The very best legal work experience horror stories

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By Katie King on

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.