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What Makes a Law Student Stand Out

NCH Student Blog | January 2, 2020

Early in December, Lecturer and Law Careers Counsellor, Ursula Smartt gave an informative and pragmatic lecture on the qualities that make a successful lawyer, and what makes a law student stand out.

Ursula put a significant emphasis on the importance of corporate culture and commercial awareness. This can be interpreted as understanding the intentions, objectives and challenges of clients, and accepting that law firms are actually a business. This means that before applying for vacation schemes or attending open days, one should ensure that your CV is current, updated with knowledge of current affairs, and applicants should study firm websites carefully to see if it is the right fit for you.

Another worldly piece advice that Ursula had to offer was not to limit your future options to think about your legal career at the beginning of your degree. A student should consider all their options and possible career paths – this includes being willing to work outside London (shock horror!). This entails applying to various placements in order to get as much experience and exposure to the legal profession as possible, particularly through the various Vacation Schemes and Open Days on offer. As a result of more participation, one can refine and develop top key skills, such as arbitration and negotiation.

Hinterland! It is exceptionally important to find a hobby or join a society, as everyone applying to internships has a law degree. This will set you apart from the other candidates and could enhance soft skills. These soft skills are critical and can be seen through client care and professional standards.

When applying for pupillage, grants or scholarships one should be selective, realistic and specific but thorough with your application (i.e. no spelling errors and good grammar with every claim made being backed up with evidence). Moreover, a student should recognise the different tiers and types of law firms: magic circle, silver circle, in-house. Ensure that the law firm you chose is compatible with your desired lifestyle and work culture- for example, if you prioritise a strong work/life balance, then perhaps you may consider applying to a more gentler firm. Therefore, each application should be tailored to each firm so as to appeal to their specific areas of practice and core values. To conclude her section of the talk, we were rewarded with the long-promised photograph of Ursula in her bright orange skiing all-in-one, representing her time spent working on prison reform internationally.

NCH students were incredibly privileged to have Ms Shona Coffer, Managing Associate at Mishcon de Reya, visit NCH and discuss the process of applying to firms, the range of different values and cultures each firm and chambers has to offer, and various other issues in the future of the legal profession with discussion particularly focusing on market trends towards artificial intelligence, and work-life balance. There were interesting comments made about the different legal areas that could be replaced by a robot.

Ms Coffer highlighted the increasing importance of being financially and tech-literate, particularly with the growth of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum or Ripple. This covers a significant proportion of sectors and will allow you to aid companies, consumers and business owners manage financial operations- enhance core skills with financial, business, advocacy, commercial and communication skills. In Ms Coffer’s experience in dispute resolution, it is imperative to be informed and aware of government decisions that could affect business. This means that you are more able to provide sound commercial advice, looking at different angles and depths of thought-provoking and multi-faceted cases.


Tabitha Boyton