the biggest challenge I properly faced in the last year in terms of uni (other than exams) was finding my feet and learning to run. DULS socials like Gaudie at the start of the semester proved intrinsically useful in meeting the people on our course – and seeing them outside of a lecture hall made all of the difference. For reference, I went to a very small school. My biggest class had a whopping 12 people. That was quite a contrast to lectures; where my smallest lecture sat 100 comfortably. As I went to more socials, went on more nights out and met more people, the easier it got. My best piece of advice for a young fresher: get well acquainted with the idea of meeting LOTS of people. Before you know it, you’ll feel comfortable in a crowd and never quite lost in a sea of people. Be honest. Uni is a big place.

As a blanket rule, the more friendly faces (now, masked) you have around campus, the easier your university experience becomes. Whether you meet people through sports, classes, flats or societies; everything helps. DULS pairs freshers with ‘Gaudie families’, that are there to support you during your time at uni. Whether that be through giving you old textbooks, advice on a piece of work you’ve been struggling with or letting some steam off. Between your gaudie family and the DULS committee, there is always someone to turn to when you feel like the world is on your shoulders. Let’s face it, you’ll know us all throughout your time here. Make the most of the experiences and friendships that DULS or any other society can offer to you.

For now, I’ll keep this blog short and sweet. I wish all of the freshers joining DULS all the very best this year – and I’ll leave you with a few pieces of advice.

  1. Get stuck in with DULS events. We’re here to help you further your career and make your time here at Dundee enjoyable. Go to at least one law fair (although it might feel intimidating). Learning skills like networking now will prove so useful in the long run.
  2. READ. I know it feels like a chore, but you don’t necessarily have to just read legal books. Any reading will further your skills and make navigating your textbooks just that much easier.
  3. Do your work in good time. However long you think you’ll spend on a piece of work, double it. Saves any 6am starts to get everything done for 12pm that day.
  4. Although partying is fun, it’s not condoned right now. Use this time to have plenty fun, but keep some sort of routine. Even law students can have a bedtime!!

All the best as you start your journey with us here,
Kenzie


5 Must-Reads for Aspiring Criminal Lawyers

26 / 08 / 20

By Ruairidh Gilchrist

Introduction

With the coronavirus pandemic closing down criminal courts throughout the country for the foreseeable future, students are seeking alternative ways to discover more about the justice system throughout the summer. In this blog I will share with you my favourite five criminal law memoirs and novels highlighting what a career is truly like “Under the Wig” of a criminal lawyer, the various cases they take on in their career and the courtroom drama they face every day. From fictional novels of courtroom prejudice to recounts of infamous murder trials – there is something for every student in this list. 

#5: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

While you may at first think a fictional American childhood book is an unusual start to this list, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is now more relevant than ever. A story of compassion, prejudice and injustice; Harper Lee tells the story of Tom Robinson, a young black man falsely accused of the crime of rape in 1930s Alabama. Tom Robinson’s attorney, Atticus Finch, acts as a role model of what a defence lawyer should aspire to be – teaching the reader the dangers of stereotyping and prejudice in the criminal justice system. In a time when the civil rights movement continues to struggle for black justice, To Kill a Mockingbird reminds the reader of the necessity of civil rights and why we need more people like Atticus Finch to combat against prejudice in legal systems across the world.

#4: In Your Defence by Sarah Langford 

A memoir by the criminal defence barrister Sarah Langford, In Your Defence describes the trials of eleven individuals accused of crime or brought before a family court. From the story of Dominic accused of assaulting police officers at the age of ten to representing a mother in a family court desperate to stay with her children, the author divulges the stories of those she has defended in court, bringing a human touch to the British justice system. Not only does Sarah Langford give an insight into the intense courtroom drama, she also highlights the trauma of all those involved in a criminal justice trial and the failings of the often underfunded and overburdened British criminal and family courts. Sarah Langford is not your typical lawyer, studying English at the University of the West of England before entering the legal profession, and she describes her battle against the myths and stereotypes of criminal law. I would thoroughly recommend this novel to any student wanting a greater insight into the practice of a criminal defence lawyer and what it truly is like to be caught in the web of justice.

#3: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by “The Secret Barrister”

This book needs no introduction. An essential for all law students, the famous anonymous author tells the story of what being a criminal barrister is like after years of Legal Aid cuts. Often demonstrating the failings of the Crown Prosecution Service and the British Justice Department, the Secret Barrister shows how hardened criminals have escaped justice and yet how innocents have been wrongfully accused paying thousands in order to instruct a barrister due to no access to Legal Aid. Not only has the book received hundreds of awards and is one of the top twenty bestseller novels on Amazon, every single MP in Westminster also received a copy after £10,000 was raised to raise awareness of the Legal Aid crisis. A thought-provoking novel with a real glimpse into what the criminal justice system is truly like, Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken is a must for all law students wanting to pursue a career in criminal law. If you have already had the pleasure of reading this book, then look no further as the Secret Barrister is releasing another novel in September this year titled Fake Law: The Truth about Justice in the Age of Lies and there is also a short Channel Four Documentary series called “Inside the criminal justice system with the Secret Barrister” examining how the justice system has coped during the nationwide pandemic. 

