The very best legal work experience horror stories

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Includes: Being mistaken for a criminal and fainting in court


‘Tis the season of legal work experience; that cherished time of year when students across the country clamber to their local law firm to prove to future employers that they didn’t just spend summer 2016 in the pub. Who will ever forget the Summer of Pub?

Sometimes work experience can be an invaluable exercise. You become mates with the senior partner, gorge on free food all week, and get the chance to do some work that’s actually, genuinely interesting.

But not always. Common complaints about work experience include feeling like a spare part and being given, low-level monotonous work to do like filing and making coffee.

And then every now and then, something really crappy happens, something that will make you cringe for years to come.

Here are Legal Cheek’s favourite work experience horror stories, courtesy of our (very embarrassed) readership. Can you top these?

“My stomach falls out of my arse”

I started an internship at a firm in central London. I was writing coursework for my masters alongside the placement so I decided to catch an earlier morning train, get into the office early and take advantage of the useful reading material it had to offer.

One morning, I arrived at the office around 8.20am, and tried to get through the door using my fob. I assumed that if there’s no one in, the door will most likely be locked by key. I tapped my fob, the door opened, and I walked in without a second thought.

As soon as I took my first step, I am greeted by the bleeping of the alarm system waiting for the code to be entered. My stomach falls out of my arse as I turn around and stare at the box on the wall, knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop the grim situation I am about to find myself in.

A few slow motion seconds later, the alarm starts to scream as I enter sheer panic mode. I jump out of the office and desperately try the two staff phone numbers I have, both which go straight to voicemail eight or nine times in a row. Failing that, I stand there praying someone will arrive soon.

10 minutes pass, it’s still ringing away, no ones arrived yet, and I’m staring at the lift expecting a squad of police to burst out any second.

Not long after, a phone in the office rings, and I am overwhelmed by relief to find it’s the systems manager whom which gives me the code to punch in, and I manage to end the sage without any major consequences. Just past 9 o’clock, I am found by the office legal secretary sat in the dark staring into space. She asks me what am I doing, to which I reply, ‘well, I’ve had a bit of a morning…’.



A work experience student at my firm pushed his chair back sharply and leant back, smashing a photo on the wall with his head. He was mortified.

Mistaken for a teenage criminal


After the first year of my law degree I was shadowing the legal team manager in my local magistrates’ court. I was just waiting for court to start, when the duty solicitor — who I’d seen in court that morning — calls out my name.

I stand up and go over to shake his hand, wondering whether he’d been asked to talk to me by my contact there. He shook my hand and said ‘you and me need to have a serious talk.’

At this point I was very confused and only understood what was going on when the usher intervened and pointed out I was a work experience student and not his client! She was coincidentally my age, had the same name and he’d never met her. He was very apologetic but I couldn’t help but laugh! He offered me work experience to apologise though, so I guess getting mistaken for teenage criminal and not a student on work experience wasn’t too bad.

Am I meant to be here?


On the first day of my first ever work experience week, I arrived at the office and introduced myself to the four or five people there, and noticed all of them giving me a bit of a blank stare when I went to shake their hands. They all told me to hang tight and wait in the office while they sorted something out. They were scurrying around me for a few minutes, leaving and coming back to the room.

After about 30 minutes of this, one of them finally told me they had no record of me coming in, they had no work for me, they were really busy and could I just go away and come back in a few hours. So I spent the first morning of my placement sitting in the McDonalds of a local shopping centre.

Slip and trip


The solicitor I was shadowing tripped over in front of three magistrates. The defendant and I were mortified, but then the magistrates erupted in laughter… phew!

Feeling woozy


I was shadowing a criminal defence solicitor in court one day on a pretty grim child abuse case. I’d be pre-warned the evidence might be a bit upsetting and I was confident I could handle it.

A few hours into court I started to feel a bit headachy, probably because I hadn’t had my water bottle on me and was feeling dehydrated. That’s the moment the prosecution decided to show the room some really horrendous evidence pictures.

Combination of dehydration and unexpected pictures equals young work experience student passing out on courtroom floor. I only lost consciousness for a few seconds, but I’m still embarrassed about the whole thing.

Trolley troubles


A friend of mine turned up on her first day at a firm with a trolley. Unfortunately she’d run over a blackberry (the original kind!) on her way through the market, and left a long purple trail across the cream carpet in reception.



These are all a bit tame to be horror stories. I suspect there are far worse work experience stories out there.


Newcastle Based Barrister

Shat me pants in front of the entire Chambers on a mini pupillage.

Needless to say I didn’t get pupillage there and was black-listed in the entire city of Manchester.


Nigel Farage's 2nd chin

I remember during a vac scheme once I was forced to strip to the waist and fight a senior associate inside a ring of chairs in the firm’s canteen. I now work in tax.



You lost then?



I did a mini at a well known London set. Spent two days sitting in Chambers twiddling my thumbs. They hadn’t arranged for me to go to court or shadow any barrister. I felt like a spare part. At the end of day two, one of the barristers told me “it’s OK if you don’t come in tomorrow”. I’m certain I didn’t do anything wrong.



I think you was meant to take the initiative to network with people and get some work..



To be fair, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to just say that would it?






Doubt that. I was supposed to attend a hearing on the first morning which was cancelled. I spent day one just hanging about with a junior. He would send me off to read material and discuss with him later. Spent day two doing much of the same. Barristers could see clerks hadn’t planned anything. No one could really be bothered. Being told we won’t mind if you don’t come in tomorrow was a bit harsh.



what set?



Good luck getting someone to reveal that information


Gus the Snedger

Name them!!!



Named anonymously, this does no harm to the person revealing the info. It is also legitimate for the info to be revealed. Hopefully chambers will not do it if they cannot do it with impunity.


