First Year Work Experience – is there a workable solution?
In recent weeks a couple of leading commercial law firms have announced their intention to start offering structured work experience placements to first year students. This is perhaps unsurprising as the appetite for such opportunities amongst freshers has been obvious when speaking with them. The dilemma facing law firms is that in order to deliver a high quality placement a significant amount of resource is required, be it financial or simply employee time. Against a background of budget-tightening these sorts of programmes have naturally been seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a core offering.
What have we been up to?
For the last couple of years we have been piloting a week-long placement for first year law students studying at Birmingham University and UCL. This year a number last year’s intake have re-applied for vacation placements and training contracts. If these students successfully secure training contracts then from the firm’s perspective the placements will have done their job; raised our profile on campus amongst talented students and helped the students secure a training contract.
We accept that some students will use the experience they gain with us to help secure a training contract elsewhere but so long as that is the exception rather than the rule we do not see this as a problem, especially as the students will hopefully still speak positively about the time they spent with us to their friends.
So far, so good?
Assuming the pilot is a success and we do see a number of the students going on to become trainees at the firm, what happens next? The biggest problem we face is that the scheme is not going to be easy to roll-out to other locations and institutions without the work involved becoming comparable to our regular vacation placement programme; at the moment this is something we are unable to commit to. This is unfortunate as we know that if we were to offer the programme more widely it would attract interest from students who we would be interested in receiving applications from.
Given the resources available we are facing a choice between running an in-depth programme similar to the above but with limited places available, or redesigning the programme so it is shorter but can accommodate a larger number of students.
No firm decisions have been taken at this stage but we are extremely interested to hear what current first year students think would benefit them most at this early stage of their studies. Please let us know your thoughts using the poll below. It would also be great to hear what content you would find most useful during a placement/workshop as a first year student.
In additon to the above we will continue to run our campus events and office open evenings (first year students are always welcome at these) so irrespective of the above we hope to see you at some point during your first year of study.