#2: Under the Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence by William Clegg QC

Another great addition to a law student’s library, William Clegg QC is the forefront English criminal defence barrister in murder trials having defended more than 100 cases throughout his career spanning over 50 years. In this this gripping memoir, William Clegg describes in detail  13 intriguing cases from the infamous murder of Joanna Yeates, the Rebecca Brooks phone hacking trial to defending the first Nazi war crime prosecutions in Britain, sharing with the reader the intriguing world of criminal law and what it truly like to defend an individual accused of murder. William Clegg also recounts his path to the bar, offering advice to those considering a career in criminal defence law and sharing with the reader the necessary skills and techniques needed to succeed in the competitive environment of an advocate’s chambers. This memoir is also very useful for students involved in mooting as the experienced QC offers advice on submitting an appeal to the court, along with general courtroom etiquette.

#1: The Prosecutor by Nazir Afzael

While the other entries in the list primarily look at criminal defence law, this memoir examines the opposite side of the courtroom of the Crown Prosecution Service. Written by the former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England, Nazir Afzael is renowned lawyer with expertise in the prosecution of child sexual exploit and condemning violence against women. A practising Muslim, the author shares with the reader his experiences of growing up in 1960s Birmingham discussing the racism he and his family faced along with the killing of his relative by the IRA at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Leading the prosecution in cases of forced marriages and honour killings, the author recounts the murder of Samaira Nazir and his belief the state failed to protect her, along with the cases against grooming gangs such as the Rochdale sex trafficking gang. As an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and against forced marriages and domestic abuse, Nazir Afzael describes his confrontations with far-right groups such as the BNP along with his fellow members of the Asian community. An inspirational novel, The Prosecutor tells the story of one man being a champion for the ignored and his fight to bring the guilty to justice.

Conclusion

With a wide variety of entries on the list, each author brings a different perception of the criminal justice system and the lasting effect it has on those who enter it. They tell stories of complex cases and the courtroom drama that come with them. They divulge the desperation of the accused and the effect crime has on the complainer and the victim. They show the merits of our unique legal system, along with how it does not always get it right. Yet more than all this, under the wigs and gowns of the advocates and barristers, these novels show that criminal law is very much personal and is human nature at its core. I would thoroughly recommend these books to any student considering a career in criminal law to see what it truly is like to be captured in the web of justice.


Can’t you see I’m busy reading?


Commercial Awareness, The Importance and Need!

17 / 08 / 20

 

Since I started studying law, I’ve realised ‘commercial awareness’ has become something of a buzzword that our lecturers, our fellow students and academic advisers bang on about. Most of us understand that commercial awareness is essentially keeping updated with current business and commercial developments. We also know how to build on our commercial awareness which is by looking at newspapers such as Financial Times and other reliable resources. What a lot of us wonder is why is it so important for us to have this type of knowledge and why are we tested on it in almost all of our interviews? 

When I started looking into the different career opportunities within the commercial legal sector, commercial awareness was underlined as a crucial attribute for every lawyer to have. Through work experience and discussions with various lawyers, appreciating that a law firm is a business in itself engaging in commercial activity was highlighted to me. Whilst its main purpose is to help solve legal issues, it simultaneously needs to develop as a business and make money. I found that firms are very keen for their lawyers to keep up to date with the latest developments because the ability to identify risks and opportunities will help define winning strategies. It was also emphasised to me that firms are looking for people who will be able to embed themselves in a client’s situation, organisation and business, so that consequently they are viewed as part of a team rather than as mere external advisors. Understanding the client in terms of their business, their environment, priorities, and concerns can be built on through developing commercial awareness, making it a curial criterion of being a lawyer.

Our commercial awareness is often tested within interviews at firms, for jobs, summer vacation schemes and traineeships. From my experience so far with interviews this can be done through direct questions or scenario questions. Keeping updated with current news in the political, economic and legal world is a habit worth starting to make! The more you enhance your commercial awareness, the more you realise it’s a way of thinking and the less you are reliant on memorising facts! The feedback I got back from firms is that people who take the time to understand the legal industry and how firms operates will demonstrate a high level of motivation, interest, and focus. This awareness helps new hires make informed decisions, right from the start and is why it is such a key aspect to be tested in interviews.

