One of the constant struggles for law students and recent university graduates is finding and securing relevant law work experience. The legal careers sector is one of the most competitive ones out there. If you are an aspiring solicitor or a barrister, employers often require applicants to have some sort of relevant work experience. Usually, this work experience would be evidence of your interest in a specific area of law or practice and can be very influential in securing a graduate job. Here you will find a detailed overview of paid and non-paid legal work experiences available to you. 

Paid Law Work Experience Opportunities

Below is a list of different types of paid legal work experience that are usually offered in the legal sector.

Vacation Schemes

These short-run schemes are usually offered by many firms in the UK like DLA Piper, Clifford Chance, or Pinsent Masons. During your vacation scheme you can expect to gain a deeper understanding of a law firm, network with trainees, meet the firm’s partners, and attend a variety of events. It is often that students get paid to attend these schemes and compensated for travel expenses.

Vac schemes can range anywhere from a couple of days to 2 weeks. Some firms offer 1-month long schemes but those are rare. At your placement, you can expect to shadow a lawyer or a trainee solicitor, perform a variety of legal and administrative tasks, and attend meetings.

Some firms run their applications on a rolling basis and require students to submit a good CV, legal cover letter, and answer application questions. Others only start assessing applications and sending out offers after the deadline. Vac schemes are highly competitive because firms often offer training contracts to students who performed well. Most firms host their schemes during the summer months, but some also offer spring and winter schemes.

If you want to learn more about this, see Vacation Schemes.

Law Internships

Legal internships are much longer compared to all other types of law work experiences that are available to students. Law internships can run from 1 month to 1 year. Unlike vac schemes that are offered by law firms, legal internships are offered by large companies or in-house legal departments. It is often that these employment experience opportunities are available to any year law students, or students in other disciplines. It is often that companies offer law summer internships and spring internships.

For law students that are looking for a year in industry placement, or taking a gap year, legal internships are a great opportunity to acquire various relevant legal skills. It is often that experience gained during a legal internship can be invaluable for you when you apply for SQE training programmes, training contracts, and pupillages.

Learn more about Legal Internships with us.


If you are planning on becoming a barrister, then completing a mini-pupillage is essential. These work placements usually run anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. They are open to all undergraduate students, but preference is usually given to penultimate and final-year students. It is often that a mini-pupillage can lead to a pupillage offer from chambers.

During a mini-pupillage students will generally shadow a barrister, assist them with daily tasks, and attend court. You will also learn about different areas of law and potentially decide whether you would like to pursue a career as a barrister.

Competition for mini-pupillages is very high since the number of applicants significantly outnumbers available places. Students tend to start applying for them during their first year of university and continue applying throughout their degree.

There is a lot more to learn about Mini-Pupillages!

Legal Virtual Work Experience

Recently, many firms moved their paid work experiences online. Some firms even moved their open days to online delivery. Law firms will likely continue to offer virtual placements in the future.

These virtual work placements are designed to immerse students into the life of a firm. Application requirements are the same as for in-person positions, however, a little bit more emphasis is likely placed on the ability to work independently and under minimal supervision. You should try to use your cover letter and CV to show some evidence of that.

Almost all firms embraced virtual student placements and some even showed their intent to make them permanent and discard in-person placements. There are some organisations like The Forage that offer virtual placements, which are usually unpaid. The experience programmes are created by firms for students to learn more about their work environment and different practice areas.

Part-Time Non-Law Jobs

Students tend to think of their part-time jobs as irrelevant to their legal careers. The reality, however, is that skills and experience gained at your part-time university job can help you to set yourself apart from other applicants.

Although your part-time job may not be related to law, you expose yourself to experiences that are valued by firms. Working in a fast-paced environment, under pressure, while completing multiple tasks are all experiences that can be gained at a student job but also transferred to a career in law.

Most firms prefer applicants that are well-rounded and will be able to fit perfectly into their work environment and firm culture. If you have experiences and skills from your non-law job that can show that you are a good fit, this can benefit your job applications. Additionally, students often develop a deeper understanding of commercial awareness during their non-law jobs, a quality that is highly valued by graduate employers.

Non-Paid Legal Work Experience Opportunities

Below is a list of different types of non-paid legal work experience that are usually offered in the legal sector.

Insight Days

Law firms host these recruitment days in order to showcase their work culture and give students opportunities to learn more about their corporate life. These bite-sized experiences are usually 1 day long, however, some firms offer 2-day long visits. Amongst firms that offer them are Linklaters and White & Case. It is common in the industry for these schemes to be unpaid, but firms usually will pay the attendees for their travel expenses.

Insight/open days are a great opportunity for students to learn more about a specific company and decide whether they would like to work for them. You can expect to attend a presentation from partners, networking events, perform some shadowing activities, as well as attend a guided tour of the firm’s office. Applications are open for first-year and second-year students, but sometimes final-year students are also considered. In your application, you will generally have to answer a few questions, submit your CV, but you will rarely have to submit a cover letter.

Firms usually host a variety of assessed group and individual activities in order to find talented applicants. This gives students an opportunity to make themselves memorable and increase their chances of a successful vacation scheme or training contract application in the future.

