In this post, I would like to give you some ideas about how voluntary work and extra-curricular activities can boost your CV and help you to demonstrate the essential soft skills and commercial awareness that law firms look for when recruiting.
Pro-Bono Legal Projects
Some universities and law schools organise pro bono projects.
The type of law is likely to be different to the areas you will cover in a large commercial law firm and will probably cover areas such as housing, employment or consumer law. However, these projects are a fantastic way to show that you can apply your academic knowledge of the law to help clients in the “real world”.
Sometimes, working on these projects can count towards your degree as well, so they are well worth investigating. If your university does not offer such a scheme, there are others such as Innocence Network and Law Works, or you could volunteer at a local Citizens’ Advice Bureau or law centre.
Other Interests & Activities
However, you do not need to do only volunteer law work to gain the skills and experience you need for your CV. You can develop skills such as client handling, time management and business skills from a wide range of extra-curricular interests and volunteer activities.
Clubs, Societies & Committees
For example, you might be involved with a sports club and organise a tournament or other event. This demonstrates that you can handle money and budgets, work in a team, communicate well and handle customers.
Organising a ball for a student society demonstrates similar skills – budgeting, teamwork, meeting deadlines, organising a venue, the meal and entertainment.
Being on the committee of a student society will show that you can work in a team, attend meetings regularly and get things done.
Another possible activity is being a member of a choir, orchestra or other musical group. This demonstrates attention to detail, the patience to work on improving your performance, regular practice, attendance at rehearsals and an ability to take criticism.
Or you might work on a student newspaper. This shows that you have good oral and written communication skills, that you can manage your time and meet deadlines, that you are a completer-finisher, that you can work in a team and you can accept criticism of your work when it is edited.
Being able to take constructive criticism or indeed watch your work being rewritten is a very important skill to learn if you are going to be a lawyer, as you will have more senior lawyers reviewing your work on a regular basis.
Consider the other achievements in your life, for example if you were a leader in the scouts, a member of your school council, head-boy or girl or house captain.
Think through other achievements like music grade examinations, playing at concerts, representing your school in other ways.
I would suggest that you draw a timeline of your life with your positions of responsibility, interests and achievements charted on it chronologically, and identify key activities and any common themes.
Another important consequence of getting involved in clubs, societies and extra-curricular activities is that you build your network.
If you get involved in non-work/study activities you meet people from different backgrounds with different study and work interests, who maybe one day will become a client or introduce you to one.
It is also useful to get involved in the local community outside the university for similar reasons.
Networking is another essential skill for lawyers – business development is an important part of the more senior lawyer’s role and is a very commercial one, so it is worth learning networking, client care and relationship development skills at an early stage.
Give Firms What They Are Looking For
All the skills you learn from these activities contribute towards your soft skills and general business awareness. With law firms increasingly seeking well-rounded individuals to be their trainees they will be very interested in your participation in these sorts of activities and the skills they help to demonstrate.