Keeping commercially aware can also be beneficial when exploring careers you are potentially interested in pursuing. For example, certain sectors may interest you more than others. For me, I am always intrigued in the developments of the employment and business sector which has made me look at potential careers in these areas. 

Sources I use to keep myself updated on new developments are through The Economist and The Financial Times apps on my phone. Notifications come through and if a particular story interests me I can access the reliable information easily and form robust opinions. LinkedIn is also a useful networking site I like to use. It is a site that allows you to connect and join online groups which expands your professional network, participate in discussions, and learn more about different industries. Overtime,things I often find myself thinking about when looking at different news updates are how that specific situations are affecting certain sectors of business, who the major players are and what are the emerging challenges for the industry affected. As I said above, commercial awareness develops your way of thinking. It will prove useful not only in a legal career but any career pathway you venture into!

I hope this has provided some more insight into the importance of commercial awareness for us potential future facing lawyers!

Thank you! 
Tessa Hickey


The New Normal: Adjusting to Lockdown Learning

08 / 07 / 20

By Cameron Irons

Nobody truly foresaw the devasting and frightening impact this virus would have on not just university and student life, but our entire world as we knew it. News bulletins reporting an infectious disease spreading on the other side of the planet was not a priority nor a worry for most of us. Many of us will have had a similar experience and I believe it would be effective to reflect on the impact which this lockdown has had on students, how we pulled through it, and how we must accept the ‘new normal’. It is important for us to look at how we move forward with our studies, despite the overwhelming realities of a global pandemic. Whether we like it or not, the consequences of this crisis will likely reshape the rest of our journey at university. Accordingly, we ought to consider the positives and benefits amongst the doom and gloom.

As a second-year law student at the time of the outbreak, intense revision for the exams was approaching, especially with three separate modules to balance. As focus turned to the dreaded exams and deadlines, the last thing we needed was for campus to abruptly shut down, but of course everything was to soon close. The period in which offices, schools, pubs and shops began closing and boarding up, was rapid and extraordinary. Most of us were either fleeing back home, panic buying, panic partying or staying put. It was hard to believe and sad to witness our campus go from busy teaching mornings and buzzing nightlife, to being totally deserted. It is safe to say that virtually nobody was entertaining the thought of exams or revision as the situation continued to escalate. The whole experience was unsettling and surreal, nobody quite realised the extent of what was happening.

In spite of the intensifying situation we were going through, the state-imposed lockdown did in fact present some positive factors for many students. All of the pubs and clubs were closed. Whilst that may seem a negative for students at first, it actually proved rather beneficial. Personally, I found myself being far more productive when social life was essentially barred. Many of us read more, studied more and researched more. We had much more spare time for revision and catching up on areas we were struggling with. Lots of us had far more time to relax, think about what matters and focus on what was needed to be done. I also found that studying via online group calls with friends was more engaging and focussed than the usual library environment. People could project their screens to the group, access documents and share notes, all whilst discussing ideas and past papers with one another. These online group sessions with friends certainly took attention away from what was happening around us. When it came to covering course content we had not yet been taught, it was a challenge at first, but I found myself far more interested and engaged with the content, simply because I researched and understood it independently of any teaching. This sort of learning is the norm for level 3 and 4 students, especially in law, so it was constructive for me to practise self-study and prepare myself for third year. The lockdown proved to be an opportunity to properly engage with coursework, produce ideas and criticisms of my own, without the usual need for lectures and tutorials. Another positive I found during lockdown, was the ability to totally structure and plan my own learning. We followed no set timetable, meaning we could access the virtual lectures and notes when we felt like it. While this could have provoked procrastination and delay for some, it definitely meant never running the risk of sleeping in. One could even look at the lack of lectures as a benefit. Instead of sitting with loud keyboard tappers, the coughing and giggling, the bright laptop screens around you, many would have found the peace and tranquillity of their bedrooms or home-study a refreshing alternative. However, many would have found the lack of normal lectures a complete setback and ineffective. Those stuck at home may have had distracting siblings or noisy TV’s constantly annoying them, the lack of silent study would have been a disadvantage for them.

These positive factors during the lockdown will obviously not be shared by everyone, but it is important for us to remember we were all in that same boat which will be an experience we should try and turn into a positive. The pandemic has undoubtedly had an overwhelming impact on mental wellbeing. Student stress about nearing deadlines, heaps of studying and exams in new environments, without campus facilities. Many were deeply frustrated at the academic consequences and uncertainties that we could do absolutely nothing about. On top of this, we worried if we would get the virus, we worried if our friends and family got the virus. We were saddened at the inability to see our grandparents, unable to visit restaurants, pubs, clubs, parks, shopping centres, anything and everything.