Judge Marshalling

Aspiring barristers can apply to shadow a judge by inquiring about judge marshalling opportunities at your local Inn of Court. Many courts offer judge marshalling schemes to students interested in a career in advocacy. These schemes typically range from 1 day to 1 week and are unpaid.

This experience allows you to gain insights into the inner workings of the court, witness how barristers present their cases, and sit on bail, trial, or preliminary hearings. It is also a great opportunity to network with legal professionals and find out if a career at the Bar is for you.

Learn more about Judge Marshalling.

Work Shadowing

Many law schools run solicitor and barrister shadowing programs. Universities usually partner with various local firms and chambers to give their students opportunities to gain first-hand experience of a legal work environment. If your university does not have a similar program then you can contact your local firms or chambers for work shadowing opportunities.

Work shadowing is a great experience for students who have minimal knowledge of the workings of the legal profession. It is also a great opportunity to develop a network of mentors and legal colleagues.

Court Visits

Visiting a court and sitting on a real case is an unforgettable experience for any aspiring barrister or solicitor. Witnessing professionals in action can be an eye-opening experience and a good learning opportunity for students.

Most court hearings are open to the public and free of charge. All you have to do is find scheduled court cases on your local court’s website or by contacting the court directly. Some universities and university societies offer day trips to various levels of court to attend public court hearings as a group. These visits are a perfect opportunity for students to show their interest and learn a bit more about a career in law.


Students can also gain legal work experience by volunteering for various legal organisations. You can gain a wide range of technical skills and work experiences through volunteering. Some organisations post volunteering opportunities on their websites, others don’t. It is always good to reach out to prospective organisations where you want to volunteer at and inquire about any opportunities.

Many organisations offer legal volunteering positions:

  • Law firms – small firms sometimes take on volunteers to help them with various tasks.
  • Pro bono work – medium and large firms often undertake pro bono work and are known to advertise volunteering opportunities for that work.
  • Law clinics – your local law clinic is probably operated by volunteers.
  • City council – your local council may need some helpers with various legal tasks that need to be completed.
  • Large corporations – some international organisations offer volunteering opportunities as part of their social programs.

Debates and Mooting

At almost every university around the country, there are debate societies and mooting societies. A moot usually involves a fictional case where you act as an advocate for one of the sides in a mock trial. Although moots are known to be mainly an oral presentation of your arguments, it also incorporates a great deal of legal research and preparation. Mooting is definitely a great legal experience that one could add to their CV and showcase their advocacy and legal reasoning skills.

There are numerous mooting competitions every year that are organised by law societies, various firms, or even national mooting organisations! Taking a part in one of these competitions can definitely increase your understanding of litigation and knowledge of practical legal skills. If you happen to win one of these competitions, you may find yourself receiving an amazing prize, which sometimes can be an internship scheme or work experience with sponsoring firm.

Law Societies

It is common for universities to have student-run law societies. These societies offer a range of activities and events to increase your employability in the legal field. Your university’s law centre may host mooting competitions, negotiation seminars, networking events, day trips to firms, chambers, and courts.

You can also try to get elected to the law society’s committee and take on more active roles in managing the student society. If elected, you will gain numerous skills that are beneficial for aspiring lawyers and gain access to better networking opportunities to promote your society.

Law Fairs

Every year your university or law society will host a student law fair. These events usually have representatives from various firms, chambers, and post-graduate course providers. Law fairs are a must-attend event for any aspiring legal professional because you can gain invaluable insights into your possible future employers or education providers.

At a law fair, you can interact with the representatives, ask them questions, and tips for applications, CVs, and cover letters. You can learn more about the firm you are interested in and see whether you would want to apply for a position there. Most importantly, you can make an impression on the graduate recruitment team, which may help to bolster your employability chances.

Law Firm Ambassador Programs

It is common for firms to have a significant presence on university campuses by operating ambassador programs. As a firm ambassador, you will host events on behalf of the firm and interact with prospective applicants. You will be expected to learn as much as possible about your firm and answer various questions from students. Ambassador programs also provide you with opportunities to work alongside the firm’s recruitment team, which will allow you to gain insights into what they value and look for in applicants.

Writing for Legal Websites

There are various legal websites and publications that produce a range of legal content. It is often that these websites and publications offer student opportunities like writing, editing, or operating their social media. You will generally be expected to complete a few tasks a week depending on your role.

Volunteering for one of these websites and publications allows you to develop various skills that are essential for aspiring legal professionals and are recognised by legal employers. The work that would do allows you to show your interest in a specific area of law or showcase skills that you are excellent at.

Extra-Curricular Activities for Law Work Experience

Many legal employers not only look for legal skills in applicants but also for various transferrable skills. One of the best ways to develop these transferrable skills is through taking part in various extra-curricular activities.

You can choose to manage your local sports team, become a treasurer for your social club, or become a mentor to younger students. By participating in various activities you will explore and develop various transferrable skills that are highly valued by graduate employers. 

The best way to showcase those skills would be through the careful construction of your cover letter, CV, and answers to application questions.