Wow, getting confused for a criminal for 3.5 seconds must have been horrific!!


Tub thumpin

When I arrived for the first day of my TC with an unspecified US firm in the City, I was promptly issued a tote bag, which contained a giant, jet black dildo, a ‘value-pack’ tub of lube and some surgical rubber gloves.

“It’ll make the first few weeks here easier” I was told.

Four years later I made partner.



The comment section is just priceless!


Caligula the weasel

Savage bantz, 10 dildos outta 10.


Average white girl

Sounds like my dream law firm actually



One of my comments made it in. I wouldn’t say it was horrifying but my heart felt like it stopped for a split second until the mags laughed! I’m still not sure to this day if the solicitor deliberately tripped up to lighten the tone! But the D got the best possible outcome regarding circumstances. I’ll always remember the details of that case.



Can’t wait for the film version! You’d better get yourself an agent now, before the offers start flooding in!



‘Under’ the circumstances not ‘regarding’. Me and typos! 🙄



You should apply for a job at Legal Cheek!



The application is easy – just copy and paste some links to twitter and instagram, or whatever RoF have written and you’ll be in!



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



The LC sensor will be out to delete this comment very soon.

Skin orchestra

Savour it while it’s still here!

Grammar fascist

You mean “censor”



Lelz, just noticed that.

Genuinely surprised Alex didn’t censor the comment yet tho, maybe there’s an element of truth behind it…?


Atta boy Alex, didn’t like that one too much did we? #epicfail


Out of interest has anyone ever experienced an interview where the interviewing partner yawns incessantly throughout like some sleepy cat? As in visibly and audibly, without any effort to stifle it? If so is there some psychology behind it or is said partner just a cunt?


Qualified and Entertained

There are three likely reasons for this…

Firstly, said partner is possibly just absolutely exhausted and has been working non-stop lately. You really have no idea what his schedule has been like lately.

Secondly, said partner has read your application and has decided that you simply aren’t good enough and that HR has made a mistake in offering you an interview.

Thirdly, said partner has heard every answer you have given him before to his questions and is bored by your lack of originality.

I’ll leave you to decide which applies to you, but going on LC and calling him a ‘cunt’ is hardly appropriate.



3. Lol, how can you expect original answers when you’re applying to be a city lawyer. Just avoid cliche/generic answers, like cutting edge deals



On the first day of my work placement, which I’d flown in from another country for, I was told that the partner who I’d been assigned to was in court and I’d have to go back home until he showed up and the whole mess was sorted.
Fortunately, he called in before I’d left the building and asked them to seat me in the library for a bit.
When I approached him the morning of my last day, he panicked and started pulling out his hair, muttering to himself about forgetting I was still here and I needed work.



I did work experience at the Ministry of Justice list year, and my first job was massaging scalp hydration oil into Chris Grayling’s bald spot.


Travelling Gavel

Years back in a provincial firm I was tasked with taking the rather snotty daughters of one of the partners to the art gallery whilst the said partner dealt with a family law application…



I just made partner at King Wood Mallesons and now they’re asking me to cough up £240,000 to stop the firm from going under!

Time to jump ship methinks!



I once had to clean the pool at Clifford Chance…


Nabarro NQ

During my Vac Scheme at Nabarro, I once walked in on a lawyer in the gents room who was having a fap in the cubicle next to me.

Listening to his hard, strained grunts made me realise that this was the firm for me.


A Barrister

two units


A Solicitor

Knowing myself, I’d only be able to choke out half a unit.



Stolen bants from other thread.

E-. Must try harder.



A brief observation from Southwark Crown Court. A couple of days ago, I saw a rather enthusiastic chap on a mini pupilage start talking to someone about how exciting the case was. The chap he was talking to was polite but had a face like a thunderstorm. The final question was, do you think they are guilty. The chap replied ‘I am a defendant in this case.’ So cringe worthy.



Had something like this happen with a mini pupil of mine.

Decided to intervene in the conference with a client in a Crown Coury matter and give an alternative view on the case, making me look an idiot in the process, though my advice had been correct.

Needless to say, when his pupillage application came in, I and another junior were given the job of “sifting” pupillage applications for the usual stuff (typos, crap results etc) and his went straight in the bin!






I accept the irony of the above before anyone points it out!



Also I take issue with ‘mistaken for a criminal.’ I assume that someone is a criminal after conviction. Hope you don’t work in criminal defence



My horror story when i was clerking at a small town rural firm: sending the firm’s monthly newsletter to all its clients and not using BCC. Everyone could see eachothers email address and some email addresses were obvious as to who it was (firstname.lastname@XYZ.com)

I sent it out Friday afternoon. Came to work Monday and my partner was laughing and telling me not to worry about it. Good dude. Passed away a few years ago which was sad 🙁



Mega lol.



Back when I was in 2nd year, was introduced to a solicitor on a busy court day who promptly offered me experience. Walked into the office the next day, discovered he was a single practitioner with one paralegal, and was set to work on filing and prepping briefs. Oddly, I kept coming across small errors and weak arguments in minor criminal matters when I was sure another point would be much stronger. After tentatively suggesting such, I was told to stick to my own work and leave the real stuff to the ones who were qualified …
One week from that confrontation I left. Two weeks from the confrontation he was disbarred.



Cool story bruh, changed my lyfe.



I fell asleep in court on a mini pupillage once. It was a really boring case and a really hot day. When I woke up the clerk was giving me proper evils but I dont think anyone else noticed. No regrets.


Shattered dreams

I clerked for the legal titan Alan Blacker, helping him with his gargantuan caseload and occasionally inspecting his mammoth-sized, bloated ballsack.

‘Twas a fine summer. Now I’m on antidepressants with PTSD.


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