It may seem a stretch to attempt to view the lockdown as a positive experience, but it would cause us no harm to see at least some benefits of it. Perhaps people prefer the home-study style whereas others did not. Perhaps people performed better whereas others did not. What is important is to review how you yourself handled it, take the positive elements of it, carry those into the next academic year. Lockdown learning may very well be the new normal, campus may continue to be restricted thus it is vital we are prepared for it. We are all familiar with the new realities and rules so nothing should come as a shock. There is no point moping or complaining about how different campus or courses will perhaps be, instead we should all maintain a positive mindset, keep our determination and look forward to a different sort of year.

I hope this has made you consider your own experience as a student and I trust that you share my position on how we ought to move forward. I believe that our university has a very strong sense of community and camaraderie, we will no doubt support one another in the coming months. Anyone who feels lost or anxious about the uncertainties and changes, should remember the immense amount of support available at Dundee Uni. Us law students in particular, are lucky to have an even stronger bond within the law society. A society I would like to stress, is for all of you. Now more than ever it is crucial that nobody feels left out. You should feel comfortable contacting the society if you are seeking advice, help or a just a friendly chat.

Cameron


Work Experience/Traineeship Application Tips

06 / 07 / 20

Hi everyone,

I recently graduated from the Diploma in Legal Practice from the University of Dundee and will begin my 2-year traineeship this year. I have been asked by DULS to give some general advice about work experience and traineeships. I hope that you will find this useful.

Work Experience

Firstly, I want to emphasise the importance of non-legal work experience. I worked part-time in retail throughout the majority of my undergraduate law degree and Diploma in Legal Practice. This type of work experience enables you to develop and enhance various skills such as: communication, time management and commercial awareness, to name a few. When interviewing for summer placements with law firms, I found that I could draw on my retail work experience when answering competency-based questions. I think it is also important to stress that a lot of skills that you develop in retail, for example, will help you going forward in a legal career. I personally found it easier to work more hours in my retail job in third and fourth year of university as I was only in seminars for 4 hours each week.

Throughout my time at university, I regularly sat in the public gallery at the Sheriff Court, and found that this provided me with a sound understanding of court proceedings. I would encourage you to do the same.

Are you a keen mooter? A tennis fan? There are some fantastic societies at university, why not run for a committee position? This is a great way to boost your CV and is great to talk about at interviews. I worked as Secretary of Dundee University Mooting Society during my second year of university and then as Vice President (Careers) of Dundee University Law Society in my third year. Not only will this look good on your CV, it also allows you to develop key skills such as: time management, leadership, organisation, and communication. Lastly, being part of a university committee is good fun and allows you to connect with students from all year groups.

If you are successful in securing an interview for a summer placement/traineeship, I would recommend that you take advantage of the Careers Service at university. They offer mock interviews, which I found very useful. Moreover, they can provide

you with a graduate CV template. It is very easy to book a 30-minute appointment online (google ‘Dundee university careers portal’).

General Advice

Say yes to opportunities! Throughout your time at university, there will be opportunities to attend networking events, advocacy workshops, and more. By attending such events, you can start to build your network and learn more about various areas of law. Further, you will begin to understand what areas of the law you are interested in. For me, I particularly enjoyed attending the Criminal Advocacy workshop at Dundee Sheriff Court. I have always had an interest in litigation, and this event confirmed that a career in litigation was suited to me. I would recommend sending DULS a message on social media to ask about upcoming events.

Go along to the legal recruitment fair. This is generally held in September each year. I would recommend that you have a read through the list of law firms that will be in attendance. Prepare some questions to ask. This is a good opportunity to find out more about summer placements and traineeships. It’s never too early to start your research.

I hope that you have found this short post useful for you going forward. I’m more than happy to answer any questions that you may have. Feel free to give me a message on LinkedIn (Evana Ferguson).

Evana


The New Normal: Adjusting to Lockdown Learning

28 / 06 / 20

By Cameron Irons

Nobody truly foresaw the devasting and frightening impact this virus would have on not just university and student life, but our entire world as we knew it. News bulletins reporting an infectious disease spreading on the other side of the planet was not a priority nor a worry for most of us. Many of us will have had a similar experience and I believe it would be effective to reflect on the impact which this lockdown has had on students, how we pulled through it, and how we must accept the ‘new normal’. It is important for us to look at how we move forward with our studies, despite the overwhelming realities of a global pandemic. Whether we like it or not, the consequences of this crisis will likely reshape the rest of our journey at university. Accordingly, we ought to consider the positives and benefits amongst the doom and gloom. 

As a second-year law student at the time of the outbreak, intense revision for the exams was approaching, especially with three separate modules to balance. As focus turned to the dreaded exams and deadlines, the last thing we needed was for campus to abruptly shut down, but of course everything was to soon close. The period in which offices, schools, pubs and shops began closing and boarding up, was rapid and extraordinary. Most of us were either fleeing back home, panic buying, panic partying or staying put. It was hard to believe and sad to witness our campus go from busy teaching mornings and buzzing nightlife, to being totally deserted. It is safe to say that virtually nobody was entertaining the thought of exams or revision as the situation continued to escalate. The whole experience was unsettling and surreal, nobody quite realised the extent of what was happening. 

