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GDL student David Woodall isn’t convinced all work experience is worthwhile

It dawns on you very quickly as a law student that good grades are not going to be enough to land a perfect training contract or pupillage. You need work experience, too – however meaningless that experience may be.

To anyone out there who has jumped through the hoops to get some experience (the blanket-applying worked for me – I found 60 applications will get you two interviews), well done: your CV will thank you for it in the long run. But what ‘experience’ did you actually get? Do you place any value in what you learnt? Does an employer?

Unlike many, I have been lucky enough to get a position with the Citizens Advice Bureau and even more lucky to work with a solicitor one day a week, doing actual legal work for him, which provides me with a great grounding in the everyday tasks in a law firm, like interviewing clients and writing letters. But I know I am in the minority.

I’ve found the whole one-off ‘experience’ – that is to say a mini-pupillage or a week shadowing in a solicitors’ firm – wholly unimpressive. I cannot quite get my head around why an employer expects you to have got this kind of work experience. Most recently for me it consisted of spending three days in court being ignored by both the solicitor (with whom I was doing the placement) and the barrister, then just being told to turn up the next two days to court, as what they were doing in the office was a bit dull, and I’d have more fun at court. On the plus side, I didn’t have to make any coffees or teas.

Nobody bothered to learn my name, or ask to see my CV, or quiz me on why I wanted a career in law, or make any effort whatsoever to provide me with some meaningful work experience. Why bother having me around if you won’t take the blindest bit of notice?

Other than being able to put on my CV that I worked with X firm, and showed an enthusiasm and dedication to a career in law, it was an utter waste of my time. I had to skip lectures all week to be there, and what I gained didn’t in any way, shape or form make up for it.

But, then, that’s the nature of the tough legal job market, where getting  ‘experience’ is more often than not just to keep your CV from being binned at the first round, rather than actually boosting the quality of it.

I’d be keen to know what the recruiters really think, because to me this kind of work experience just is no experience at all.

David Woodall is currently studying the Graduate Diploma in Law. He writes the Diary of a GDL Student column for the Huffington Post UK.

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