Bright Network Alumnus, Sam Unsworth, is a future trainee solicitor at the US corporate law firm Skadden Arps. He studied Law at Bristol University where he was the President of Bristol’s Law Society during his second year. Here, Sam shares his top five nuggets of advice on how to get ahead in your first year.
1. Throw yourself into your degree.
Contrary to popular belief, your first year really does count. It may not actually count toward your overall degree mark, but it absolutely counts when it comes to applications in your second year for internships – aim to get a 2:1 at least.
2. Get involved in extracurricular activities.
You’ve achieved good grades in you’re A levels, but so have most people you will be up against - you need to do more. Law Society events, sports clubs, mooting, debating or starting your own society – whatever it might be you should make sure you get involved in activities outside of your degree. This is crucial for coming across as an interesting person to work with and you will learn a lot of skills from getting involved.
3. Network and get LinkedIn
This is quite simply the best way to stand out against anyone else – being known by the firm. University provides plenty of opportunities for you to meet law firms and their representatives, grasp this with both hands and get to know them. By the time I applied for most of my first year programmes I had personally met the graduate recruitment teams who would be looking over my application at least once, if not two or three times. If you come across well, this will only help you and can be key to getting that interview invite or offer.
LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for you to build your personal brand and stay in contact with the professionals that you meet along the way; I would advise everyone interested in commercial law to make an account.
Not sure where to start? Check out our step by step guide to building a professional LinkedIn presence.
4. Apply for a range of first year opportunities.
Firms are taking students on for programmes that last any time between one day and one week in first year and there are over twenty that I am aware of. Getting on one of these can give you such a great step up with the potential to be fast tracked through to a second year Vacation Scheme. Even if there is no fast track, getting on these programmes adds depth to your CV and you will learn so much that you will be in a great position come second year to apply for internships.
5. Aim to be on a committee
Firms always talk of wanting leadership qualities in candidates and the ability to work in a team. How do you therefore demonstrate that you have these qualities? By getting a committee position for a particular society or club. This is a brilliant way to stand out from the crowd and will provide countless experiences for you to learn from and use in interviews, when you are sure to be asked about leading or working in a team – it’s also great fun to be part of one.
I truly believe that you can’t go wrong if you do all of the above and that this will set you up fantastically for the future. Don’t limit yourself to just law firms when looking at first year opportunities; I spent two weeks at Goldman Sachs as part of their Spring Week programme and three days at McKinsey & Company on their Discover 2015 programme. After time with a prestigious investment bank and a brilliant management consultancy firm, I developed skills that could easily be transferred to a commercial law firm and it only heightened my ‘commercial awareness’, something that all law firms desire.
Now you've got all the tips...
Take a look at our list of commercial law internships to get a headstart as a first-year student.