In spite of the intensifying situation we were going through, the state-imposed lockdown did in fact present some positive factors for many students. All of the pubs and clubs were closed. Whilst that may seem a negative for students at first, it actually proved rather beneficial. Personally, I found myself being far more productive when social life was essentially barred. Many of us read more, studied more and researched more. We had much more spare time for revision and catching up on areas we were struggling with. Lots of us had far more time to relax, think about what matters and focus on what was needed to be done. I also found that studying via online group calls with friends was more engaging and focussed than the usual library environment. People could project their screens to the group, access documents and share notes, all whilst discussing ideas and past papers with one another. These online group sessions with friends certainly took attention away from what was happening around us.  When it came to covering course content we had not yet been taught, it was a challenge at first, but I found myself far more interested and engaged with the content, simply because I researched and understood it independently of any teaching. This sort of learning is the norm for level 3 and 4 students, especially in law, so it was constructive for me to practise self-study and prepare myself for third year. The lockdown proved to be an opportunity to properly engage with coursework, produce ideas and criticisms of my own, without the usual need for lectures and tutorials. Another positive I found during lockdown, was the ability to totally structure and plan my own learning. We followed no set timetable, meaning we could access the virtual lectures and notes when we felt like it. While this could have provoked procrastination and delay for some, it definitely meant never running the risk of sleeping in. One could even look at the lack of lectures as a benefit. Instead of sitting with loud keyboard tappers, the coughing and giggling, the bright laptop screens around you, many would have found the peace and tranquillity of their bedrooms or home-study a refreshing alternative. However, many would have found the lack of normal lectures a complete setback and ineffective. Those stuck at home may have had distracting siblings or noisy TV’s constantly annoying them, the lack of silent study would have been a disadvantage for them. 

These positive factors during the lockdown will obviously not be shared by everyone, but it is important for us to remember we were all in that same boat which will be an experience we should try and turn into a positive. The pandemic has undoubtedly had an overwhelming impact on mental wellbeing. Student stress about nearing deadlines, heaps of studying and exams in new environments, without campus facilities. Many were deeply frustrated at the academic consequences and uncertainties that we could do absolutely nothing about. On top of this, we worried if we would get the virus, we worried if our friends and family got the virus. We were saddened at the inability to see our grandparents, unable to visit restaurants, pubs, clubs, parks, shopping centres, anything and everything. 

It may seem a stretch to attempt to view the lockdown as a positive experience, but it would cause us no harm to see at least some benefits of it. Perhaps people prefer the home-study style whereas others did not. Perhaps people performed better whereas others did not. What is important is to review how you yourself handled it, take the positive elements of it, carry those into the next academic year. Lockdown learning may very well be the new normal, campus may continue to be restricted thus it is vital we are prepared for it. We are all familiar with the new realities and rules so nothing should come as a shock. There is no point moping or complaining about how different campus or courses will perhaps be, instead we should all maintain a positive mindset, keep our determination and look forward to a different sort of year. 

I hope this has made you consider your own experience as a student and I trust that you share my position on how we ought to move forward. I believe that our university has a very strong sense of community and camaraderie, we will no doubt support one another in the coming months. Anyone who feels lost or anxious about the uncertainties and changes, should remember the immense amount of support available at Dundee Uni. Us law students in particular, are lucky to have an even stronger bond within the law society. A society I would like to stress, is for all of you. Now more than ever it is crucial that nobody feels left out. You should feel comfortable contacting the society if you are seeking advice, help or a just a friendly chat.  

Cameron


The Impact of Coronavirus on the Legal Sector

24 / 06 / 20

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtably rocked the boat for all law students and law graduates in the coming years. It can be daunting to think about the detrimental impact of the pandemic when comparing it to future job prospects within the legal sector; But I hope to put into perspective that there will still be opportunities for law students regardless. It cannot be denied that this year’s graduates, as well as upcoming ones, may have a harder time securing work than previous years. This is especially the case as many firms now have to dramatically decrease their trainee intake and with other firms cancelling traineeships altogether for this year, we must look at the positives and how we can still make it in the legal sector.

Drawing similarities between the pandemic and the Great Recession is probably the biggest indication for law students on what their career path may look like. Graduating from law in the coming years could make our career paths a little different than we expected but it is important to remember it does not make becoming a solicitor impossible. One of the most important traits that law students must now uphold is flexibility. This is, of course, not what any of us had planned and it will most likely be more difficult for some of us to gain traineeships. But this should not be something that dampens our spirits, the true test will be how you, as a student, adapt to these new circumstances. 

