There are steps to the left and a ramp leading to the right, and it is unclear which door is the correct entrance to the building. Is it push or pull? Is it automatic? Will she need a code to get in and be stuck looking like an idiot trying to open it? Is this even the right building?
These are not worries she would usually entertain, but she is about to begin her first day of work experience in a commercial law firm, and she is terrified.
My (yes, you guessed right) fears did not subside as the week progressed. To give a few examples: How do I work the printers? Should I have brought my own mug? Am I expected to engage in awkward conversation in the bathroom? Is it okay to speak to my supervisor when they look busy? Is this the right floor? Do I go straight to my desk on the second day or wait at reception again? Worst of all, what do I say if my phone rings?
I appreciate as a self-confessed over thinker that these worries may seem exaggerated, but they are very real thought processes that many people go through about the unfamiliar practicalities we all face during the first time working in an office, legal or otherwise.
My week in the law firm went well in the end (despite my stresses) and the experience I gained was invaluable. It was a trainee who gave me a tour of the building, introduced me to the teams and gave me tasks and advice. I remember thinking that they were so mature, professional and intelligent and the idea of reaching that (very early) stage of my career seemed eons away, especially given that my main concern at the time was whether my UCAS personal statement was up to scratch.
Eight years later, following a lot of studying, travelling, interviews, exams, library sessions, and a fair amount of flat parties and 3am trips to McDonald’s, that trainee is me and my peers. As much as we hope that we fit the impression that I had of my supervisor when I was 16, we still feel very fresh faced in the legal world.
It is for that reason that I want to express the value of the work experience we offer at Morton Fraser. Our placements consist of five half days across various departments under the wing of current trainees. Placements are generally offered to secondary school students who have completed their fourth year and are interested in studying law at university. Depending on the departments they spend time in, work that our students may experience can consist of checking contracts, completing corporate forms, reviewing title deeds, visiting court, creating inventory lists, researching, reading case law and – most importantly in my opinion – relaxed conversation with our friendly trainees.
We do recognise that for secondary school students a legal career is far in the distance and they may not be sure if it is the path they want to pursue. However our trainees are more than happy to give advice on matters such as which subjects to take at school or what to include in your university application – believe me there is nothing we enjoy more than reminiscing about university life! We also encourage students at a later stage in their education to get in touch with us on LinkedIn if they need any further advice in the future. We aim to convey the approachable and down to earth values of our firm and the positive culture of our offices.
Although my own work experience was positive overall, I recall there were times when I was just waiting, scrolling through the news to pass the time when my supervisor was too busy to give me work. Here at Morton Fraser our trainees understand these frustrations; we make sure to have conversations with students to find out what areas of law they may be interested in, and then refer them for a chat with a member of the relevant team if appropriate.
I cannot stress enough how valuable a work placement is on a CV at all stages of your education and career. Any experience can be used as an example in interviews once you start looking for summer placements and traineeships. Additionally, although I can’t promise that you won’t still have daily battles with the photocopier, the next time you go to an office of any kind you will feel far more prepared and confident which will be recognised by your employer.
We have all been (and continue to be) that person worried about whether they will fit in when they arrive at a new office, but the best way to get over your fears is to gain as much work experience as you can. After a week at Morton Fraser we hope our placement students not only feel confident that an office environment isn’t always scary after all, but also have a better understanding of the legal workplace and a new or confirmed ambition to pursue a legal career themselves.
If you are interested in legal work experience at Morton Fraser, or know someone who is, please follow the link for more information https://www.morton-fraser.com/work-us/work-experience.