ULaw Vice-Chancellor Peter Crisp offers his careers advice ahead of The Legal Cheek Winter Virtual Vacation Scheme 2023
Ahead of next week’s Legal Cheek Winter Vacation Scheme, in partnership with The University of Law (ULaw), we sat down with Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Crisp to discuss skills, commercial awareness and more.
Based on your wealth of experience in the legal industry, what do you feel are the most important skills that employers are looking for in aspiring lawyers today?
Employers need to service an array of different clients with varying and often complex needs. At the heart of what they are looking for in aspiring lawyers are client relationship skills. This includes a whole host of skills and behaviours – communication and social skills, commercial awareness, team-working perhaps at the fore – but all neatly summed up by the phrase ‘know your client’. At ULaw, the academic staff have all had professional experience in practice and teach the students in the context of the real world so that the importance of these skills is emphasised throughout their studies.
What sort of commercial awareness topics should be on students’ radars this application season?
Several firms have a question revolving around the use of AI in completion of applications. This is a good open question. It does not instruct candidates not to use it (as some employers do) but instead allows the student to weigh up how best to respond. In some instances, one can imagine a definitive answer one way or the other but there is also an ‘in-between’ response which notes the pros and cons before declaring your hand. I suspect that firms are also asking about AI because they are interested in hearing the perspective of the next generation of talent, much as they did with open questions on the impact of the SQE.
What support does ULaw offer its students when it comes to navigating applications, given changes in the route to qualification with the SQE’s Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) pathway?
The Employability Service acts as the conduit between employers and students and are experts in understanding the needs and ambitions of both. The SQE and associated QWE has provided an excellent opportunity to share respective insights and to assist both employers and student in coming to terms with change. We strongly encourage and support students to obtain work experience, whether it counts as qualifying experience or not, including doing our own unique four-week guaranteed QWE scheme.
Getting a training contract is becoming increasingly competitive, with applicants often having to go through multiple cycles to be successful. What sorts of things can they do in the interim to keep improving their CV?
A CV should be constantly evolving and the challenge to our students is often about what they can do over the coming few months to enhance it. We provide a wide range of opportunities both on campus and online such as employer talks, extensive Pro Bono opportunities, skills workshops, as well as mentoring. We recognise that many students are time poor and thus offer flexible opportunities at different times of the day as well as at weekends, and also offer many short/sharp engagements that meet their wider needs.
Building on that, what advice do you have for those who might feel deflated or overwhelmed by the application process?
Without doubt it helps to talk to someone. Our Employability Service had 1,800 1-1 appointments in October alone and these are not just about your CV, application or career planning. The personal support recognises the challenges students face, offers constructive advice and provides reassurance about the benefits of perseverance. We are a team of committed professionals who understand the local markets and have seen thousands of students pursue their dreams to make sure that you the current generation believe they can succeed.
With the Legal Cheek-ULaw winter vacation scheme starting next week, how can students make the most out of this experience, what networking tips do you have for students to make sure they come across authentically?
It would help to have some specific goals in mind, not just turn up and hope you find it useful. This might include targeting sessions to attend, who in particular to try to speak with and setting aside time for appropriate follow up. Connecting on LinkedIn tends to be a feature of the scheme so make sure your profile is up to date and think about who you want to ask – it is quantity not quality and so much more impactful if you include a personalised note when requesting.
What is the best piece of careers advice you’ve ever come across?
Keep the attitude of the good student:
– Never be too big to ask questions.
– Never know too much to learn something new.
The Legal Cheek Winter Virtual Vacation Scheme, run in partnership with The University of Law (ULaw), starts this Monday (4 December). Apply now for one of the final few spots.
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