Applying for traineeships already incurs fierce competition and with the likelihood being that the number of traineeship positions will decrease, this competition will only increase. Therefore, it will be more important now more than ever to not allow yourself to be disheartened by any rejection. Making your way into the legal sector is difficult, it is no use denying this, and so a strong character is required. Bagging a job is more than possible, albeit it could take us as graduates a bit longer to do so, but with determination and hard work we will get there. We just have to ensure resilient self-belief optimism. 

As a law student you must be commercially aware, and this is becoming ever more important. The legal market will change as a result of the pandemic and keeping watch over the sector for which areas of law are rising and falling is beneficial to your success. For example, we could see a decrease in businesses specialising in property law, and if you were a student interested in this area it could be advantageous to switch your specialisation. However, if you are most passionate about an area of law where the business has decreased due to the current climate, you should not give up if it is the work you truly want to do. Gain as much experience in the field as you can and do substantial research on the firms who specialise in that field. Getting contacts, within your field of interest, whom you can do work experience with or query on how to proceed in your studies is a great extra step toward attaining a traineeship. In short, all law students should be keeping an eye on the legal sector for changes and should your chosen field be struggling it is not unwise to widen your range.

On the other hand, as we witness a decrease in certain legal fields, it can be said with confidence that many new opportunities will also be available. Some firms will be offering traineeships primarily at a work from home basis. Moreover, legal areas such as family law are likely to see a spike in business following the pandemic. Students must do their research into what truly interests them within the legal sector and what is realistically obtainable following the Coronavirus outbreak. Deciding on a specialisation early gives you time to gain experience and prepare for the specific firms you will be applying to. Many skills are transferrable to all areas of law but if you decide earlier you can tailor your skills and expectations specifically to the field you plan on entering. While we would normally encourage students to have a broad interest across all of the legal sector, which is still something to be encouraged, it is more important now more than ever for students to be commercially aware of the impact of COVID-19 and which areas of law are most and least affected. 

Commercial awareness often interlinks with current affairs and it is important for law students to be well versed in both. The most recent and globally renown current affair of course being Brexit. Whilst all of us know Coronavirus and Brexit will have an effect on the legal sector this fact alone is unlikely to impress. With competition for traineeships only getting more difficult it is critical to stand out from the crowd. Study exactly what effects the current climate has on the sector and become familiar with a few crucial areas that will apply to all firms. For example, don’t just learn about the effects Corona Virus has had on the firm, learn why they are pioneering the way in one of their practice areas or about a recent landmark case they may have been party to. As for any interview, you must be fully aware of the background of the firm you are being interviewed for and if you are going to discuss the Virus, you must know of an impact the Coronavirus has had on them specifically. All of these things will make you stand out to the interviewer and give you the best chance of gaining a trainee position. 

Overall, I would say we must recognise that Coronavirus has and will have a large impact on the legal sector. It is best to accept that it could be harder to gain a traineeship but that should not stop you from trying. The best advice is to be flexible, stay determined, prepare more than ever for interviews and be commercially aware. If you are dedicated to a profession in the legal sector the impacts of coronavirus will not stop you. A positive attitude and perseverance are sure to see you succeed in qualifying as a solicitor. 

Good luck and stay positive!

Louisa x


In-House Lawyers: Raising Awareness

17 / 06 / 20

The first two options that pop to many students’ mind when thinking about their legal career opportunities is either working for a corporate firm or working in the public domain, specifically within the criminal justice system. But there is an abundance of opportunities that extend beyond simply being a solicitor or barrister working in private/criminal sector practice. What appears less in-the-know is working in-house; with almost a 1/4 of the UK’s practicing solicitors working inhouse for a company.

It may also be a surprise to know that in 2017/18, the number of in-house practitioners grew at a quicker rate than those working in private practice (up 3.2%). One of the reasons for this growth is that since the recession in late 2000’s, companies, in an attempt to cut outsourcing costs, inadvertently increased the number of inhouse lawyers. Given the global recession that is destined to follow from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that there may be an even bigger increase in insourcing solicitors by companies in the next few years. So, an in-house contract should certainly be a serious consideration.

Despite the significant amount of practising in-house lawyers and its inclining intake, is the grass really greener inside?

What is Involved in Being an In-House Lawyer?

Put simply, being an in-house lawyer involves looking after the legal needs of the organisation you work for.

The kind of work done will depend on the type of business the company is involved in, be it in retail, transport or media or whatever. However, it is said that working in-house offers a more diverse work experience as many companies, unlike their private counterpart, lack specialised departments to cater for every eventuality. In-house lawyers often find themselves having to deal with all sorts of law that may affect the company; including, but not restricted to, employment and insurance. 

As with any job, there is a non-exhaustive list of pros and cons. I have collated the most important ones that will hopefully paint a picture of what it is like being an in-house lawyer; and whether this is something you can envisage yourself doing. 

Pros:

  • Working towards a bigger picture – When you work as an in-house lawyer, there is a sense you are contributing significantly to the direction of the company. Many in-house lawyers often find themselves aligning with the company’s corporate goals which enables a feeling of progression and achievement. 
  • No need to bill hours – Many companies do not require their in-house lawyers to bill hours and as such staff can work more to their own pace. This in turn alleviates stress as, for many, time billing is seen as a determinant of success.
  • Work/Life balance – Unlike those in private practice who are expected to put their clients’ needs first, in-house lawyers have more structured hours that allow them the ability to plan and schedule ahead. With this ability they are afforded greater freedom to control their working hours.

Cons:

  • Ill perceptions – Some in-house lawyers say they perceive themselves as a ‘cost’ rather than a ‘driver’ of the business and having to fight this characterisation can be discouraging. 
  • Fewer training and development opportunities – In-house Lawyers will usually find themselves working with fewer clients under one company. Work is often found to be repetitive and there are less training and career development opportunities compared to what you would find working in private practice. 
  • Still a stressful job – lets be real, when you are working for any company, regardless of your position, it will be stressful. Working in-house means you will still come across stressful hours and the work is going to be no less demanding than that in private practice.

Advice for Applying:

Finding out whether a business is offering an in-house training contract can be challenging as there is no one-system that gathers all in-house opportunities under the same roof. Only around 500 companies are allowed to offer training contracts but not all of them actually do. As such, finding job vacancies will require extensive searching and resolute footwork. You can request a list of companies who offer a contract by emailing the Law Society’s new in-house division at inhouse@lawsociety.org.uk.

Further Resources:

If the in-house route seems like the one for you, check out the following links which advertise opportunities and all things in-house:

Or, consider opportunities with the Government Legal Profession or Crown Prosecution Service.

Working as an in-house lawyer has a multitude of unique benefits and hence it should be deliberated when choosing where to apply. My best piece of advice would be to conduct extensive and thorough research into the company’s business before you apply in order to make sure this is the best suit for you.

I hope the blog has brought an alternative career path to your attention and best of luck if you choose to apply,

Thomas x


Traineeship Application Advice

15 / 06 / 20

In 2018-19, 591 prospective trainee solicitors began training contracts in Scotland, according to the Law Society of Scotland. Whilst the process of applying for a traineeship may seem daunting, there are many great resources online which can help you get the ball rolling. I would recommend visiting the Law Society of Scotland’s website, which gives a great starting point and more background on the traineeship process itself. 

Once you have familiarised yourself with the process of qualifying as a solicitor in Scotland, it is never too early to start preparing. Unlike many other sectors, larger law firms will begin recruitment for future trainees up to 2 years in advance. Therefore, the importance of being prepared and having gathered valuable work experience before you begin your applications is crucial. Some tips which any law student can benefit from, no matter what stage in their university career, are as follows:

  1. Research – try to familiarise yourself with what is going on in the legal world, and more importantly, at the firms which you are interested in. For instance, you can look into high-profile trials which are ongoing or any large projects which the firms you are interested in are working on. The Scottish Legal News is a brilliant daily news source, which you can subscribe to by email here. Thorough research will shine through in an application, as it shows you have a genuine interest in a firm and will give you some talking points within an interview setting. Try and think of some questions which relate to the topics you have researched, to ask those who are interviewing you!
  2. Your LinkedIn Presence – A great website to use for research during your search for a traineeship is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, which allows you to connect with and interact with other professionals from around the world. Think of it like Facebook, but for professionals. There is a wealth of information which you can find on LinkedIn, you just have to look for it. For instance, say there is a specific firm which you would like to apply to – why not search for some of the current trainees that work there? You will be able to gather a wealth of information from their profiles, like what kind of work experience they gained during university. But remember – LinkedIn is a professional website, so make sure to use an appropriate photograph of yourself and be mindful that firms may look up your profile! For more information about LinkedIn, visit DULS’ blog here.
  3. Self-Reflection – this may seem like a strange point, but one which will make you stand out and practice regularly. Being self-aware and reflecting on how you dealt with a situation is a key skill of a trainee solicitor. During your traineeship, and throughout your entire career, you are constantly learning and developing. Being able to reflect on situations which went well, and maybe not so well, are key skills to learn and will help you in completing your PQPR forms which are required by the Law Society whilst you are training. Before drafting an application or attending an interview, try to spend 5 minutes reflecting on yourself and some of your previous experiences. For instance, what is one of your proudest non-academic achievements? What are some of my key skills, and what skills could I develop more? How would I describe myself in 3 words?
  4. Dundee Universities Careers Service – this is a service which I utilised heavily during my time at Dundee University. They offer a variety of different services, such as 1 on 1 CV and application meetings, in which they will help you draft up something impressive, as well as conducting mock interviews to help you prepare for any question which could pop up! Stephen Watt in particular, who works at the careers service, was an incredible help to me during my time at university. I would highly recommend anyone to book into the careers service!

Assessment Centre Tips

So, you drafted an impressive application to a firm which you would love to work for, and then receive an invitation to an assessment center – what next? Following on from my tips above, you could book into the careers service to have a run through of what you can do to prepare for the big day and run through some questions which may come up in an interview. This is something which I did before I attended the assessment center at the firm I work for, and I found it extremely beneficial. In addition to this, I have a few tips (some obvious, but absolutely worth reiterating!) for the day of your assessment center: 

  • Prepare the night before. This may seem like an obvious point, but do not overlook it! Look at your train times and iron your clothes the night before, have a printed-out copy of your application ready for you to read over and bring an umbrella! 
  • Turn off your phone. Whilst your loved ones will be keen to find out how you got on, but there is nothing more embarrassing than your phone ringing during an assessment center! It may be a good idea to do the same, if you are wearing a smart watch.
  • Practice calming techniques. Assessment centers are nerve wracking, even for those who seem completely calm and collected on the outside! Never underestimate the power of simple breathing techniques and their ability to keep you calm and collected. There are many apps which you can use such as Headspace – why not do a 5-minute meditation practice as you sit on the train or taxi on your way to the firm? Going into an interview or assessment with a calm and collected head will allow you to think clearly, stop you from feeling flustered and allow you to show your true potential. 
  • Speak to people! Although an assessment center can be a nerve-wracking experience, it’s a good idea to interact with the other candidates and make new connections. Engaging in conversation with those around you will keep you feeling calm whilst you wait to be interviewed and shows the firm that you are a friendly and approachable person. There is nothing worse than sitting in silence! 

I hope this blog is something which you will find useful, no matter what stage you are in your legal education and is a resource which you can revisit during the different stages of finding a traineeship. It can be a disheartening process, but I would encourage you to trust the process and keep going. Interviews, applications and assessment centers are all valuable learning exercises, so make the most of them, chat to your fellow candidates, and reflect on how things went! Feel free to get in touch with me on LinkedIn (Megan Anderson) if you have any questions! 

Best of luck! 

Megan x 


Securing a Traineeship

12 / 06 / 20

As a former University of Dundee student and member of DULS, I am now a first-year trainee at MacRoberts LLP and really enjoying my experience in the legal world so far. My first seat was in Projects and Infrastructure, in which I was exposed to a broad variety of work, and I am currently four months into my second seat in Commercial Real Estate. Having gone through the process of applying for and successfully securing a traineeship, I have been asked to discuss my experience and (hopefully) provide you with some useful advice. 

I thought I would start off by discussing summer internships. As someone who didn’t manage to secure an internship, I know the feeling of receiving rejection after rejection. While internships provide people with invaluable experience and a ‘foot in the door’ with firms, it is not the end of the world if you do not secure one. More and more, firms are looking for a breadth of working experience, and that does not necessarily need to be legal. I was lucky to do work experience with a number of different law firms. However, in a number of interviews, I was asked specifically about other non-legal working roles I held throughout my time at university. My advice would be to gain as much legal experience as possible, and where this isn’t possible, seek working roles that will improve your skills that are required in the legal profession. 

When it comes to applications, my advice would be to be both smart and efficient in which firms you apply to, and to how many. People may have differing approaches to this aspect of the process, but personally, I selected five firms to which I would apply for a traineeship. In doing so, I was able to really focus and dedicate time to these applications, in the midst of preparing for seminars and writing assignments (neither of which I miss at all). 

For those who are successful in making it to the interview stages, thorough preparation is paramount. I personally found the Careers Service at the University very useful in helping me prepare for the interviews, providing advice and also conducting mock interviews. While I am not an expert in interviewing skills, from my experience I have learned that it is important to have a good understanding of the workings of a firm as a whole, but also from a commercial aspect, in having knowledge of the firm’s direct competitors and its position within the legal market. 

Many firms may also require you to do certain assessments and psychometric testing, whether that be numerical reasoning or verbal reasoning. Again, it is very important to prepare for these tests, and there are numerous resources available online to do such. 

I just wanted to finish this off with the best piece of advice I received during my journey to gaining a traineeship, from a partner in a leading Scottish firm. Having just received another rejection for a summer internship, his advice was to look at every application, interview, assessment etc. as a step towards the end goal. This helped me power through the lengthy process of completing applications and interviews, eventually securing my traineeship with MacRoberts. 

Best of luck to you all! 

Douglas